Golden Week was a long one this year. The three national holidays fell on the middle of the first week of May, allowing people to use their PTO for Monday and Friday and get the entire work week off. April 29th was also a national holiday, which meant up to ten days of time off at the cost of two.
Golden Week provides an opportunity to travel, but with almost everyone taking the time off, tickets for buses, planes and hotels always spike throughout the holiday. This year we were lucky to score tickets and hotels at the usual price to get to Hitachi in Ibaraki. Hitachi Seaside Park is known for their sweeping display of nemophilas and photos can be found in many guides and photo books of places in Japan to check out.
The park is huge. It acts as a theme park for families with rides and attractions in one particular area, but also provides sports fields, cycling paths and gardens that visitors can freely wander through away from the carnival-like atmosphere. While the main attraction in spring is the nemophila field, we spent the entire afternoon checking out the tulip gardens and hanging out before heading back to the station. With the wide open spaces, gardens, food and attraction areas, I can see why so many families with kids leave the big city and come out to Ibaraki for the day.
We tried to get to the park early, but everyone had the same idea. By 10:00am, there were a lot of people lined along the nemophila fields taking photos and walking up the path to the top of the hills to see the Pacific Ocean. With people everywhere, no one's photos would look like the pristine, calm images found in those books, but the sight was pretty damn amazing.
During peak season, the shuttle buses leave Katsuta Station for a direct-nonstop run to the park's entrance which takes about 10 minutes. You can get a roundtrip ticket at the station for 1200 yen which includes park entrance fees (normally 410 yen). My advice: the park opens at 7:30am during peak season, so rent a car or bike there to get there before the crowds. There's plenty of parking in front of the entrance gates.