The great outdoors
Don't miss out on this boundless, breathtaking natural landscape.
Japan’s third-largest prefecture, Fukushima, is the entryway from urban Kanto into Japan’s remote northern region of Tohoku. The southernmost city of Shirakawa, reachable via an hour and a half bullet train from Tokyo, makes a good starting point. Sadly, parts of Fukushima remain off-limits due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
However, the no-entry zone makes up just three percent of the prefecture’s total area. While the tragedy can’t be ignored, there is an expansive region of breathtaking natural beauty to be discovered.
Camping, hiking, fishing, hot springs, skiing, and marine sports are plentiful in Fukushima. Around the remote Bandai-Asahi National Park, majestic Mount Bandai soars into an azure blue sky. It’s surrounded by more than 100 ponds and lakes formed by the lava that flowed from its 1888 eruption. The Goshiki-numa (five-colored) ponds are the area’s big draw. Here, you can watch the water change color from green to blue to red.
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Further south is the historic post town of Ouchi-juku. Its 300-year-old thatched-roof buildings have been perfectly preserved. It gives visitors one of the most authentic opportunities to see how Japan looked during the Edo period.
Those interested to see the area impacted by the 2011 tsunami can take part in the so-called “dark-tourism” tours offered by local companies. It’s a harrowing but hopeful testament to the healing power of travel.
The picture-perfect samurai city of Aizu-Wakamatsu is close to being Fukushima’s star attraction. It was once the last bastion of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the final days of the Boshin War, known historically for Japanese female warriors such as Nakano Takeko and Niijima Yae, and the tragic tale of the White Tiger Unit.
The castle town has undergone careful restoration to preserve its old samurai houses and traditional streets. Aizu-Wakamatsu is also one of the country’s main producers of sake (rice wine). Sake tours and tastings are available, and afterward, you can sober up with some local kozuyu, a traditional soup dish made with dried scallops. If you have time, travel further north to quaint Kitakata for a bowl of its famed Kitakata ramen.
Plan your trip to Fukushima with the links below!