June 6, 2024

One-Day Ibaraki Experience

Located just an hour outside of Tokyo in Ami-machi, Ibaraki, lies the calming site of Tree House Bonsai. Tree House Bonsai is unique as it is the only Western-owned bonsai garden in Japan.

Adam Jones, its founder, came to appreciate the art of bonsai and later became a certified bonsai artist after completing his studies at the Nippon Bonsai Association. Adam's high level of technical skill and artistic expression, which he continues to refine every day, is widely recognized by his bonsai colleagues. His bonsai classes and demonstrations are also popular among his students. Visitors who visits his bonsai garden can see several bonsai trees that are being grown together with students from the school. With different expressions that are presented in the vision of bonsai created by the owners, each trees reflects a unique blend of creativity and its culture significance. Furthermore, Tree House Bonsai has a quarantine-compliant cultivation facility, contributing to the expansion of bonsai exports grown in Japan. Therefore, to serve as instructors for foreign visitors who wish to experience bonsai-making workshops, but also continue to promote and introduce the charm of bonsai overseas through government projects.

Source: Tree House Bonsai Website

A restaurant, popular with the locals for pork steaks regional to Ibaraki prefecture, Restaurant Saibitei, is a place where guests can go to enjoy the splendor of at-home hospitality. The restaurant started as a butcher shop by the name “Meat Shop Iida” and has been visited by the locals for over 50 years. They had the desire to make quality meat dishes for their customers, so Restaurant Saibitei was opened with the wish to give the best service to their guests through their meals. The friendliness of the staff seems to add to their popularity as they make visitors feel welcome in the cozy atmosphere.

Restaurant Saibitei has a seemingly welcoming ambiance within the rustic, log cabin layout it has established. The images bring back old childhood memories of camping with family and cuddling around an open fire with friends. Guests must feel at ease while enjoying the carefully cooked pork steaks made to make visitors feel at home. The restaurant seems to be reminiscent of many mid-western American homes and a sense of familiarity comes to mind as it is similar to many local American dining establishments found in childhood.

Source: Restaurant Saibitei Website

Dressed in kimono, hakama, and an igote, participants also wore a special vest or overcoat with a long sleeve on the left arm for bowstring protection, and helmets were distributed for extra safety. Fujita-san, a Yabusame instructor, demonstrated everything from holding a bow to explaining the precise motion of pulling back the bowstring with carefully instructed body structure. Additionally, visitors had the opportunity to experience shooting arrows themselves.

Yamato Horse Park, established in 1976 with the mission to provide the best access for visitors to learn and experience the culture of Yabusame, offers a unique hands-on experience. Yabusame is the traditional Japanese martial art of shooting arrows at a target from the back of a galloping horse. Originally performed at shrine festivals as offerings to the gods, it was introduced by Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199) in the late twelfth century as a competition to encourage his warriors to improve their military skills.

Visitors to Yamato Horse Park can witness Yabusame in action, giving them an idea of this ancient practice. They also have the chance to ride a horse, allowing them to safely practice shooting arrows. The shoot off of exhilarating arrows, hearing the crack of the arrow hitting the target, able visitors to understand the attraction of this sport.

Source: Yamato Horse Park

Isokura Sake Brewery was founded in 1868, and is located in Inada, Kasama City, Ibaraki. Their motto is that good sake needs to come from a good environment, have the best materials, have careful brewing, a healthy circulation, and be supported by many people. Isokura’s goal is to connect people together through sake as a way to create new friendships between visitors that try their sake.

Isokura produces sake using brewing methods over 150 years old, called “Inasato” which uses local water and rice to create a unique taste and aroma reminiscent of rice for the sake. Through a process that has been present since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), they select, ferment (koji), wash, and steam rice to get a specific taste they have been continuously replicating. Isokura claims that the taste of sake can be affected by several factors such as the temperature or the foods accompanying the sake. They hope that through their sake visitors can “feel” the taste that they would like within their sake.

The process of making sake is a sacred and cherished tradition, leaving many wanting to see for themselves how to create the traditional Japanese alcohol. The vibrant green mountains reflecting off of the water from the rice patties of Inada, will leave guests in a relaxed state as they converse with new friends and drink the sake from Isokura.

Source: Isokura Sake Brewery Website

IBARAKI Sense is located in the Ginza, Tokyo and has over 1,000 different products from Ibaraki. Items like snacks, sake, and local food delicacies can be purchased here. There is also a café called BARA Café where visitors can try local sweets from Ibaraki.

When first arriving at IBARAKI Sense, several delicacies and local products line the walls for visitors to gaze in awe at as they shop. There is a sense of surprise that a store in the middle of the Ginza has so many products available for visitors that might not be able to travel to Ibaraki itself while on their stay. There were so many varieties of foods like Mito natto which is a smaller variety of ordinary natto, or Hime umeshu which is made with the plum trees from Mito. Any guest will leave the store feeling satisfied, and can always come back to IBARAKI Sense again if they ever want to try any other Ibaraki specialties!