Japan’s got some balls: Kochia “Fire Bushes”

The other day, we – Sam and Tuna – embarked on a 2-hour bus ride from Tokyo to Ibaraki prefecture for the “Kochia Carnival” to see cute, plump red kochia bushes grown in abundance at Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園).

You can visit Hitachi Seaside Park and see kochia bushes on the Miharashi Hill in summer, but the prime time to see these bushes is during autumn (mid-October to end of October) when they’ve all turned a ripe, mature red.

A mountain of people and kochia bushes

When we arrived to the park, it was very crowded with many families and couples, but the weather was perfect with a clear blue sky and refreshing air.

Funnily enough, there was a girls cheer-leading concert in the park too. Many parents, grandparents, friends, and dogs eagerly watched these groups in absolute excitement. Meanwhile we were admiring all the dogs brought into the park…

Our Kochia Carnival Experience

The kochia bushes cover the Miharashi Hill of the park.

With so many people visiting the park that day, finding the perfect angle to take photos was definitely a challenge. But in the end it all paid off!

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Tuna and beautiful kochia (^o^)ノ

So many visitors brought their cute pups to the carnival as well!

Pups’ photoshoot

Around 32,000 round kochia bushes have been planted on the hill, so they looked really cute and perfect.

In perfect shape!

There were a lot of happy visitors, so it was a truly fun autumn experience for us.

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The view from above

More than just kochia bushes to see…

There’s more than just kochia bushes to see at the park. It’s basically an enormous place featuring several different gardens and “forests”.

Beautiful flowers you can see in the park

There was even a grand giant pumpkin display near the Kochia Carnival.

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Big pumpkin

As we walked to another part of the park, we realised there are many of spiders enjoying their life there too…

Happy Halloween?! (O_O;)!!!

Back to pleasant things… The park also houses a sizeable amusement park – ‘Pleasure Garden’ – with a Ferris wheel called the ‘Flower Ring’ that provides an amazing view of the park and the neighbouring Pacific Ocean.

The seaside view was absolutely stunning with the clear blue sky!

We decided to wait 40 minutes to take the ‘see-through’ carriage of the Ferris wheel. During the whole 15 minutes of the ride we were screaming in sheer terror, but no regrets… no regrets… because the view was well worth it! 🙂

We were screaming… for 15 minutes.

From the very top of the wheel, we came to the realisation that the park is bigger than we ever imagined it to be. We also ate our perfect ‘hanjuku tamago omusubi’ (soft-boiled egg in a rice ball) on the carriage. 😉

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Yummy rice ball with the ferris wheel in the background

The park closes at 5:00pm during the Kochia Carnival period (Autumn time). Closing times will vary according to the season, whilst the park may be open later during summer with kochia light-up events, the park is closed earlier during the winter.

The view from the ferris wheel

As the peak autumn season for the kochia bushes is reaching its end, unfortunately you won’t be able to see these luscious spheres in its utmost perfection in November and winter. 😦 So make sure you plan to see it in time for the end of the Kochia Carnival in October each year!

But even if you miss the Kochia Carnival at Hitachi Seaside Park, the park itself has so many beautiful things to see. Check out their yearlong event calendar here! Whether you come in autumn or spring, each season features an equally romantic and stunning display of flowers.

How to get to the park (from Tokyo):

So how do you get to Hitachi Seaside Park?! There are two main ways to get there.

1) Take the Ibaraki Kotsu Bus on Tokai Line (around 2 hours)

(Tokyo Station Yaesu South Bus ⇔ Hitachi Seaside Park)

One-way Fare: 2240 yen
Round-Trip/Twin Ticket: 3,800 yen
Weekend/Public Holiday: Additional 200 yen fee

Possibly the best choice to get to Hitachi and back is through the “Ibaraki Kotsu” Bus Company. Because it is a cheaper and much more convenient option to go by this bus, it is definitely much more popular during the period of the Kochia Festival.

There is no reservation system, you just buy a bus ticket on the day. You will need to get to the Yaesu South Exit Bus Terminal (in Tokyo Station) well before the 10:30am departure time, as there are only 2-3 buses that depart from Tokyo to Hitachi everyday. We were 140th in line, and just made it into the bus! The 50+ people lining up behind us missed out.

The same goes with getting back to Tokyo from the park… make sure you line up well in advance – we suggest briskly walking back to the bus stop at the entrance before 4:30pm or you’ll have to get back to Tokyo by the train… or you can stay stranded in Ibaraki Prefecture until the next day…

You can also get to the park from Haneda Airport and Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.

2) Take the train on the Local JR Joban Line (around 2.5 hours)

(Ueno Station ⇔ Katsuta Station ⇔ Hitachi Seaside Park)

One-way Fare: 2,670yen
(2,270 yen (JR Joban) + 400 yen (Smile Aozora Bus Shuttle Service) = 2,670 yen)

If you want to guarantee a spot to and from the park, this is the safest option for you!

You can also take a more expensive limited express line – HITACHI and TOKIWA lines.  These lines run from Shinagawa or Ueno Stations to Katsuta, which will save you around 30-40 minutes of travel. It will cost around 3,820 yen for the train ticket.

We hope you will be able to see the beautiful kochia bushes during your visit to Japan!

Written by Samantha Quek and Tuna Cheung


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