Mito is a city of about 250,000 located in Ibaraki Prefecture
on the east coast of Japan
, about an hour north of Tokyo
The Yamato people settled in Mito around the fourth century CE, although the city didn't achieve much prominence until much later. Around the end of the Heian era, Baba Sukemoto, a warlord of the Heike family, moved to Mito and built a castle there. Mito Castle changed hands several times after that: a daimyo named Satake Yoshinobu won it in the mid-1500's, but he was forced to surrender it to Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603 after the epic Battle of Sekigahara. Tokugawa's son, Tokugawa Yorifusa, then took over Mito Castle, becoming one of the three "gosanke" family members fortified outside of Edo. The Tokugawas directly ruled Mito until the mid-1800's, when the bakufu in Edo was overthrown.
The modern city of Mito was formed in 1889 with a population of 25,000, and was designated as the prefectural capital. By 1900, the Joban Line connected it to Tokyo, and by 1910, telephones and electric lighting were available throughout the city. Although more than three-fourths of the city burned to the ground near the end of World War II, the population had rebounded to 70,000 just two years later, and has continued to grow ever since.
Nowadays, Mito is primarily a commercial and administrative city: most industry in Ibaraki is centered around the nearby city of Tsukuba. Mito also has a modest but thriving tourism industry, centered around Kairakuen Park, one of the most famous parks in the country. The local museums dedicated to the Tokugawa family also draw crowds. According to gn0sis, the most popular omiyage gift from Mito is natto, which sort of makes me not want to go there.