There are two types of "cosmos viewing" in the autumn. One you can do any clear night, but the other is a daytime adventure, where you look down instead of up. In addition to being another word for the universe, "cosmos" is also the name of a popular flower that blooms in abundance in early autumn. Entire fields are sometimes planted in cosmos, culminating in a purple, pink and white carpet of beauty.
In the Tsukuba area, there are several displays worth seeing. The Ushiku Daibutsu (the world's largest statue, a 120 m statue of Buddha clearly visible from any elevated point in Tsukuba), has 10,000 m2 of cosmos blooming around its base. On a nice day in early to mid October, it's definitely worth a trip. The entrance fee into the park is 1000 yen (including going up into the statue), but even when viewed from outside, it's quite an interesting sight. There is also a small enclosed area where children can feed rabbits and squirrels.
Another close-by place worth visiting is the Hitachi Fudoki no Oka just west of Ishioka. This park features authentic reproductions of ancient Japanese life including thatched roof houses and displays of what typical life scenes were like. You can even sample free tea in the tea room. There are also play areas for children along with beautiful walks along paths leading by ponds and fields of flowers. Like most such places, it is closed on Mondays (or Tuesdays if the previous Monday is a national holiday). Park hours are 9 am to 5 pm and there is a nominal entrance fee of 300 yen (150 yen for children). The last two weeks of October are the best times to go.
The other fall flower or note, the chrysanthemum, makes its debut the latter half of October and into early November. There are several noteworthy displays in Tsukuba, including Matsumi Park, in front of the Yatabe Branch City Hall and at the Tsukuba Shrine on Mt. Tsukuba. Perhaps the largest in the area is at the Kasama Chrysanthemum Festival, which begins Oct. 20 and continues through Nov. 26, and features amazing displays of chrysanthemum bushes bent and formed into fantastic displays of flowers. There is an admission charge to the Shrine displays of 900 yen for high school and above and 500 yen for children. There is an 'Autumn Festival' at the Izumo Shrine on the 22nd. A special "Takumi no Matsuri", or artisan's festival featuring Kasama pottery is to be held in conjunction with the chrysanthemum festival from Nov. 2 to Nov. 5, and is well worth seeing. There is also a large chrysanthemum festival in Mito at the Howaen Park on the west side of town between Route 50 and the river, with the dates being Oct. 24 to Nov. 14.
Depending on the weather and your time, proceeding on up to see the fall leaves at the Fukuroda Falls and the Ryushinkyo Bridge farther to the north is well worth the trip. Fall leaves are typically at their peak in early November.
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