Beauty of Japan: The Magical Kochia Hill Blooming in Hitachinaka

Every year, tourists flood to Japan to witness the dreamy beauty of Kochiha Hill turning a bright and extraodrinary red colour, lending them the name “Burning bush.”
October 15, 2021 | 16:34

Have you heard of these cute pom pom plants called “Kochia”?? If you are seeking to see something a bit different from ordinary autumn leaves, this could be the perfect choice. The tremendous 350 ha field is filled with 32,000 Kochia balls making a spectacular scenery at the Miharashi Hill in Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture!

Photo: hitachikaihin
Photo: hitachikaihin

The scrubby little Kochia plants, otherwise known as summer cypress, are not much to look at for most of the year, but at the end of the wet season they take on an extraordinary brilliant red color, lending them the name “Burning bush.”

Kochia (summer cypress) is an annual plant native to dry lands in the Eurasian Continent. As kochia grow, their colour changes from vibrant green in the summer to a greenish-red and finally to a bright scarlet in October. In Japanese, kochia are known as ‘hokigusa’, meaning a plant for making brooms after drying. Kochia also produce edible nuts known as ‘tonburi’, a speciality of Akita Prefecture. Tonburi is also known as ‘the caviar of the field’ thanks to its similar shape, colour and texture.

Hitachi Seaside Park (国営ひたち海浜公園) is located in Ibaraki Prefecture, the northeast of Kanto region. The park is best known for two flowers, Nemophila (a.k.a. Baby blue eyes) during spring, and Kochia (a.k.a. summer cypress or burning bush) during autumn.

Photo: Ikidane Nippon
Photo: Ikidane Nippon

32,000 Kochia balls are planted at the miharashi Hill in June, and grow their size from 15 cm to 70–80 cm during summer. They gradually turn their colour from green to red from July to October.

In most of days in Summer, you can enjoy them in fresh green colour. The Kochias with gradation colours in green-yellow-red can be seen in mid to late September. If you wish to see them in fire burning red, visit there in October. At the peak season, there will be an event “Kochia Carnival” held at the park annually for about a month from mid September to mid October.

As well as kochia balls, cosmos flowers are in full bloom from early to late October, and fields are next to each other! It’s paved around flower fields so enjoy walking around those cute and colourful flowers and plants.

The park gets extremely crowded on weekends as everyone comes to see this spectacular seasonal scenery, so it’s highly recommended to visit there on weekdays to avoid crowds.

Photo: Ikidane Nippon
Photo: Ikidane Nippon

The magical Kochia Hill

Hitachinaka (ひたちなか市 Hitachinaka-shi) city is located in Ibaraki Prefecture, in the northern Kantō region of Japan. It is a hiragana city, a place whose name is written with hiragana syllabary as opposed to other cities that are written in the traditional kanji.

Photo: Atlas Obscura
Photo: Atlas Obscura

The towns of Minato and Hiraiso and the village of Katsuta are within the Naka District. The municipalities system was established on April 1, 1889. Minato was renamed Nakaminato in 1938 while Katsuta was made into a town in 1940. During World War II, the area experienced heavy air raids and shelling by Allied warships because of the many factories nearby that produced war-related materials. On March 31, 1954, the towns of Hiraiso and nakaminato merged to form the city of Nakaminato and Katsuta became a city that same year. On November 1, 1994, Nakaminato and Katsuta yet again merged to form the city of Hitachinaka.

One of the unique places to visit in Hitachinaka is Hitachi Seaside Park. The park is right next to Ajigaura Beach, a popular tourist destination for nature lovers. The park spans an area of eight acres with flowers that bloom with bursts of color all year round.

During autumn each year, the park becomes extra special when the thousands of Kochia bushes turn crimson red on Miharashi no oka (Lookout Hill). Kochia are a type of large herb that grow in bushes about 90 centimeters tall. The rest of the year the bushes are green; in late September they begin to change color to deep red.

Photo: Flickr
Photo: Flickr

The beautiful display of color is such a spectacle that many visitors flock to see Kochia Hill in September and October. The Kochia Carnival highlights the colors of fall. People can frolic amongst the 36,000 red Kochia bushes and millions of cosmos flowers that also bloom around the same time the Kochia turns red.

The cosmos flowers come in several colors ,which makes the sight even more breathtaking. For visitors coming from the Tokyo area, there are also direct buses from Asakusa and Ueno Stations that go to the entrance at Kaihin Kouen Iriguchi (海浜公園入口) bus stop.

How to get to Kochiha Hill

To get to the park from Tokyo, take the JR Joban Line super express “Hitachi” to Katsuta Station. From Katsuta Station take the local bus from bus stop #1 and get off at Kaihin-Koen-Nishiguchi. Note, Japan's wet season lasts from the beginning of June to mid-July, so if planning to see the kochi plants in bloom, make sure to plan your trip accordingly.

Oishi Park at the north shore of Lake Kawaguchi offers a superb view of both the lake & Mt. Fuji. Photo: Ikidane Nippon
Oishi Park at the north shore of Lake Kawaguchi offers a superb view of both the lake & Mt. Fuji. Photo: Ikidane Nippon

What else to see in Hitachinaka

The Ibaraki coastline

The Oarai and Hitachinaka area, which sits right on the ocean, is home to some fantastic beaches. Located near Hitachi Seaside Park, Ajihaura Beach is a pristine beach with gentle waves. It boasts excellent views and features a pier at one end where you can watch the waves crash against the rocks.

Oarai Sun Beach is a stretch of white sand beach perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. It is the biggest single beach in the Kanto area, stretching from a fishing port in the north to picturesque bluffs to the south. The water here is shallow; hence, it is great for wading and water sports.

Aqua World Ibaraki, the shark capital

For a deeper look into the sea, visit Aqua World Ibaraki Prefectural Oarai Aquarium, a huge aquarium with 68,000 animals of nearly 600 species.

The attraction is famous for its giant water tanks and sharks. It has 45 species of sharks, making it the biggest collection of sharks in Japan. There's also an outdoor playground for kids, dolphin and sea lion shows, and great views of the Pacific.

Blooming flowers at Oarai and Hitachinaka

Ibaraki is famous for being a great place to see some incredible flower gardens. Hitachi Seaside Park is probably the area's most picturesque park. It is a spacious park blanketed in flowers of different colors that overlooks the town of Hitachi and the ocean.

During the spring, the park's gentle hills are covered in pale blue nemophila flowers. In late summer, it is covered in a carpet of kochia bushes that turn crimson in the fall, creating a surreal landscape.

Hitachi Kamine and Shizumine Furusato Parks

Hitachi Kamine is another park with excellent views of the ocean and plenty of cherry trees. In addition to its fields of flowers, the park has two amusement parks and a zoo. Shizumine Furusato Park is known for its yaezakura, or double-flowering cherry blossoms, during the cherry blossom season.

Sacred shrine

Oarai Isosaki-jinja Shrine is located on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It has three gates, one of which, Kamiiso-no-Torii, is an iconic sight in Ibaraki. It stands on a rocky island at the edge of the Pacific Ocean where the waves crash against its base.

A seafood heaven

If you are into seafood, the area presents a few must-see attractions. You cannot visit Oarai or Hitachinaka without hitting the Nakaminato Fish Market. Visitors wander among rows of vendors selling fresh seafood at reasonable prices, while nearby restaurants prepare cuisine with the day's catch.

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