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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK

Ibaraki - A proud past

On arriving in Ibaraki, you cannot help but feel that you are well out in the sticks.

So it is hardly surprising that the region's main industry is agriculture and main product is rice.

But the locals have one or two other things to be proud of too and fancy themselves as very handy craftsmen with certain skills handed down from generation to generation.

For example, the town of Yuki still painstakingly hand produces the oldest high quality silk fabric in Japan, tsumugi silk pongee, which dates back more than 1,200 years to the Nara period.

Area facts

  • Population: 3m
  • City: Kashima
  • Location: North east of Tokyo on the Pacific coast of central island Honshu
  • Local team: Kashima Antlers
  • Sights: Kashima Holy shrine and Kairakuen landscape garden
  • Top products: Tsumugi silk pongee
  • Tsumugi, a sheen-like cotton, is used for a wide variety of beautiful products, such as kimonos, neckties and purses.

    Ibaraki's capital city, Mito, seems to have a proud heritage, having established itself during the Japanese feudal period as home to a thriving community of scholars, craftsmen and artisans.

    Once the regional base for the ruling Tokugawa clan, Mito is your regular Japanese commercial centre these days.

    But links with the past are still there, such as one of Japan's three most celebrated landscape gardens, known as Kairakuen and established in 1842.

    Fans of Japanese technology may find Ibaraki interesting too as it claims to be at the forefront of Japanese science and research.

    Tsukuba Science City is a planned model academic community famed for research in fields such as telecommunications, artificial intelligence, agricultural science and medicine.

    However, the home of football is definitely Kashima - home of one of Japan's most successful football teams, the Kashima Antlers.

    It is here that there is a legendary Brazilian footballer, who will always have a place in the hearts of the soccer-loving locals.

    No, not Pele, but instead Zico, whose playing and coaching skills have made him a household name in Japan and brought Kashima an amazing amount of success.

    The Brazilian is so popular that his statue now adorns the Kashima Stadium and will stand proudly on display during the World Cup.


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