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Ibaraki is the ninja prefecture; it is right next to Tokyo but nobody seems to have noticed it. On the rare occasions people are familiar with Ibaraki, it`s usually because of natto, a stinky sticky soy bean concotion that drives diners wild. Loved or hated, usually the latter, eating natto is an obligation for all Ibaraki visitors; as is a visit to Kairakuen garden, in the prefectural capital, Mito.
The name Kairakuen translates as `pleasure garden for everyone`, it`s ranked as one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Damaged by World War Two bombs, a 1970`s lightning strike and now hit badly by the March 11th earthquake, the 170 year old stroll garden has a troubled history. Closed for repairs after the March 11th quake, it`s too popular a place to be kept down for long, and on April 29th, it reopened.
Last week, I took a one hour train ride on the bullet-lite Super Hitachi from Tokyo`s Ueno station to Mito, my old home town. After meeting some teachers I used to work with, I paid a visit to the garden.
While some sections remain closed off, it`s still a fantastic place to visit. Wandering around the garden`s plum trees and bamboo forest with Japanese tourists, I did some seriously amateur photography, all presented below.