It’s been a year in which we have all seen changes in how we live our lives. Many of us have probably done quite a bit of reflecting on how we want to live going forward. Given that more and more people are working remotely — at least part of the time — there’s no need to sit cooped up in an apartment, staring at grey concrete walls.
Tokyoites, take your office on the road — literally! That’s what Tokyo Challenge asked me to do. I rented a Dream Drive campervan with a bed, battery packs, lights, and chairs, and headed out into the Japanese countryside.
My destination was Ibaraki Prefecture. A roughly two-hour, easy drive from Tokyo, it offers sea views, rivers, mountains, onsen and great food. It’s beautiful and full of friendly people.
While my mission was to fake heading to a really faraway exotic location, I designed an amazing three-day itinerary and map for the perfect workation. At the time of publishing this article, the autumn colours will be spectacular, so don’t miss out.
Ibaraki Campervan Workation: Day 1
- Pick up your CHARIOT from the Dream Drive depo in Komae, Tokyo.
- Head to Unomisaki resort and take a stroll around the grounds and along the clifftops.
- Enjoy lunch in Restaurant Shiosai, where you can choose from fresh sashimi or Hitachi beef.
- Soak in the baths at Urarayu onsen and relax and/or work in their rest space.
- For an extra stretch of the legs, drive a few minutes’ south and take a mini stroll around Kogaigahama and to Kawajiri Lighthouse.
- Drive up to the lookout in Kamine Park for a nighttime view of Hitachi.
- Park along the coast for the night within walking distance from central Hitachi (I unofficially recommend somewhere near Tsu Shrine if you don’t mind a short walk to the nearest toilet).
- Head for dinner at Chiyuu, an izakaya (Japanese-style pub). There’s no English menu but if you say “Sashimi OK, sake OK!” and smile, you will get fed nice things. You can also point to the baskets of fresh vegetables on the counter.
- Take a bath at Hotel Hitachi Plaza to refresh for the night.
Ibaraki Campervan Workation Day 2
- Watch the sunrise. No, seriously, WAKE UP and WATCH the sunrise.
- Drive over to Ryujin Suspension Bridge for views over the valley and dragon-shaped river, and bungee jump off it if you dare!
- Head over to the impressive four-level Fukuroda Falls, one of Japan’s “three great waterfalls”.
- Enjoy the local speciality of apple pie at Honen Mansaku. Because apple pie.
- Option: Hike Mt. Nantai. At only 654m high, it’s fairly short (around 1.5 hours from Oenji Public Parking) with really rewarding views. However, there are several routes depending on your level / how long you want to walk. If walking from Saigane Station, you might want to stop by this foot bath.
- If hiking Mt. Nantai, stop by the lovely Oenjisansou for Ibaraki aki soba (local speciality of buckwheat noodles) and great tempura in an old countryside house.
- If heading into Daigo, experience the atmosphere of olden times at Daigo Cafe in a 100-year-old former merchant’s house.
Onsen (Hot Springs)
These usually have rest spaces where you can work. Be sure to check the opening times carefully.
Nighttime Parking Options
- Camping sites like Camp Village Yanase or Kamiogawa Camping Ground.
- Okukujidaigo Rest Area (convenient but not the best for the “nature” experience)
- Crazy out of the way viewpoint to watch the sunrise! 休場展望台
Ibaraki Campervan Workation Day 3
- Head for breakfast with a sea view at Sea Birds Cafe.
- Soak with sea views and chill out at Yurakunori Super Onsen. (rest space and workspace available!)
- Stroll around Hitachi Seaside Park because of ALL THE BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS AND PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES.
- Check out Hoshiimo Shrine, a shrine dedicated to hoshi-imo, the local speciality of dried sweet potatoes. Buy some to take back as gifts and healthy snacks.
- Bid farewell to Ibaraki (until next time) at the ridiculously picturesque seaside Oarai Isosaki Shrine.