New Complex ‘Station Lobby’ In Ibaraki Is Packed With Good Food, Entertainment & Learning Facilities
Meet You At The Station Lobby!
Found inside Playatré to the right after exiting the JR Tsuchiura ticket gate, is a brand new commercial complex that combines food, relaxation and learning, called "Station Lobby." And here's why you should try it out!
A 40-something-minute train ride from Ueno will get you to the entrance of Station Lobby which is directly connected to the Tsuchiura Station in Ibaraki. But you’re probably thinking, why go all the way to Ibaraki, a whole prefecture away from Tokyo? Well, let me explain…
The finest from Ibaraki … and ping pong
First and foremost, let’s talk about the real reason most people travel in Japan: to eat and indulge in new tastes. (Ok, it can’t be just me.)
When I first found myself standing outside of Station Lobby I immediately smelt deliciousness. I was interested to find out what was available to satisfy my stomach rumbles. And there was a lot! Station Lobby’s food area is split up into three different eating spaces: a restaurant, a Chinese bar, and a cafe.
Nanairo Eat At Home is the European restaurant found on the second floor of the establishment. The restaurant is very open and welcoming with a stylish table and chair area, as well as a “Ribayon” area, a playful cushioned floor seating space with a ping pong table.
This area is also equipped with children’s play space area which allows parents to relax and enjoy their meals while being able to keep an eye out on the kids.
There is a variety of recommended meal items, especially of the “Ibaraki Recommended” menu which uses the finest local ingredients of Ibaraki Prefecture. I chose to get the Roasted Hitachi Beef, Melon with Mozzarella and Prosciutto, and the Bagna Cauda which came with heaps of fresh local veggies. The Hitachi beef was my favorite — it was cooked medium rare and was so juicy, soft and full of flavor.
Of course, I had a go at playing ping pong, too. It’s a really fun way to enjoy time with friends and family after a great meal.
Dim sums and drinks, too
A floor above Nanairo is Hao2 Rice And Bar, a Chinese bar that serves mouthwatering Chinese tapas dishes along with special alcoholic tea drinks.
Hao2 is also great for both lunch and dinner. For lunch, they serve up a number of very affordable but filling set meals, and then for dinner, they have an enjoyable selection of dim sum as well as other small dishes to share around while enjoying drinks.
While I was there, I enjoyed their top recommended dim sim, gyoza and chicken dishes. The dim sims were so tasty and full of juicy authentic flavors. The chicken dishes were also very tender and delicious, with a pleasant and refreshing salty flavor.
I also ordered a Chinese beauty tea in the form of a cocktail by adding Lychee liquor to it. It was splendidly refreshing, only lightly sweet and not too overpowering that it takes the taste away from the meal.
Right next to Hao2 is the Slow Jet Coffee Cookie cafe. No matter if you’re about to start your day, getting through it, or finish the day off, this place has heaps of simple and fun drink and food items to satisfy a quick craving.
As well as their most recommended Tsuchiura Roast coffee, they also have adorable tapioca bubble tea drinks in bags, aesthetic shakes and refreshing smoothies.
Study, work and acquire new savvy skills
Although most visitors would just come in to utilize Station Lobby’s eating facilities, many may want to come in for a whole other reason. Station Lobby is also equipped with a co-working space, a student study area, a cooking studio and a photo studio.
Lap’s is the co-working space, which is recommended for business and freelance people and can be used on a monthly subscription. In addition to the working areas, there is also a meeting room with a projector and a lounging area for a more leisurely work seshion.
Steady Study is a study space for students that can be accessed by purchasing one drink over ¥200 from the complex’s Slow Jet Coffee Cookie, while Bokura no Kitchen (Our Kitchen) is a cooking studio that both children and adults can participate in.
Last but not least, the Abe Shashinkan is a photo studio that also hosts regular photography classes and all sorts of camera-related talk sessions and events.
Out of the crowds and into historic beauty
Now that you clearly have a new reason to visit Ibaraki, it’s also worth mentioning that there’s a lot more in Tsuchiura that will make your travel really worth it. Tsuchiura is located close to the shores of Lake Kasumigaura, the second largest lake in Japan. The lake is a great way to enjoy a peaceful day, especially if you’re cycling or fishing. There is also a beautiful nature park in Tsuchiura with a windmill and fields of green and colorful flowers.
If you’re a true lover of Japanese culture, the Tsuchiura Castle and Kijo park (pictured below) are perfect for you. The whole area lights up with sakura pink, looking so photogenic against the red Kariya bridge in spring.
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There is something in Tsuchiura for every season, cherry blossom festivals in spring, marathons, boat sailing in summer, fireworks competitions in autumn, breathtaking historical paths all over and cycling tours that can be enjoyed all throughout the year — and your new meeting point for all of them can now be Station Lobby!
Great for cyclists, too
The most recommended activity to do in Tsuchiura is cycling. And it’s not just because of the attractive sceneries you can ride through, but also because of the bicycle convenience in the area.
Playatré is said to become Japan’s largest cycling resort with bike rentals, amazing bike access and a bike hotel in 2020. A blue line on the floor at Nanairo will lead you right up to a bicycle park inside of Station Lobby to rest your bikes while you take lunch, dinner or coffee breaks.
If you’re visiting by train or car head to the Bike Base on the first floor of Playatré to rent a bike. (¥2,000 a day for cross bikes, ¥2,500 for road bikes, and ¥3,000 for e-sports/electric bikes.)
Tsuchiura is definitely worth visiting especially if you enjoy cycling, natural environments, traditional Japan or just want to get away from the crazy Tokyo city life. Don’t forget to stop by at Station Lobby when in need of a break, to energize up before the big outing, or to finish off the journey with a delicious meal!
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Address: Playatré 2F, 3F. 1-30 Ariake-cho, Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture
Access: To the right after exiting the JR Tsuchiura Station ticket gate. For those traveling by car it takes only about 15 minutes from Joetsu-do Sakuradoura IC via Route 354. Parking is also available. If you’re traveling with a bicycle, there is a bicycle parking inside the second floor of the Station Lobby. Find and follow the blue bicycle lines on the floor of the complex to find your way.
Business hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (Nanairo and Hao2) 11:30 a.m.- 11 p.m. (Slow Jet Coffee Cookie)
Average cost: (Cafe) From ¥290, (Lunch) From ¥800, (Dinner) From ¥950 (Tapas/Snacks) From ¥400 (Party) Hao2 Party Plan with 2h all you can drink, ¥3,800 per person via web reservation. Nanairo Party Plan with 2h all you can drink, ¥4,000 per person via web reservation.
Smoking/Non-smoking: Non-smoking (Smoking space available outside the restaurant)