Incredible Ibaraki #2: Anime tourism in Oarai via Mito and enjoy a local festival!
Nestled in the heart of Ibaraki Prefecture, Mito is a city that boasts a rich cultural heritage and natural beauty that will captivate any traveller. With its stunning parks, historic sites, and vibrant local culture, Mito is a must-visit destination for those looking to explore the hidden gems of Japan.
If you are also a fan of the popular anime series "Girls und Panzer," you're in for a real treat. Mito and nearby Oarai play a significant role in the series, making it an even more exciting destination for fans. With the recent release of the 4th part in the Girls und Panzer das Finale movie series plus an appearance by some of the cast members in an upcoming festival held in Oarai, now is the time to make the pilgrimage! In this article, we will guide you on how to travel to Mito and Oarai by train while highlighting the "Girls und Panzer" connections.
Getting to Mito
Mito is conveniently accessible by train, making it an ideal destination for a day trip or an extended stay. The city is served by the JR Joban Line, which connects Tokyo and Sendai, and provides excellent transportation options for tourists. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to get to Mito by train:
- Start at Tokyo Station: If you're coming from Tokyo, begin your journey at Tokyo Station, one of Japan's major transportation hubs.
- Board the Joban Line: Head to the JR Joban Line platforms within Tokyo Station. Ensure that you are on a train heading in the direction of Mito.
- Enjoy the Scenic Ride: The train journey to Mito takes approximately two hours, and you'll pass through picturesque landscapes, including lush greenery and rice paddies.
- Arrive in Mito: Once you arrive at Mito Station, you'll find yourself in the heart of the city, ready to explore its many attractions and its special connection to "Girls und Panzer."
Travel to Mito is also covered by the rail passes offered by JR EAST. Mito falls in the area covered by the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) as well as the JR TOKYO Wide Pass, so there are many options available to you depending on the rest of your itinerary.
Don’t forget to check out the updated station interior as well as updated signboards at the station as detailed here! Before heading over to Oarai, why not also include some sightseeing of Mito as well?
Going to Oarai
While in Mito, you can't miss the opportunity to attend the thrilling Oarai Anko Festival (大洗あんこう祭り Ōarai Ankō Matsuri) in nearby Oarai, which also has ties to "Girls und Panzer". The festival is a unique event celebrating the monkfish, a deep-sea creature found in the waters off Oarai. In the anime, Oarai is the home of the Oarai Girls' High School, where the tank battles take place. To get from Mito to Oarai, head over to platform 8 to board the Kashima Rinkai Railway and alight at Oarai Station, 3 stops away.
Kashima Rinkai Railway trainset. (Image credit: photoAC)
Please note this is a privately owned rail line and is thus not covered by any of the JR rail passes, even as it shares the same station building as JR Mito. You will need a separate ticket that you can purchase at the station’s automated vending machines.
Cycling to get around
As you may have already read previously, cycling is a very good way to get around Ibaraki, and the same applies for the town of Oarai. The main attractions of Oarai are accessible by foot as well, but cycling is a much more convenient way to get around.
Umimachi Terrace is right next to Oarai Station. (Image Credit: photoAC)
At the Umimachi Terrace, you can rent a bicycle at the station that gets you to most of the tourist attractions near the coast. Aside from the Isosaki Shrine, there are:
Oarai Marine Tower
Oarai Marine Tower. (Image credit: photoAC)
A 60m tall tower. You can enjoy a panoramic view from the observation deck, ranging from the sea to the town. On a good day you can even see as far as Mt. Fuji, as well as other nearer locations like Nikko and the Nasu highlands.
Girls und Panzer fans would be pleased to know, that one level down, on the second floor, is the café “Panzer Vor”, and official theme café based on the anime.
Oarai Port & Oarai Seaside Station
Fishing boats at Oarai Port. (Image credit: photoAC)
With a long coastline, Ibaraki is known for its fishing and it’s not that different from the town of Oarai. Being near the sea means access to seafood. At Oarai, you can visit the Oarai Port where you see a whole array of fishing docked fishing boats. After which you can visit the nearby Oarai Seafood Market for fresh and dried seafood, including trying seafood dishes at the attached restaurant where you can feast on locally-caught shirasu (白子 whitebait), in spring and autumn.
Raw whitebait rice bowl (Image credit: photoAC)
Bonus: The port of Oarai also hosts a passenger ferry service that connects to Tomakomai port in Hokkaido, and is an alternative (much slower) way of travelling between Kanto and Hokkaido.
Ferry service between Oarai and Tomakomai (Image credit: photoAC)
Aside from that, you can also eat and shop while enjoying the sea breeze at Oarai Seaside Station. You can experience the local Ibaraki and Oarai cuisine after visiting the next ink to Girls und Panzer, which is the Oarai Garupan Gallery, where you buy official merchandise from the anime as well as look at various displays and miniature dioramas about the show that have accumulated over the past decade.
Aqua World Ibaraki Prefecture Oarai Aquarium
Main entrance to Aqua World Ibaraki Prefecture Oarai Aquarium. (Image credit: photoAC)
Returning to your bicycle you can cycle along the coast, past Isosaki Shrine, and eventually arrive at the Aqua World Ibaraki Prefecture Oarai Aquarium. Home to 68,000 individual marine life representing 580 different species, you can also see various programs at the aquarium, such as dolphin and sea lion live shows as well as witness the feeding of certain marine life at their respective tanks.
Humboldt penguin feeding taking place at the Aqua World Ibaraki Prefecture Oarai Aquarium. (Image credit: photoAC)
Cycling along the coastline, you can find the benches that were the inspiration of the infamous Ankou Dance, from the anime.
Core fans will recognise where these benches appear during the Anko Dance sequence found in Girls und Panzer. (Image credit: JR East / Johnny Goh)
Town’s connection to Girls und Panzer
While having an anime set in an actual location in Japan is not an uncommon occurrence, the town of Oarai has embraced their connection to Girls und Panzer, with many activities and displays in town to show this.
The Oarai Tourist Association has provided various guide maps to mark out the locations that have been used in the anime production, including the locations mentioned earlier.
Between Oarai Station and Isosaki Shrine, you can go on a character hunt where standees of various characters from the anime have been placed in over 50 locations .
Oarai Monkfish Festival
During November, festivals took over the town, with numerous cultural activities and pop culture events taking place in locations all over the town as well as the field in front of the Marine Tower.
For the first time in four years (2023), parts of the town will be converted to a "pedestrian heaven" where vehicles are not allowed. Local shops put their best food forward to appeal to the crowd visiting.
Monkfish, or ankō (あんこう), is also in season during this time of year, and visitors can partake in the famous monkfish hotpot, a local delicacy when enjoying the festival.
Monkfish hotpot (あんこう鍋 Ankō nabe). (Photo credit: photoAC)
With the recent release of the fourth part in the Girls und Panzer das Finale movie series, the anime is also holding an event to coincide with the festival, with appearances by cast members for a talk show event, accompanied by a mini festival where merchandise goes on sale. Truly a good example of anime meeting tourism.
Mito and the nearby Oarai offer travelers, especially fans of "Girls und Panzer," a diverse and captivating experience. Whether you're exploring the beauty of Mito's gardens and history, following in the footsteps of your favorite tank teams from the anime, or immersing yourself in the thrill of the Ankou Festival, this journey is one that will leave you with lasting memories. And with the convenience of the JR Joban Line paired with the JR TOKYO Wide Pass, getting to these destinations by train has never been easier. So pack your bags, hop on a train, and get ready to dive into the enchanting world of Mito and Oarai, where "Girls und Panzer" adventures come to life!
JR TOKYO Wide Pass
The JR TOKYO Wide Pass and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)
The JR TOKYO Wide Pass offers unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including the Fuji Excursion and Fujikyu Railway) in the valid area for 3 consecutive days with the updated price of ¥15,000. It also allows seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains, and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance on the JR-EAST Train Reservation.
To repeat, from JR Mito Station (JR水戸駅 JR Mito-eki), any transfer onto the Kashima Rinkai Railway for travel onward to Oarai requires a separate ticket available at ticket vending machines at the train station.
Header image credit: photoAC