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The modern city of Tsukuba is a surprisingly interesting destination. Constructed in the 1970s around the University of Tsukuba, the city is a purpose-built settlement, designed for scientific discovery. With sites like the Japanese Aerospace Centre (JAXA), a botanical garden and the breathtaking Mount Tsukuba dotting the city’s landscape, Tsukuba will entertain and educate tourists any time of the year. Traversing the downtown area is best done on foot or by bicycle, but car hire in Tsukuba is the ideal option for daytrips outside the city.
Who to Book With
Visitors can choose from more than a dozen car rental providers. However, Times Car Rental and Orix Car are the most widely used companies, since they operate within Tsukuba Train Station. Tourists can opt for online booking before reaching the station, saving time and money in the process. Globally renowned rental agencies like Hertz and National are also located near the main train station and major Tsukuba hotels.
Best Time to Go
Tsukuba is the type of destination that welcomes tourists at any time of the year, though its annual climate does vary month to month. The period between November and February is the coldest time of the year, bringing temperatures to a few degrees above freezing. Nevertheless, precipitation is limited. June and July are both the hottest and wettest months, so caution is needed when driving along the wet roads of Tsukuba. In addition, August and September continue the wet trend too, so travellers should prepare themselves for a soggy visit during these months.
Need to Know Essentials
Tourists will need to following documents to pick up car hire in Tsukuba:
- A valid International Driving Permit (not valid for more than one year)
- Passport identification
- The credit card used for making the reservation
- A valid copy of the reservation confirmation
Read our FAQ section for more details.
Tsukuba is only a small science city. Therefore, it’s much more ‘driver friendly’ than the likes of Tokyo and Osaka, which tend to be nightmares for motorists. Two main roadways, Higashi-Odori and Nishi-Odori, engulf the university campus and bisect the city centre. Tourists need to remember that bicycle paths and convenient walking strips link downtown Tsukuba with sites like the train station and university, so driving may not always be the best option. If driving in the heart of Tsukuba, be wary of the narrow streets that web the city. Drivers need to keep their wits about them on these tight laneways. Parking is available in secure lots, but these are typically expensive.
Visit our Guide to Japan for more information about driving in this country.
A range of transport options greets visitors in Tsukuba. Car rental is certainly an option, but most locals tend to leave the car at home if travelling around the city. Buses are a fantastic option, and so too are bicycles, since designated biking lanes and bridges have been developed through the city.
Trains are not used to get around Tsukuba. However, they are the most common form of transport to get into the city. The Tsukuba Express Line travels between the city and Akihabara numerous times daily. The journey takes about 45 minutes, and the route is serviced by rapid trains. Tsukuba’s train station rests in the heart of the city, just a few minutes’ walk from the university.
Intercity buses make travel around the city effortless and inexpensive. For a moderate-sized city, Tsukuba does boast an efficient bus network. The main station resides adjacent to the Tsukuba Train Station, officially known as Tsukuba Centre. Tickets can be purchased at the bus station or on board the buses themselves. Tsuku Buses provide many of the bus routes within the city, including connections to Mount Tsukuba. The station also welcomes highway buses between Tokyo’s downtown area and Tsukuba, which generally take just over an hour to make their journey.
Tourists who don’t have to worry about money will find taxis to be convenient transportation options. Nevertheless, for the majority of visitors, taxis are certainly a more expensive and therefore undesirable mode of transport. They are exceptionally clean and drivers are professional and very safe. Customers don’t even have to open or close the door thanks to the taxi’s automatic services. Ozone Taxis is one of the most reliable cab services in Tsukuba.
Even though Tsukuba is just 30 minutes’ drive north of Tokyo, the contrasting ambience makes it seem as like the Japanese capital is light-years away. Tsukuba provides a relaxing holiday experience, especially for those interested in scientific breakthroughs. Nevertheless, the city is also an ideal base to discover prefectures like Ibaraki and Tochigi, where meandering rivers, imposing peaks, agricultural flatlands, luscious lakes and ancient sites wait patiently for tourists.
Mt Tsukuba – One of Kanto’s highest peaks, residing only 30 minutes from downtown Tsukuba by car, is Mt Tsukuba. The mountain is a blissful half-day trip from the city at any time of the year. The drive remains flat until visitors pass through the torii-gated entrance of the mountain. Beyond this, a windy, narrow, and well-vegetated road leads to the stunning summit. It is possible to hike up Mt Tsukuba too, although visitors should set aside about two hours to make the ascent.
Lake Kasumigaura – Lake Kasumigaura, Japan’s second-largest lake, welcomes thousands of tourists daily, looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. From Tsukuba, motorists can reach the western shores of the lake in 30 minutes. Lake Kasumigaura is a recreational haven, complete with sport fishing, bird-watching, picnicking and a vast array of boating activities such as sailing and yachting.
Nikko – The UNESCO-listed town of Nikko may be host to a collection of Japan’s most precious temple sites, but it’s also renowned for being the gateway to the majestic Nikko National Park. Just over 60 miles (100kms) to the north of Tsukuba, Nikko is blessed with a range of treasured shrines, including the world-famous mausoleums of the Tokugawa Shoguns. This ancient town is unparalleled in Japan. As the old adage goes, ‘Don’t say magnificent until you’ve seen Nikko’.