Taking advantage of the beautiful spring weather, today I visited Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture, located northeast of Tokyo in the Kanto Plain. My purpose today was to see the famous blue nemophila flowers which are blooming in the park now.
Nemophila cover the park’s Miharashi Hill with over four million blossoms. On sunny days the blue flowers and blue sky are a charming sight to behold, and I was excited to have the chance to see them. So it seems was the rest of Ibaraki… the park was extremely crowded even on a weekday! Luckily the park is big enough that everyone could still spread out and enjoy the blossoms.
Starting from the seaside entrance, I first headed to Miharashi Hill to see the nemophila. This year, the nemophila are a full two weeks early due to the above-average temperatures during the winter. In average years the flowers bloom from about mid-April through mid-May, but this year the flowers are currently in their best viewing period this week and into this weekend. From next week more and more green will mix in with the blue, and by around Golden Week the green leaves will already be overtaking the blue flowers.
Miharashi Hill is the tallest point in the park, and affords a nice view over the rest of the park and the ocean. There are many paths up to the top of the hill and through the blossoms for strolling, as well as benches and picnic tables situated around for those needing a break. Food stalls and souvenir shops are also set up at different points around the bottom of the hill, and various events take place during the weekends. Don’t forget to take your own nemophila plant home; the flowers are on sale near the food stalls.
I happily joined the throngs of people, and strolled leisurely around the area snapping way too many pictures. There were a few brides in wedding dresses, some professional models being photographed among the blossoms, and many people had brought dogs for portraits as well. I even saw one brave cat!
Taking pictures is hard work, so I took a quick ice cream break. Nemophila ice cream is a seasonal specialty available only in spring. I expected it to taste like blueberries, but it is actually ramune soda flavored. Around one side of the hill a number of yellow nanohana (rapeseed blossoms) were still blooming, creating a nice contrast with the blue blossoms, so I headed there for a few more pictures.
My next goal was the tulip garden planted in the Egg Forest (tamago no mori) area. It’s called Egg Forest because there are egg-shaped toys for kids here and there among the trees. The tulips were spectacularly planted in shapes and undulating curves. This area wasn’t as crowded as Miharashi Hill, but still had a lot of people walking around enjoying the colorful flowers. There are over 200 varieties of tulips to enjoy, and a number of them are for sale as well.
This year the tulips are also a little earlier than average, but only by a few days. However they do not generally bloom for a long time, so they too will have their best viewing period over this weekend and into next week. After that, the petals will begin falling quickly and their season will be over by the beginning of May.
Other flowers abound in the park, so after spending so much of my time with the nemophila and the tulips, I went in search of other varieties. Although generally considered at the end of their season already, there were still a number of nice daffodils in the Suisen Garden area near the main entrance. With over 600 species, about half still had petals, although I would expect this weekend to be the end of most of them. The average period for these flowers is mid-March through mid-April. I was happy to get the chance to see them even late in the season. There were even a few late-blooming cherry blossoms in the area as well.
Nemophila, tulips, daffodils… that’s a lot of flowers! After a quick visit to the park headquarters to talk with staff about the state of the flowers, I was hungry for lunch. I headed to the Sand Garden area to see if there was something good to get at the Seaside Cafe, which has some nice views of the ocean.
Before I went, I spent a little time walking around the sandy paths. Usually pretty empty even when the park is crowded, it features natural sand dunes and seaside vegetation, and is one of my favorite areas of the park. I enjoyed the sea breeze for a short time before heading to the cafe to check out the selection. The long line at the cafe and my grumbling stomach changed my mind about eating there.
Then I remembered a grilled ham stall by Miharashi Hill, so off I went back to the nemophila area. The line was long there too, but the ham stick was worth waiting for! I couldn’t resist just a few more pictures of the nemophila, before finally heading back to my car and driving home.
Hitachi Seaside Park can be reached by train from Tokyo (Shinagawa, Tokyo or Ueno Station) in around 90 minutes by limited express train (about 3800 yen one way) or in around 2.5 hours by regular trains (2270 yen one way). Get off at Katsuta Station from where the park is a 20 minute bus ride. During spring, the park is open from 9:30 to 17:00. There are no closing days from now through May. Park admission costs 410 yen.