If you have ever had to do business at the "Kencho" (Prefectural Capital) in Mito in the past, you will perhaps remember the run-down, cramped quarters the various offices occupied in the old building a few blocks north of Mito Station. That has all changed now, as the Ibaraki government office, together with the prefectural police offices, has just moved to the newly-built, high tech facilities located on spacious grounds on the southern edge of Mito, about 5 km southwest of Mito Station.
The ´80 billion plus project began in 1993 with the drawing up of plans, with actual construction beginning in 1995. Construction of the four main buildings that make up the complex was completed at the end of March, and the moving in is to be completed by mid April.
The main building is a 25 story edifice that has a height of 116 meters, which makes it the tallest building in Ibaraki prefecture, other than the giant Buddha in Ushiku, which is listed at 120 meters. Unlike the Buddha, however, which has only very narrow slit-like windows to look through in the shoulder high observation platform, the capital building has a very spacious observation deck on the top floor with excellent views in all directions. On a clear day, Mt. Tsukuba, Kasumigaura, the Pacific Ocean and the mountains north of Mito are all clearly visible.
The 10 story Prefectural Police headquarters is located next to the main building, while the 5 story Prefectural Assembly is located on the other side. Behind the main building is a much smaller structure that houses public welfare agencies. Both the main building and Police headquarters feature spacious atriums, with that in the main building extending from the 11th floor all the way to the top of the building, and that in the Police headquarters from the 2nd floor on up. Both are covered with transparent ceilings that give them bright, airy atmospheres. The main atrium even has live trees, and features a coffee shop with numerous tables to enjoy a leisurely snack.
The grounds of the complex promise to develop into a first-rate garden in their own right, though it will take some time for the newly transplanted trees to take root and grow. Two large ponds and numerous interesting rock sculptures grace the grounds, much of which covers a large, underground parking facility. A rather unusual feature is the cavernous rainwater storage area that captures runoff for later use.
Even if you have no particular business to take care of at a prefectural office, this new attraction is well worth adding to your plans whenever you visit the "Kairakuen" Gardens or any other sightseeing spot in the Mito area. As the main building towers over anything else in the area, it's pretty easy to find, except perhaps on a foggy day. It's located just south of the Route 50 Bypass directly south of Senba Lake. From Tsukuba, you can either get off the Joban Expressway at the Mito Interchange and simply follow the elevated Route 50 Bypass to the East, or if you want to save a few yen, you can get off at the Iwama Interchange and travel east to Route 6. Follow that north and turn off to the left on the road leading into central Mito, just after Route 6 widens out into 4 lanes.
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