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March 2, 2011 11:29 PM   Subscribe

Please suggest some fun, affordable places to go and things for my boyfriend and me to do on the weekends! Location-specific ideas would be especially appreciated. We live in Ibaraki prefecture in Japan, about an hour by train from Tokyo. Slightly long list of preferences and details inside.

My boyfriend and I live in different cities, not too far away but far enough away that we mostly only see each other on weekends. I feel like we have fallen into a bit of a rut in terms of the things we do together, though (watch TV, laze around, go to the mall, etc). Perhaps this is a side effect of living in the prefecture recently ranked the most boring in all of Japan, but I'm sure there are tons of fun things we are just not doing! I'm not terribly upset about not being on the go doing new things all the time, but I think it would be fun to have some new experiences.

I'm looking for interesting, fun, and unique places we can go, either by train or by car, that would not be too expensive or take an excessively long time to get to, though the time thing goes more for train than car travel. If you know of some nice (non-toll road) drives, those would be welcome too. Overnight trip suggestions would also be good.

Here's a brief list of stuff we have done before and enjoyed:
-Deciding to go to the beach with the idea that we could just drive east and eventually find it
-Going to an outlet mall and discovering the Ushiku Daibutsu
-Taking a few hours on a walk from Harajuku to Shibuya
-Visiting a garden and art museum in Mito

And some more general stuff we like:
-All-you-can-eat restaurants
-Video games
-UFO catchers
-Nice scenery

I take a lot of trips into Tokyo with my girl friends to go shopping and stuff, so something like going to Harajuku and people-watching isn't quite exciting and new. Something along the lines of "go to [neighborhood] and check out [place]" would be good, though. We are more likely to get off our asses and go somewhere if we have at least one specific destination, even if it's a small thing.

Stuff outside of Tokyo would be particularly nice, but off-the-beaten-track Tokyo suggestions are good too!

Additionally, suggestions of ways to find out about interesting things/places/whatever nearby would also be appreciated.

I feel sort of silly even asking this question, like I should know already or something, but every time we try to think of something to do I come up short, so I thought suggestions from the hivemind might at least help jumpstart things. :)

Oh, and I don't know if it matters, but in case it does, we speak okay Japanese. Not fluent, but we're not totally lost either.
posted by you zombitch to Travel & Transportation around Japan (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you in Ibaraki (bonus points for spelling it with a "k", as not one person outside of the prefecture will pronounce it without a "g")? I guess if you have a car it's no big deal, but the train lines don't make it easy to traverse north-south (assuming Tokyo is west and Iwaki is east on the Joban-sen).

I lived in Omika in the mid-90s, and I cannot, cannot, cannot, think of a more boring place in Japan, and I've lived in a bunch of different rural backwaters.

Anyways, the obvious local destination would have to be Nikko, but if you're feeling more adventurous, why not try to make it to Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima?

Another cool destination (probably an overnighter) would be Kamogawa on the Boso Peninsula. It's a surfing destination with plenty of resort lodgings, but it's pretty remote.

My main destination in Tokyo would have been the National Museum and the National Art Gallery in Ueno Park, as well as the National Science Museum.

Closer to home, you could always try climbing Mount Tsukuba (900 meters), or even visit the Tsukuba Science Museum in Tsukuba itself (Tsukuba is sort of Japan's answer to Palo Alto).

A no-brainer would have to be a visit (overnight) to Kamkura, including Enoshima, while on the way there or back you could check out the Yokohama Ramen Museum.

You could also check out an outlet mall near Yokohama.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:08 AM on March 3, 2011

Sorry I forgot to mention where exactly we are! I'm in Moriya (on the Tsukuba Express line) and the bf's in Tsuchiura (on the Joban line), so Tsukuba's sort of right between us. Thanks for the suggestions, KokuRyu! I've been wanting to try climbing Mt. Tsukuba, though the bf's already done it as part of a school trip.
posted by you zombitch at 2:03 AM on March 3, 2011

I was also going to suggest Nikko... I went there a couple of times when I was working at Kashima. It made for a satisfying day trip.
posted by sagwalla at 2:50 AM on March 3, 2011

posted by No-sword at 6:06 AM on March 3, 2011

Nikko, while grand, is one day doable. However, the Kinugawa weekend (as pioneered by yours truly, and thousands of other before me) would be to stay in Kinugawa, possibly at the Kinugawa Plaza Hotel (built on a rock outcropping over the river, complete with detached private baths down the road), and visit the Tobu World Square, which, for sheer kitsch value can't be beat, and is pretty snazzy aside from that. The next day would satisfy the Nikko wandering requirements.

Other than that, as mentioned, Kamogawa (and Kamogawa Seaworld) are fun, as is (really) Disney Sea.

Honestly, I don't have much for you in the way of Ibaraki (I'm in probably the second most boring, Chiba), but in terms of festivals, you should probably make time to head to the Sawara Matsuri in mid-July, and the Narita Gion festival in early July. Both are absolutely fantastic (I go to Narita every year, it's really that good), and well worth the trip. Other than that, there's an absolute ton of hiking to be done in western Tokyo, especially around Mitake-san and Okutama. While getting there might be a chore, you could, theoretically, arrive on a Friday night, check in, then make a day of hiking on a Saturday, stop at a different place, then on the Sunday check out the Ghibli Museum on the way back.

There's also, a bit of a jaunt, the railway museum in Saitama (if you go, let me know, I've been wanting to check it out).

Last thing, again, maybe a jaunt, but from Tokyo Station, if you head out to Minakami, in Gunma, there's Canyons which is a hella fun. My wife and I did a split day between rafting and canyoning, and spent the next day at some of the more famous onsen in the area before catching the shinkansen back. Lots of fun (thought mostly in the summer).
posted by Ghidorah at 7:39 AM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take a day trip up to Sendai (either on the Tohoku Shinkansen or on the lesser-used Super Hitachi limited express which you can catch from Tsuchiura). Have some gyutan (I'm a Rikyu fan myself) and go see Matsushima.

For somewhere closer, go to Utsunomiya and stuff yourself silly with gyoza.
posted by armage at 6:19 PM on March 3, 2011

Oh, and if you want to experience a bit of nature in your own backyard, there's Fukuroda Falls, which is a reasonably close car or train ride away from southern Ibaraki.
posted by armage at 6:23 PM on March 3, 2011

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