Not only does it have an impressive name, but the new Ibaraki Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center is also an impressive place to visit. Located on a bluff overlooking the lake, the IKESC features a first class exhibition center that presents the history and ecology of the lake and surrounding plains.
The "Entrance Hall" features a giant map on the floor that portrays what southern Ibaraki looked like at the beginning of the Meiji Era some 130 years ago. It’s amazing to see how much the landscape has changed in that time. In fact, some of the exhibits show details of how even more radical the change was in more ancient times. One shows the shoreline as it was some 6 to 8 thousand years ago when sea levels were higher and a shallow sea extended inland past Tsuchiura. What is now Kasumigaura Lake was connected to the ocean.
Direct evidence of this can be seen on a nearby point sticking out into the lake. A 10 meter or so cliff next to the road right at the point contains thousands of seashells imbedded in the soft rock. These shells are several thousand years old and were discarded by the Jomon people who lived there.
Another display shows how the building of dikes and canals during the Edo period also radically changed the landscape. Up until the flow of the river was changed in the 1600’s, the Tone River flowed southward into Tokyo Bay instead of East into the Pacific at Choshi. That’s quite an engineering project when you consider all that had to be done with hand tools.
The spacious grounds feature a stream flowing down from an upper pool to another pool half way down the hill, and from the gardens around the pool, you get a great view of the lake with the Kanto plains stretching out all the way to Mt. Fuji, which on a clear winter day dominates the distance horizon. During December and the first half of January, the sun sets right over Mt. Fuji, and if clouds don’t obscure it, the effect is spectacular. The cover picture was taken a km or so away (in an attempt to catch the sun right on top of the peak), but if you hit a clear day on about Dec. 14 or Dec. 31, the sun will be right in line with the peak as viewed from the museum. At that time of year, of course, the day-to-day variation of the exact spot the sun sinks beyond the horizon does not change very fast. It reaches its most southerly point on the horizon at the winter solstice (Dec. 22), and gradually begins setting just a fraction farther towards due west from that point. By mid January, you have to do to the far side of the lake in order for the sun to line up with Fuji.
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