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Only in Ibaraki: Visiting Japan’s highest bungee jump and longest slide

Only in Ibaraki: Visiting Japan’s highest bungee jump and longest slide

Ask any typical traveller to Japan where they would like to go to have fun, and you will probably hear answers like Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto. The unfortunately common image most people have of the more rural prefectures is that there is comparatively nothing interesting to see or do.

 

Forests, mountains, sky. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

That is, of course, far from true, even when it comes to Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県 Ibaraki-ken), a region that, in an annual survey conducted by Tokyo-based thinktank Brand Research Institute among Japanese residents, has consistently been ranked top as Japan’s “Least Attractive Prefecture” year after year. With a land area of 122 km2 that comprises largely forests and mountains, it may not have the same kind of urban thrills that can be found in the most popular cities, but nestled amidst its beautiful natural scenery are two hidden gems that place Ibaraki as the number one in the entire country: Japan’s highest bungee jump, and Japan’s longest slide.

 

Ryujin Suspension Bridge

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Ryujin Suspension Bridge (竜神大吊橋 Ryūjin Ōtsuribashi) in Hitachiota City (常陸太田市 Hitachiōta-shi) is 375m-long, making it the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Japan. From where it hangs 100m above the Ryujin Dam Lake (竜神湖 Ryūjin-ko), so named for its likeness to a snaking dragon when viewed from above, one can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountainscape, extending to as far as the Abukuma Highlands (阿武隈高地 ​​Abukuma-kōchi) that stretch north into Fukushima Prefecture.

 

Awe-inspiring dragon murals flank the bridge on both sides. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Visitors from nearby flock to see its sights when they are at their most dramatic; the hills are alive with lush greenery in spring and summer, and in autumn momiji (もみじ) maple trees paint the forests in fiery red foliage.

 

Autumn is undoubtedly the best time to visit. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

In the centre of the bridge is Bungy Japan Ryujin Bungy (バンジージャパン龍神バンジー), whose claim to fame is the highest bungee jump that can be found in the country! Thrill seekers can relish the feeling of hurling themselves off the bridge and plunging up to 100m towards the lake below.

 

Not pictured: the manic screams of the thrill-seeker hanging out there on the left. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

An interesting feature about the bungee jump here is, while most others will descend the jumper downwards at the end of the jump, this one has an electric winch system to pull jumpers back up towards the bridge, allowing them to bask in the afterglow while surrounded by Ibaraki’s unique natural beauty. It is a special experience afforded and equalled by very few other places in the world.

 

Ready for round two? (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Various events take place around the suspension bridge that celebrates the changing seasons. Children’s Day in Japan falls every 5 May, and the bridge is decorated with numerous koinobori (鯉のぼり) carp streamers. In mid-August, hundreds of lanterns line the bridge for the Ryujin Gorge Lantern Festival, and in November the Ryujin Gorge Momiji Festival commemorates the autumn colours.

 

Ryujin Suspension Bridge (竜神大吊橋)
Address: 2133-6 Keganocho, Hitachiota, Ibaraki 313-0351
Nearest station: Hitachiota Station (常陸太田駅)
Access: 40-minute bus ride from Hitachiota Station
Opening hours: 8:30am–5pm (Last entry 4:40pm)
Tel: +81 29-487-0375

 

Bungy Japan Ryujin Bungee (バンジージャパン 龍神バンジー)
Address: 2133-6 Keganocho, Hitachiota, Ibaraki 313-0351
Nearest station: Hitachiota Station (常陸太田駅)
Access: 40-minute bus ride from Hitachiota Station
Opening hours: 9am–5pm (Last entry 4:30pm)

 

Kirara no Sato

Does your nearby public park look this grand? (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Hitachi City (日立市 Hitachi-shi), headquarters of the eponymous electric appliances company, was a place I once called home. A modest rural township by any measure, developed mostly on top of the narrow strip of flat land facing the Pacific Ocean, there were nevertheless fascinating things to see in every corner.

 

Let’s go touch some grass... (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Within the city limits, tucked away in the rugged Okuhitachi (奥日立) mountains in the west, is Okuhitachi Kirara no Sato (奥日立きららの里), a picturesque recreational park enjoyed mostly by the few with the privilege of living nearby. This does not stop visitors from far and wide from making the journey to enjoy its many facilities, which include log cabins offering glorified chalet stays in the middle of nature, barbecue pits, campgrounds, dog runs, a large playground, and a tiny ranch housing a few sheep and ponies.

 

And they’re always excited to meet new people! (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Undeniably, the biggest draw of the park has to be the Wakuwaku Slider (ワクワクスライダー), officially the longest slide chute in Japan at 1,188m long. Patrons sit on specialised sledges that take them downhill through a series of exhilarating twists and bends.

 

Weeee! (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Tickets for the slide are sold at ¥530 for one ride, and ¥1,280 for three. Allowing for speeds of up to 40km/h, the slide is perfect for the slightly more faint of heart looking for a thrill less scary than a typical roller coaster, but what sets it apart is the fact that one can control their own speed going down by manipulating a brake lever, thus enabling them to enjoy the ride on their own individual comfort.

 

My friend and I much prefer to speed down the track as quickly as we can! (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Okuhitachi Kirara no Sato (奥日立きららの里)
Address: 863-1 Irishikencho, Hitachi, Ibaraki 311-0402
Nearest station: Hitachi Station (日立駅)
Access: 50-minute bus ride from Hitachi Station 
Opening hours: 9am–5pm (Closed on Mondays)
Tel: +81 29-424-2424

 

If you are now convinced of Ibaraki’s unsung greatness, why don’t you consider heading “down” to visit someday? I hope to see you there!

 

Header image credit: Ananda Kang

 

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