Home > Focus on Japan 2014 > Not Impressed by Tsukuba

Not Impressed by Tsukuba

April 10th, 2014

We’re on an overnight stay in Tsukuba, visiting friends in a nearby town. We booked a room in the only accommodation we could find in the region which accepts pets. We got here early yesterday evening.

Tsukuba is in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 60km northeast of Tokyo; it is a planned city based on the theme of scientific research, first conceived in the 1960’s, and really built up in the boom years of the late 70’s and 80’s. However, walking through its streets now, I get a strong vibe along the lines I got in Shanghai: a city where a lot of initial investment was made, but was then neglected. The streets are wide with huge, impressively tree-lined sidewalks–but look closely enough and you’ll see creeping neglect. Playgrounds overgrown with weeds, buildings clearly not tended to for years, plots of real estate which should be prime left empty.

The accommodations have been bad as well. We may have just stumbled into the worst of the services, however. The izakaya we went to last night was horrible—half the things we ordered did not come until we pestered them about it, and one plate of sashimi never did come—we left after it had been waiting an hour or so. One of the dishes had a hair in it. We were just as happy not to have eaten their raw fish.

Our hotel is similarly awful. It’s one of those places that both allows smoking and has an interconnected ventilation system, so our room smelled like a chain smoker was in there with us most of the time. The refrigerator still had half-consumed drinks left by the previous guests, and the shoji screens were full of holes. The bathroom is big enough—if you happen to be a slender four-foot-ten. They forgot the towels, and we almost went without, believing they simply were not included. I found a common toilet on the first floor which had a warmed seat and bidet; I used it, but discovered that the bidet’s “off” switch was broken. When the water started to run cold, I finally risked getting off, and discovered that the weight sensor would turn off the water stream. They could have posted a sign to tell users about that, but they didn’t.

What’s stranger is that the hotel claims that only one room in the whole place can accept pets. However, once we got to the room, we found it has zero amenities for pets. Nothing that sets it apart from any other room we’ve stayed in. So, why is this room okay and others not? I have a feeling it’s just a marketing thing, or perhaps some way of avoiding city ordinances.

We probably have just had the worst luck here… but nothing about this town makes me feel like I want to come back.

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  1. Troy
    April 13th, 2014 at 11:29 | #1

    Tsukuba has a Costco, so it has that going for it at least. Plus I’ve noticed the real estate seems a lot cheaper out in Ibaraki. Certainly there’s enough empty land out there that they should be just giving it away!


    $650/mo for my minimum requirement in an apartment — top floor, corner, 洗濯機置場. Something like that runs maybe $1300/mo in Hiroo, and isn’t much cheaper in Jiyugaoka . . .


    $1000-$1200 maybe.

    Though probably it’d make more sense to live close to a National, Kinokuni-ya, or other expat semi-friendly market. Jiyugaoka is within striking range of the Kinokuniya in Todoroki, and the National Den-En. Never got to the latter so don’t know how it compared to the mothership.

    Going into a Seiyu etc. was one of my least favorite experiences in Japan — Japan supas all had that fishy odor and their selection of the stuff I wanted generally sucked.

    But now that I’m in my 40s and not 20s and can actually cook maybe I can get by with a Japanese market better.

    Goddamn Abe trying to just inflate everything! Though やっぱり real estate isn’t so easy to inflate. There’s no reason for it to go up just because food and energy prices go up. Quite the opposite in fact. Median Tokyo prices are still 5% below 2008 levels.

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