An area once devastated by the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami, all of Fukushima has now been safe to visit for several years, with a wide variety of experiences for adventurous, relaxed, and cultural travellers. I sent No. 1 child, THATraveller Holly to Fukushima recently to explore this little-known region of Japan.
The Tohoku Earthquake was a massive 9.0-9.1 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful volcano ever to hit Japan, and the fourth most powerful in recorded history. The tsunami caused a nuclear accident in the Fukushima Prefectures Power Plant complexes and ever since, tourists have been reluctant to visit the area, unaware that the no-entry zones surrounding the power plants only make up about 3% of the region. Most of Fukushima escaped contamination, safe for people to explore its many wonders.
Here is Holly’s pick of Fukushima’s 10 best things to see and do.
- Tsuruga Castle
One of Japan’s largest castles, Tsuruga Castle offers a unique experience as the castle tower interior hosts a museum exploring the history of the castle and everyone who lived there. Constructed about 600 years ago, and reconstructed after war and earthquake damage, Tsuruga Castle is located in Aizu, a central location of importance during feudal years.
Tsuruga Castle was one of the last strongholds of samurai loyal to the Shogunate – Japan’s last feudal government. Today, visitors can climb up to the top of the castle tower, viewing the attractive displays about samurai lifestyle, as well as get the perfect panoramic view from the lookout.
Top Tip: In Spring around 1000 cherry trees provide an amazing view around the castle.
- Wakeboarding Lake Inawashiro-ko
Not what pops into your head when travelling to Japan, but wakeboarding the scenic Lake Inawashiro-ko is great fun (with amazing scenery). And it’s not just wakeboarding, you can also wake-skate or wake-surf with a friendly team and English-speaking coach. Once onboard the process is explained and demonstrated before giving you multiple opportunities to master the technique. The journey finishes off with a celebration of beer and panoramic views of the lake while everyone else takes their turn.
- Kayaking Lake Kitashiobara-Mura (views of Mountain Bandai)
Kayak through a volcanic landscape with mountain views on tranquil Lake Kitashiobara-Mura. Previously a forest, the lake was created only 130 years ago by a volcanic eruption, and is now a popular spot for fishing and various watersports. At Kitashiobara-Mura Kayak Centre you can get all geared up with lifejacket and paddle to take in the spectacular views of Mount Bandai.
- Onsen / Kunugidaira Hotel
With both traditional Japanese Tatami and Western-style rooms, this hotel allows guests to immerse themselves in a home away from home. Whether taking a scenic walk or overlooking the Kagamigaike Pond, guests are truly immersed in nature.
The hotel has an open air onsen set amongst the greenery and singing birds. Water from nearby Dake Onsen is slightly acidic, the source being Mt Tetsu, 8km away. Acidic water is particularly rare in in Japan, and the hotel enhances its claimed therapeutic effects with a variety of 10 herbs, blended in to create an even greater warming effect.
As if lost in time, Ouchi-Juku is a small picturesque village with a unpaved roads and thatched roofed buildings. Lined with shops and restaurants, a specialty of the area is chargrilled fish and buckwheat (soba) noodles. At Misawaya Soba Restaurant visitors can experience the famous buckwheat noodles served with a large spring onion. What’s so odd about that, you may wonder…? The spring onion is your eating utensil – an edible chopstick and stirrer. It’s a must-try!
On the village outskirts, follow the sound of running water to the village temple for panoramic views of Ouchi-Juku and surroundings.
- Suehiro Sake Brewery
One of the largest and most famous Sake producers in the Tohoku region, the family-owned and run Suehiro brewery has been in business for eight generations (founded in 1850). produced using traditional techniques, the sake has won several international awards. The “Yamahai” Method utilised slow-fermentation to produce a fuller flavour.
The brewery runs hourly guided tours to show visitors the sake-brewing process, history, and includes a museum and walk-through of the family residence. Interestingly, bacteriologist Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, recognised globally for his research into syphilis and yellow fever, was associated with the brewery as he was close friends with the family. Many of his letters, pictures and gifts can be viewed throughout the museum. (Dr Hideyo Noguchi is the face on the 1000¥ bill)
- Mount Azuma-kofuji Crater (Jyoudodaira Azumakofuji)
Mount Azuma-kofuji looks like a miniature replica of Mount Fuji. The active strato-volcano is located in the Azuma Mountains on the border of Fukushima and Yamagata and attracts climbers and hikers throughout the year. The crater can be climbed in 10 minutes from the parking lot, and at the top there is 45-minute walking loop with panoramic views. Notably breathtaking in Autumn and Spring, the site offers spectacular views of the volcanic landscape and marshlands.
- Iizaka Onsen Area
Just like a scene out of the Studio Ghibli animated feature, the little town of Iizaka feels like you’re stepping into the world of The Cat Returns. In this onsen town, visitors can soak up the many hot springs, baths, foot baths, and enjoy surrounding shrines and temples.
- Marusei Fruit Farm / Peach Picking
At Marusei Fruit Farm you can pick your own fresh produce. Depending on the season there is a variety of fruits on offer including, cherries, peaches, pears, apples and grapes. Guests are given an allocated time of 30 minutes to pick and eat as much as they like.
While there, it’s definitely worth visiting the Farmhouse Cafe on sight for one of their famous parfaits and browse the giftshop for more fresh produce, and fresh ‘souvenirs’ including flavoured juices, ice cream, and candies.
Top Tip: Reserve a table at the cafe before you begin fruit picking as it can get busy.
- Skypia Adatara Active Park (no time limit)
This recently opened (April 2018) Active Park in Fukushima is the first national indoor complex facility, offering various thrilling experiences. Gear up and master skateboarding, or change into some climbing shoes and give free-climbing a go. Depending on your comfort levels you can either try the free-climbing wall, or pop on a harness and climb up the rock-climbing walls with automatic belaying. As well as offering coin operated showers and an activewear shop, visitors can also try out the various slack lines set up to master their balance and tricks.
For an inside-look take a look at Holly’s Instagram Japanese Highlights @holly_osullivan