The ocean isn't too far away, but for those who would rather not make the drive, there are several different ways to cool off, get wet, and have a fun time too! There are a number of pools in the Tsukuba area where you can swim. The biggest is the indoor pool at Doho Park, which has both daytime and nighttime hours through September. There are also several outdoor pools in the area, open only in the daytime. These pools are located in Hanabatake, Ninomiya and Yatabe, and are open from 9:30-11:30 & 12:30-5:00, costing 200 yen or 350 yen, depending on place.
If you would like a lot of fun in the sun, a really nice place to visit is the Sanuma Sun Beach Swimming Center (0296-43-6661) in Shimotsuma, about 40 minutes northwest of Tsukuba. It is a large pool complex with giant slides, an almost 2 km long moving river pool, waterfalls, wave machines and the works. Admission and rentals for tubes are quite reasonable, so families can have a "funtastic" time without spending lots of money. Admission is 1100 yen for adults, 500 yen for junior high and elementary school age children, and 300 yen for small children. To get there, go along Route 125 through Shimotsuma to a 3-way intersection with a stone works center at the corner. There are signs in Japanese pointing out the direction (to the right). The complex is on the right a few hundred meters up that road, and has a large parking lot. The season extends from July 20 through Aug. 30.
A similar park is located a bit closer in Tsuchiura in the Kasumigaura Park southeast of Tsuchiura Station. It advertizes itself as being able to handle 10,000 people, though we don't recommend going there on one of those days. It is, however, quite a nice facility with loads of things to do. The pool opens July 15 and closes September 1, with admission being 900 yen, 500 yen, 300 yen and 100 yen for adults, secondary school-age, primary school-age and preschool-age children respectively. Phone 24-6432.
If you are up for a drive to the beach, up north along the coast, there are the Oarai and Ajigaura beaches east of Mito. These beaches are good for swimming, body surfing, and lots of fun. They do tend to be crowded, but the facilities are good. The Oarai Beach also has a large fresh water pool next to the beach. Admission to it is 620 yen for adults and 310 yen for kids. The "Japan Body Board Carnival" is held there on Aug. 25, and you can even give it a try. Tel. 029-267-5111
In Oarai, there is the Aqua World Oarai (029-267-5151), which has impressive displays of sharks, dolphins, seals, penguins, etc., along with local crustaceans and fish. There are entertaining dolphin and seal shows as well as sea life displays. Oarai is famous for seafood, and you can purchase some edible souvenirs to remind you, though perhaps just briefly, of your time at the beach. Aqua World Oarai is located on the coast at the mouth of the Naka River just a few kilometers north of the Oarai Port. It takes just a bit over an hour by car (assuming you take the expressway, of course). Exit at the Mito, Oarai exit of the Kita Kanto Expressway on to Route 51 and go towards the coast. Exit it to the left a few kilometers down to go into the center of Oarai and follow that road right to the coast. Turn left and follow that up to Aqua World. Parking is free and the entrance fee is 1800 yen for adults, 900 yen for elementary and junior high school children, and 300 yen for pre-school children over 3. Doors open at 9 am and close at 7 pm.
Other beaches line the entire eastern side of Ibaraki, too numerous to list here. If you drive along the coast, you can, of course, stop anywhere you can pull your car over and walk along the beach looking for shells. More likely, however, you'll find a lot of chunks of styrofoam, pieces of wood, and a variety of other junk washed up by the tide. These sections of beach, are for obvious reasons far less crowded than the public beaches that have facilities and there is no charge. If you don't mind driving home without being able to take a shower, then you can take a dip most anywhere. It is much safer, of course, to use a public beach with life guards and changing facilities. Parking lots there, however, generally charge 700 yen or so per car with a similar charge per adult for use of the facilities (less for children).
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