The Tokyo American Club has been supporting Fukushima through volunteer projects over the past few years. In appreciation, the locals encouraged us to return as tourists. In May 2016, I co-led a tour for the TAC Women’s Group to highlight some of the prefecture’s wonderful sightseeing spots.
If you really want to support the region, consider retracing the steps of our tour! Here is a step-by-step summary followed by links to all of the places mentioned.
We took the Shinkansen to Fukushima Station and hired a microbus from there. Our first stop was a delicious kamameshi lunch at Kinu-no-sato and shopping for sweets at a local baumkuchen ‘factory’, Kirari. We then made our way to the famous Daishichi Sake Brewery for tasting and a tour. Both require advanced reservations, but anyone is welcome to drop into Daishichi’s on-site shop.
Next, we visited Kasumiga-jo, also called Nihonmatsu Castle. There are actually ruins from two different castles at this site, the original dating back to around the year 1400. In addition to impressive stone walls and gates, there is a beautiful pond and historic tea house within the grounds.
On our visit, both were enhanced by beautiful trellises of blooming wisteria.
We then traveled about 550 meters above sea level to the tiny village of Dake Onsen. After checking into the ryokan/hotel Hekizantei, some participants enjoyed soaking in a lovely outdoor hot springs bath, while others took a leisurely walk around Kagami-ga-ike, a small lake situated directly in front of the hotel.
For dinner, participants dressed in yukata and enjoyed an amazing array of local specialties served in a large tatami room, but on individual tables with chairs. The next morning, after a tasty buffet breakfast, we climbed higher into the mountains to visit Goshikinuma, which literally means five-colored swamps.
Goshikinuma is actually a cluster of volcanic lakes formed when Mount Bandai erupted in 1888. Due to rain, our tour was only able to visit Lake Bishamon. We had hoped to meander along a four-kilometer walking path through a lovely forest past many lakes. Mineral deposits from the eruption have given each lake their own distinct hue, including a variety of blues, greens, and even red.
We then visited the nearby Morohashi Art Museum. Possessing one of the top three Salvador Dali collections in the world, this impressive museum also boasts works by Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, and others.
Morohashi Art Museum
Traveling back into Fukushima City, we stopped for an amazing lunch at Yamu, which is housed in a gorgeous 220-year-old home overlooking a small garden surrounded by cherry trees. This was followed by a visit to a large, traditional garden called Jorakuen, which was designed and built by a master gardener who worked in Kyoto’s Kinkakuji Temple.
At Fukushima Station, we all went home with multiple shopping bags full of goodies from Corasse Fukushima, a souvenir shop specializing in locally made products and food.
Want to see more? Stay another night in Tsuchiyu, a lovely onsen town where kokeshi dolls are made. Drive along the Bandai-Azuma Skyline, which was voted one of the best 100 roads in Japan, and stop to pick fruit at one of the many fruit orchards nearby. Enjoy a snack and shopping at St. Anne’s Garden, taste more sake at Okunomatsu Sake Brewery, or explore historic buildings at Nihonmatsu’s Furusato-no-mura or the Fukushima Minka-en.
Getting there: Traveling by only mass transportation is possible, but quite difficult. It is best to choose one of these options.
A) Travel by car from Tokyo.
B) Travel by Shinkansen to Fukushima Station and rent a car to/from there. JR Travel offices sometimes offer combination train/rental car discounts.
C) Travel by Shinkansen to Fukushima Station and then by private taxi or microbus (advanced reservation necessary).
*Taxi and bus hire fees are lower than in Tokyo.
Lunch at Kinu-no-sato
Baumkuchen shop, Kirari: http://b-kirari.jp/shop/baumkuchen/
Kinu-no-sato’s Kamameshi Lunch: http://www.kinunosato.com
Daishichi Sake Brewery: http://english.daishichi.com
Kasumigajo (Nihonmatsu Castle): http://www.nihonmatsu-kanko.jp/kasumigazyo.html
Hotel/Ryokan Hekizantei: http://www.hekizantei.jp
Dake Onsen village: http://www.dakeonsen.or.jp
Morohashi Art Museum: http://dali.jp
Yamu’s Japanese fusion lunch: http://yamu.jp
Jorakuen Garden: http://www.jyourakuen.jp
Corasse Fukushima: http://www.corasse.com
Tsuchiyu Onsen: http://www.tcy.jp/english/
St. Anne’s Garden: http://www.anna-g.com
Okunomatsu Sake Brewery: http://www.japansake.or.jp/tourism/contents/en/fukushima/8234.html
Nihonmatsu Furusato-no-mura: http://www.michinoeki-adachi.jp/furusato/
Fukushima Minkaen: http://minka-en.com