Last Saturday (9/22) we went to the pacific coast northwest of here, at the northern tip of Ibaraki prefecture. It took us a little over an hour to get there via the Joban Expressway. These are beautiful highways, with very little traffic that morning (we did run into traffic on Sunday evening heading back into Tokyo). The catch is that they're AMAZINGLY expensive. It cost $25 to go 100 km/60 mi. However, we discovered that it was worth the money when we took the local coastal road(s) on the way back ... with an unending series of lights and long lines of traffic. Japan is a very heavily populated place.
This area is not well known and is not a big tourist draw, but it is very pretty and well worth a visit. I saw someone compare it to the Carmel coast in CA, but I wouldn't go quite that far. There are some pretty steep, eroded cliffs, and narrow coves - quite picturesque with cypress trees growing on top of them. A famous Japanese artist, Okakura Tenshin (I've never heard of him before) was from here. The Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art sits perched up on a high point of the cliffs with a nice view overlooking the pacific.
We had an excellent meal at an onsen (hot spring) hotel restaurant, with a nice view over the cliffs and ocean. We had sashimi and a salt-broiled fish ... very tasty!
We drove down the coast on the way back, and stopped at a nice beach. There were a lot of surfers - a good day for being at the beach. It was a nice, warm, sunny day, but there was a lot of moisture in the air ... a fairly common occurrence here, I would guess ... so the long-distance views weren't so great. We drove as far south as J-PARC (Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex), the facility where the detector will be installed that Bernd is working on ... a neat area right on the coast, but they don't yet have visitors' facilities set up ... before cutting back over to the expressway.