Goshikinuma (Five Colored Lakes)
A hike dotted with bewildering beauty, plus one of the most picturesque rowboat trips you'll ever find.
There’s a natural trail deep in Fukushima Prefecture with the promise of rusty red, bright green and cobalt blue lakes. You might already be skeptical about this spot, due to its location and promise of, well, something spectacular.
But, Goshikinuma, or the Five Colored Lakes as they’re called in English, is a bewildering surprise worth the trip. The locale is a swampy area with vibrantly colored “lakes,” (most would consider them ponds) — the most spectacular being a vivid cobalt blue with a lush swamp and picturesque mountains in the backdrop. While natural wonders like this are in other spots of Japan, like Hokkaido’s Blue Pond (famous for its turquoise water) and Oita’s Hells of Beppu, neither of these have decent access from Tokyo.
This natural wonder, which has become a destination all its own in the Bandai-Asahi National Park area, is one part romantic day trip and one part quintessential Japanese tourist spot. Few foreigners venture here, but with a little planning and some sound advice, you can experience gorgeous nature in a brisk hour-long hike.
Starting on the eastern side, you’ll find Lake Bishamon, an entrancing turquoise lake with multi-colored koi fish. Pay a small fee and rent a rowboat to experience the lake close up. Beyond, lies a hiking path with even more in store. With each pond, comes another one just as cool. Akanuma Pond is bright yellow-green and others are so breathtakingly bright blue, they seem artificially colored. You’ll spend a few minutes at each lake taking photos and basking in sheer bewilderment.
You might be saying; “But, how… ?” This fascinating marsh has been around since 1887, when Mt. Bandai erupted, generating a cascade that blocked a river and created ponds and lakes. Also trapped in the area is left-over volcanic elements and minerals, leaving each small body of water with a surreal hue of color. It’s said that this color can change day-to-day or throughout the year.
On each end of the 3.9-kilometer walking path, which occasionally leads you on short bridges and through standing mud, are tourist and visitor centers where you can park a car. These centers offer souvenirs, restaurants and even soft-serve ice cream shops with a signature flavor. The Goshikinuma soft cream is definitely worth a try, as its salty-but-fruity taste proves surprisingly refreshing yet almost indescribable.
Nearby in this small but colorful area is the Urabandai Visitor Center (where you can park go to see Goshikinuma) and the Royal Urabandai Hotel, both within walking distance. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you can use its onsen facility that has indoor and outdoor baths after the hike. The area is wonderful in any season, but if you enjoy skiing and snowboarding, this area is famous for winter sports.
A striking yet easily walkable wonder in Fukushima’s vast nature begs visitors to look beyond the prefecture’s past and is worth a visit in any season.
Interested in hiking more nature in Japan? Check out our hiking section.