Family Trip to Kasama! Glamping, Local Food, and a Gorgeous Chrysanthemum Festival
Kasama City Is a Treasure Chest of Gourmet Food, Gorgeous Chrysanthemum Flowers and More
Before I start this article, let me introduce you to Kasama, my favorite city in Japan.
First, the food. Ibaraki Prefecture is the top producer of chestnuts in Japan, both for quantity and quality. Eating chestnuts in autumn in Kasama was an idyllic experience. And it's not just chestnuts, there are also fresh fruits, vegetables, and a wide variety of Inari Sushi.
The Chrysanthemum Festival held every fall (between October and November) is also stunningly beautiful, with bright displays that look like fireworks. The mental image that I had of chrysanthemums has been completely changed.
If you like Japanese tableware, be prepared because Kasama is also renown for its pottery. I especially enjoyed browsing all the galleries and shops showcasing the excellent Kasama-yaki. Kasama is a town that respects the individuality and style of its various artists, and that reflects in a lot of different styles and genres.
In addition to the above, Kasama also has relaxing parks with spectacular slides and a glamping site that's right out of a dream. It's a wonderful city with delicious food that will please adults and children alike.
Participating in the Chrysanthemum Festival at Kasama Inari Jinja Shrine and Praying for Good Fortune
The best place to start a trip to Kasama is at Kasama Inari Jinja Shrine. There are a few different theories about this, but this shrine is said to be one of the three major Inari shrines in Japan, along with the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and the Toyokawa Inari Shrine in Aichi. Inari shrines are associated with the image of the fox, which is said to be a messenger of the gods. Here you'll find fox carvings, masks, amulets, and you can pray to the messenger of God for a good fortune in work, family, and love.
Japan's Oldest Chrysanthemum Festival Lifts People's Spirit
The most famous event at Kasama Inari Jinja Shrine is the Chrysanthemum Festival held in October and November. When we visited (November 2020), the 113th Chrysanthemum Festival was being celebrated. Seeing 10,000 pots of gorgeous chrysanthemums was a new experience for me. There were even dolls and handmade decorations made of chrysanthemums. I could not imagine that there were so many kinds of these flowers.
When I looked up the origin of the Chrysanthemum Festival, I found out that after the Russo-Japanese War ended, the shrine started growing chrysanthemum flowers on its grounds to cheer people up. Knowing the history, I felt I could feel the vitality of the chrysanthemum flower even more.
Kasama Chrysanthemum Festival | 笠間の菊まつり
Schedule: Every year from late October to late November
Place: Kasama Inari Jinja Shrine and other places in Kasama
Kasama Inari Jinja Shrine | 笠間稲荷神社
Address: 1 Kasama, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
Kasama History Exchange Center Izutsuya, a Photo-Worthy Spot
We took a short walk from Kasama Inari Jinja and visited the nearby Kasama History Exchange Center Izutsuya. This place is a popular photo spot where you can get plenty of Instagram-worthy shots!
Kasama Historical Exchange Center Izutsuya | かさま歴史交流館井筒屋
Address: 987 Kasama, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Closed on Monday (if Monday is a national holiday it closes the following day instead)
Learning About the Local Specialties From a Funny Rickshaw Driver
Next we took a ride in a rickshaw that was waiting right in front of the Exchange Center. The rickshaw was really fun, stable and comfortable to ride. We learned that the cart can cost up to two million yen! The driver introduced us to the delicacies of Monzen-dori street and told us many interesting anecdotes about his work. It was an unforgettable experience and it was interesting to enjoy the architecture and scenery of the street from a different height. If you come across a rickshaw, you should definitely give it a try.
A Gourmet Stroll Along Monzen-Dori Street
When in Monzen-dori street, the two things you definitely want to try are chestnuts and Inari Sushi, the latter being closely related to the Kasama Inari Jinja Shrine. Freshly roasted chestnuts in Kasama are delicious, moist and with a fragrant aroma. Be sure to try the chestnut manju (traditional steamed soft cakes) at the long-established Nakaya Souhonten.
Inari Sushi (vinegared rice wrapped in fried tofu) is common all over Japan, but Kasama has the largest variety I've ever seen. There are special versions made with buckwheat noodles, chestnuts, and walnuts. The many varieties can be both sweet and salty. It's fun just to explore all the different shops, each with their unique taste that once you try, you will never forget.
On to Kitayama Park, Where a Spectacular Slide and Colorful Autumn Leaves Await!
After enjoying the fun and food on Monzen-dori we drove to Kitayama Park, which is recommended by the locals. It has a slide that's 161 meters long! The fall foliage is also wonderful here. Going down the slide surrounded by the autumn leaves felt like being in a romantic scene of a movie.
Time for the Long-Awaited Glamping at ETOWA KASAMA
Exhausted from playing in the park we finally headed to ETOWA KASAMA, the spot we had been looking forward to the most on this trip.
■Check in at ETOWA's Log Cabin!
This Scandinavian-style log cabin is the check-in lobby! Shower rooms (men's and women's) and toilets are also in here. We visited in November but I could already feel the Christmas atmosphere.
■It's Warm, Comfortable and It Looks Like a Circus Tent!
This white tent is where we slept for the night!
I actually had a lot of concerns about glamping before coming. Would I be sleeping in a sleeping bag or a bed? Wouldn't it be cold at night? How would I take a shower? I soon realized that I didn't need to worry at all.
The inside of the tent was warm, with a heating system that kept the air from drying. There were also comfortable beds to sleep on. Basically, except for the outside shower and toilet, you get all the facilities of a hotel, and it's pretty too! There were also body soap, makeup remover, and a hair dryer for visitors to use in the shower room.
■Barbecue Dinner on the Private Terrace
The barbecue for dinner was great because we didn't have to buy anything and we were able to enjoy the local food. Dad enjoyed it very much. All you have to do is grill the prepared food and add seasonings. Soups and salads are prepared by ETOWA.
■The Kids Roasted Marshmallows and the Parents Had a Little Evening Drink
There was plenty to do in the evening! While the kids were roasting marshmallows and gazing up at the stars, the parents enjoyed a drink at the bar nearby. This is the time to mention that Kasama also has good local sake.
■A Quiet Morning With Clean Air and a Beautiful Sunrise
The next day we woke up early and enjoyed the beautiful morning of ETOWA. Dad prepared French toast for us and then we had soy milk with komatsuna greens, pickles made from local vegetables, and blueberry yogurt.
The morning at ETOWA was so pleasant that I was sad to check out.
Address: 2775-7 Kamigou, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
First Spot of Our Second Day: Geijutsu No Mori Park
After checking out of ETOWA, it was time to head to Geijutsu no Mori Park. This is a great spot for kids. There was a fun playground with a long slide, which drained my son's energy, and then we went to Kasama Craft Hills to experience painting some pottery.
Unique Tableware! Experiencing Pottery Painting at Kasama Craft Hills
Kasama Craft Hills is one of the places you shouldn't miss when you come to Kasama. Here you can experience pottery making and painting (you will receive your items in 4-6 weeks). We tried the painting experience. Mother, son and father all got to work. I was looking forward to receiving the finished product! There are also pottery exhibitions and sales here, so you can also go for some shopping.
The finished product of our painting experience has arrived! Just looking at them brings back happy memories of Kasama City!
Kasama Craft Hills | 笠間工芸の丘
Address: Inside Kasama Geijutsu no Mori Park, 2388-1 Kasama, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed on Monday (if Monday is a national holiday it closes the following day instead)
Lunch at a Cute Cafe in the Forest
For lunch, we visited a warm and cute cafe called Mori no Cafe Saryo. Here you can enjoy chestnut gratin, a dish made to satisfy the autumn appetite.
Mori no Cafe Saryo | 森のCafe茶寮
Address: 959-1 Shimoichige, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Closed on Mondays
Shopping for Kasama-Yaki Along Gallery Road
The Gallery Road Kasama Yakimono Walkway houses over 20 pottery stores selling Kasama-yaki, which is one of Japan's most popular ceramics. Each store has its own style, so you can take your time and browse for the perfect item to match your taste.
Kasama has the longest history of pottery production in the Kanto area. One of the characteristics of the pottery is that it is both durable and easy to care for, making use of the highly viscous soil of the Kasama area. The colors of the pottery also enhance its natural texture, and there are many items that you will never get tired of looking at. Having Kasama-yaki tableware on your table will make your food taste twice as good.
Kairou Gallery Mon | 回廊ギャラリー 門
Address: 2230-1 Kasama, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Open all year
Encountering Our Fate at Hitachinokuni Izumo Taisha Shrine
We kept Hitachinokuni Izumo Taisha for last as the climax of our trip to Kasama. Like its "parent shrine", the Izumo Taisha in Shimane, this is a shrine that values "en", the power that binds people's fate. On the hall of worship is a 16-meter-long, 6-ton shimenawa (sacred rope), which is said to be the largest in Japan. People believe that if you throw a 5 yen coin up in the air after making a wish, and it lands on top of the shimenawa, your wish will come true.
Hitachinokuni Izumo Taisha Shrine | 常陸国出雲大社
Address: 2001 Fukuhara, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Kasama Is Full of Spots That Will Make Good Memories!
I have so many fond memories of this trip to Kasama! Chestnuts and Inari Sushi, shrines and rickshaws, a long slide and the Gallery Road that I didn't want to leave. On top of that, the dreamy glamping. The whole family was left with happy memories of Kasama! I'm sure we'll be reminiscing about this wonderful trip in the future, when we use the plates we painted ourselves.
Kasama City in Ibaraki Prefecture is a very attractive city that can be reached in about 1.5 hours by train from Tokyo. The city is full of interesting spots, including Japan's oldest chrysanthemum festival, romantic glamping, the popular Kasama-yaki pottery, and a super-long slide with a spectacular view for children to enjoy.
About the Author
MTKO (Mentaiko/明太子) is a freelance writer living in Tokyo. Formerly an editor for a popular magazine, she lived in London in 2007 and is now based in Tokyo, where she continues to document the city's various charms through her writing and photography.
This article was republished here with the author's permission. You can find her original blog post here.
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 01 25,2021 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team