Mito has a population of about 200,000 people and is the capitol of Ibaraki, Japan. Getting there from Narita by bus will take about 2-3hours depending on traffic. If you know your way around Japan already there is a the JR train which will take you from Narita to Mito.
Whenever I had to fly back to America and come back to Mito, I always used the bus. From Narita to Mito Station a bus ticket will cost 3,000 yen (roughly 30$).
On the bus ride you can get a good view of the ocean, and is an enjoyable ride.
Mito’s most popular place is Mito station. There you will have about 4 shopping towers with around 9 floors of stores and restaurants that are worth checking out. In the Excel tower, you can find a wide variety of food and desert shops on the 2nd floor.
Be sure to try “Nato” a favorite food among the people of Ibaraki. Nato has a very strong smell because the beans are fermented – but considered healthy and many Japanese in Ibaraki eat Nato everyday. One person told me “If we eat nato when we are young we will be smart.” Many Japanese believe in the health benefits of nato and you can find it everywhere in Japan – from convenience stores that specialize in nato. Ibaraki is famous for having the best nato so be sure to try it if you dare.
Shops/Restaurants in Mito Station
On the 3rd floor of Excel tower in Mito station you will find an electronics store with some of the latest gadgets and appliances. This electronics store is not the biggest in Mito station – for that you will need to check out the tower that is across from it. They have 7 floors of electronics – TV’s, iPods, appliances, games, and movies.
At the very top of all towers (there’s about 4 total) you will find restaurants. They have just about everything you can imagine. Try the Japanese Izakaya for lunch or an afternoon bit to eat.
Lastly, If you are into soup – try the Soup Stock Tokyo. It is located right next to the McDonalds near the Mito ticket exit gate, very close to Zara. The soups are made fresh everyday and the menu has some of the most healthiest chicken and vegetable soup you can eat. The price is a bit expensive and you don’t get much soup but it comes with an optional choice of rice / bread.
Lake Senba (10 mins walk from Mito Station)
About 10 minutes south of Mito station you can find “Senbako Lake.” If you visit this lake you will see many people who love to walk or jog around. During March and April Sakura’s will bloom along Sebako lake and are very enjoyable to see.
I’ve walked around this lake a few times. It takes about 30 mins to 1 hour depending on how slow or fast you walk. The summer time is brutal because of the high humidity and heat. Good place to take a date.
Kairakuen – Japanese Garden
From Lake Senba, if you walk north, you can see “Kairakuen” which is one of Japan’s three great gardens. Kairakuen has an old Japanese-style house that was built by Tokugawa Nariaki, in 1841.
You can take a tour of the old Japanese style house for a small fee. In addition, you can walk around the amazing garden’s. This place is huge. An afternoon can easily be spent walking up and down the landscape of this place. It’s not “flat” so be prepared.
The best time to visit, is when the Sakura’s bloom starting around March.
The Largest Mall in Ibaraki
AEON Mall, in Uchihara, is one of the biggest mall’s in Japan. The size is astounding. If you want to get to AEON shopping mall from Mito Station, a ticket will cost you $2 and takes about 10 mins by train. Not far at all. From the train station you will have to make another 5-10 min walk to get to the mall. If your lost just follow all the people, since this is the only thing in Uchihara.
They have a cinema and many clothing outlets and restaurants. During the weekday, the mall is kind of dead, but on the weekend is where you will see the most people.
AEON Mall gets pretty crowded on the weekend, so either go early or on the weekday.
Mito Art Tower
From Mito Station, you can see the Art Tower because it sticks out above anything else. From Mito station it’s a far walk and will take about 20mins or so. Head north from Mito Station and you should see it.
They have an amphitheater, and during the summer they show outdoor movies. Many people were siting in the grass with towels beneath them. Some of them even brought tents.
Worth checking out.
You Won’t Find This in Travel Guides
Every year, Hitachinaka, is home to “Rock In Japan” a three-day music festival. If you want to visit Hitachinaka, you will have to come to Mito Station and either take a bus or train to get there. Hitachinaka is a neighboring city and many people from Mito, and all of Ibaraki go there.
One word of caution–it’s hot! As I mentioned before, the Japanese summer is brutal. The event usually takes place around August. Bring a towel, sunscreen, and water. If you’re not used to the Japanese summer weather, you will be in for a surprise.
Tickets are around $100 dollars.
The Naka Matsuri is a rare festival that only happens once every 3 years.
What you see in the picture to the left are portable shrines adorned with lanterns and dressed up characters. These mammoth portable shrines are pulled by Japanese guys.
They do “battle” with other shrines in a sort of dance, that finally takes place at a nearby shrine.
I only know about this festival because it was right next to my apartment and I had no idea what all the loud drumming was about.
If you want to get here from Mito Station, take the Suigen-sen line and buy a ticket to Kamisugaya. It’s roughly $2. The Suigen-sen line is a local line. People who commute from Naka to Mito use this. Total time is 12mins.
Once you get off at Kamisugaya Station, you will have to make a 10 min walk to the shrine. (鹿島神社) Translated as “Deer Shrine.”
Fireworks on Lake Senba – Mito
You also won’t find this in travel guides, so I’m putting it here. The festival is called “水戸黄門まつり” Mito’s Yellow Gate festival. This festival has been taking place for the past 54 years and it’s one of the biggest events in Mito and Ibaraki Japan.
Every year people gather around Lake Senba or “Senbako”, to see fireworks. Around the lake you will see many food stalls, and people wearing traditional Yugata.
The festival takes place on the first Friday of August and lasts for 3 days. As soon as you exit Mito station’s south exit, you will see tons of people heading towards the lake. Not hard to miss.
Here is a video of the 54th Mito Yellow Gate fireworks festival–
Mito’s Official Mascots
The official mascots of Mito are Mitkoumon and a new addition Mito-Chan.
Mito-chan, in 2014, had a makeover. She is a “yurukyara” or in English, a mascot designed for PR purposes. If you take a look at her hair, you will notice that it is shaped like “natto” — Ibaraki’s most famous food.
Occasionally, you will see Mito-Chan and Mitokoumon walking down Mito Station. If you see them you can take pictures with them.
Mitokoumon is based off of a real life and prominent daimyo, named Tokugawa Mitsukuni.
He compiled the great history of Japan, called the “Dai nihon-shi.” His text put emphasis on respecting the imperial court and had its roots based in Neo-Confucianism.
Mito – Night Life
If you feel like having a good beer and aren’t sure about where to go I recommend going to “The Drunken Duck.” It’s an Australian pub where many foreigners and Japanese people go. Since English-speaking restaurants are almost non-existent in Mito – The Drunken Duck is a nice place to go have a beer and eat a mix of American, Japanese, and Australian food. Be sure to try the Kangaroo or crocodile while visiting there.
The clubs in Mito are very few but if you want to visit clubs featuring hip-hop I recommend visiting Club Police it’s about a 15 minute walk North of Mito Station. This club is only open on Saturday so be sure to check their site for any news.
For more information about Mito check out these sites: