Hitachi Seaside Park Day Trip

Hitachi Seaside Park - April 2015-30                                           Hitachi Seaside Park - April 2015-39

Waking up quite early on Wednesday, and inspired by a recent post on Spoon & Tamago, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful sunny morning and drive up to Hitachi Seaside Park (ひたち海浜公園) for the day to take some photos of the currently blooming Nemophila (ネモフィラ), or “baby blue eyes” as they’re commonly called.

As you can see from the shot above, there are a few bare patches because I visited just before peak bloom. The Japanese part of the park’s website has more detailed information about what is currently blooming and the state (or fullness) of the bloom. When I visited, the website listed the bloom at “5分咲き”, which is not the optimum “満開” (mankai).  The English part of the website lists only the annual estimated dates, so, if you’re planning to actually go, you might want to check the Japanese site too.

I’d never been to the park before, so I had no idea what the scale was. It’s sometimes hard to know in Japan: a park that is famous and attracts so many visitors can sometimes turn out to be quite small once you’re actually there (yes, LOL, photos can deceive you). However, Hitachi Seaside Park was the opposite: I was surprised by the size and, in fact, I only saw about half of it in my four hours there.  Note that there is a 10km cycling course within the park, but it’s separate from the pedestrian paths, so you park at designated parking areas and then walk to the pedestrian path areas. You can either rent a bicycle (¥310/3 hrs at time of writing) or you can bring in your own bicycle.

Hitachi-Seaside-Park-English-Guide-Map
I entered from the west gate (西口), which seemed convenient for the Miharashi no Oka (みはらしの丘) – the hill where the Nemophila are. However, instead of heading straight to the hill of  blue, I took a right and headed towards the Tamago no mori flower garden (たまごの森フラワーガーデン), which is where the rather impressive tulip garden is. I spent quite a bit of time shooting the tulips – the colours were spectacular and I felt lucky that I hadn’t missed them (they peak before the last part of April).
(click an image below to see larger sizes)

 

After the tulips, I headed towards the Miharashi no Oka. It is really quite something to round the path from the entrance of the park and see a large hill in the distance covered in baby blue flowers. Most people walking along the path at the same time either gasped or exclaimed something upon first sight. To the left of the Nemophila, there is an rather large field of bright yellow Nanohana (菜花, or rapeseed), which added a nice contrast.

Before getting to the photos, I’ll make a point of saying that if you see one of the many beautiful wide-view photos of this blue hill without any people on it, you can be fairly sure that the people have been removed in post-processing (i.e., Photoshop) because I arrived at the park at opening time on a weekday before peak bloom and there was almost no chance of getting a shot without at least a few (or a few dozen) people in it. I’m not saying this to point a finger at any photographers who have removed people (because it does make a lot of the images more striking) – I’m saying it to anyone who drives up and expects to find an empty vista of blue on blue and then feels disappointed. It’s Japan: any place with blooming flowers is going to be crowded. I can only imagine how crowded it is this weekend or during Golden Week.
(click an image below to see larger sizes)

 

Finally, for some practical details, if you are planning on driving from central Tokyo, I’d highly recommend being on the road by 7:00 am. The drive was about 1 hour and 40 minutes on a weekday morning. Of course, there is also access via train (the Hitachi Super Express from either Tokyo or Ueno Stations, a local train, and then a short taxi ride or bus for the final leg).

At this time of year, the park opens at 9:30 am, but there is a conveniently located Starbucks (with a McDonald’s next to it, if that’s your taste) just as you turn onto the road leading to the park. I sat outside in the sunshine until just before the 9:30 opening time:

hitachinaka-starbucks-patio

 

 

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