Away day travel is good at most times of the year but there are some grounds which are just that bit more appealing during certain periods and Mito Hollyhock certainly fall into that category. This Ibaraki-based side may live in the shadows of their more famous and successful prefecture rivals Kashima Antlers but they have the advantage of lying much closer to Kairaku-en.
These gardens are famed as being one of the best three gardens in Japan and worthy of a visit at any time but the end of February is particularly good as that’s when the plum blossom is at its best. Hollyhock’s home game against Shonan Bellmare (relegated from J1 last year) gave the Rambling Northerner and I the perfect opportunity to combine the gardens and the K’s Denki Stadium into a day trip.
Having paid 900 yen at JR Mito station (bus stop #4) for a one day pass bus ticket, we actually left at about 12:45pm ahead of a 2pm kick off. However, bad traffic meant it took double the time to get there and so we were quite rushed as we arrived just fifteen minutes before kick off. It was plenty enough time to purchase some tickets (2100 yen each) at the ticket office. We had hoped to join the away fans from Kanagawa but all their tickets were supposedly sold out. I’m always suspicious of such things though as there have often been gaping gaps in the crowds when I’ve seen such signs.
On arrival at the ground it was quite an impressive sight but I was aware it was another of those “one stand” stadiums akin to Machida Zelvia‘s home stadium. I think we entered the ground at a bad moment as the home fans were holding aloft blue squares to create one of those great displays you see on TV at matches just ahead of kick off. It’s bad enough at the best of times trying to find an unreserved seat in Japan and seeing this spectacle meant we gave up straight away on trying to sit pitch-side and instead went to sit in the sun on a grassy bank behind the goal.
It certainly wasn’t the greatest vantage point as we were pitch level and had a running track, advertising hoardings, flags blowing around and the sun shining in our eyes throughout not that the actual football action on such occasions is of the upmost priority!
After a fairly lively opening 10 minutes, the game drifted into dullness and the only goal of the game came in the second half from a Bellmare corner which was very much a poor-man’s Teddy Sherringham-style finish following a poorly hit low kick.
We didn’t hang about at the end and managed to catch a bus within five minutes or so of the full time whistle blowing and this time the journey was smooth and without incident. We decided to get off before the station though as there was still daylight which gave us the opportunity to see one of the sights of Mito which you can read about here.
Click here to read ‘Away Day Travel To Ibaraki Prefecture’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Top 10 Day Trips Beyond Kanagawa, Saitama & Chiba’