Useful Information

5 Things to Do in Iwaki City This Winter

5 Things to Do in Iwaki City This Winter

While most of Fukushima is blanketed with snow during the coldest months of the year, Iwaki, a city located in the prefecture’s sunny coastline, escapes much of the harshest weather, making it a popular destination.

Here are some interesting events and ideas to make the most of Iwaki this winter! 

Scroll to the bottom to find out how to get to Iwaki City (options and prices)!

1. National Ukrainian Ballet production of “Don Quixote” at Alios Iwaki Performing Arts Center

 

Photo by Hidemi Seto

As part of the National Ukrainian Ballet’s Japan tour this winter, the prestigious ballet company will be performing in Iwaki City on Friday December 23!

This is a unique opportunity to support the National Ukrainian Ballet and watch their dazzling performance of Don Quixote on the day before Christmas Eve.

Event Details

  • Place: Alios Iwaki Performing Arts Center (いわき芸術文化交流館アリオス)
  • Time: 18:30 (doors open at 17:45)
  • Date: Friday December 23, 2022
  • Fee: Ticket prices vary depending on the seats (starting at ¥4000). See website for details (available only in Japanese).

2. Visit Iwaki Yumoto Onsen Town & Spa Resort Hawaiians

Iwaki Yumoto Onsen is a nostalgic onsen town packed with attractions.

Apart from relaxing in its hot springs—which are among the oldest in Japan and popular for their skin-beautifying properties, you can appreciate the townscape views from the tranquil Onsen Shrine, try fresh seafood at the local restaurants or roam its traditional sweet shops. 

We recommend kicking off your visit by soaking your feet in the warm waters of the public foot bath in front of Yumoto Onsen station!

The public foot bath at Yumoto Onsen Station

Known as the place where Japanese tradition meets “hula”, Spa Resort Hawaiians is a resort, water park and spa complex located nearby, which uses 3.5 tons of fresh hot springs per minute from Yumoto Onsen.

Spa Resort Hawaiians has both regular onsen facilities and onsen in which you can enter wearing a swimsuit!

Read more about Iwaki Yumoto Onsen and Spa Resort Hawaiians.

3.       New Year’s at Aquamarine Fukushima

While most attractions in Japan close during New Year holidays, Aquamarine Fukushima, an environmental aquarium and research center, remains open throughout the holiday season and is hosting a fun New Year event!

Children love meeting their favorite sea animals at Aquamarine Fukushima all year round, and during this special event they can also fetch goods using fishing rods and watch drum performances (see official website for specific dates and times).

Event Details

Place: Aquamarine Fukushima (アクアマリンふくしま)

Time: 08:00-17:30 in the winter season (open until 18:00 during other seasons)

Date: This event goes from December 28, 2022 to January 9, 2023. However, anytime is a good time to visit Aquamarine Fukushima!

Fee: General admission ¥1850, children (high school to elementary school) ¥900. There is a limited-time promotion that runs from December 1 2022 to March 31, 2023 called "Love Couple Ticket”, which is  ¥3500 for two people (this includes access to the drink bar). 

This ticket is sold only at Seven Eleven convenience stores, and is not available for purchase at Aquamarine Fukushima. See more information here.

4.       Eat, shop and sightsee at Iwaki Lalamew

Iwaki isn’t only known for its spectacular coast but also for its gastronomy, and no visit to Iwaki is complete without tasting its specialties—in fact, visiting Iwaki with the sole purpose of trying out its fresh seafood dishes is entirely justified! 

Iwaki’s Tourism and Products Center, Iwaki Lalamew, is a hub of restaurants, souvenir stores, fish shops, and even a Kids Play zone! 

 

Here, you can enjoy shopping and dining with the entire family and even take a sightseeing cruise to enjoy the sights of Iwaki by sea.

Read more about Iwaki Lalamew here.

5. Enjoy the Forest of Light Illumination Event at Nijuisseiki-no-Mori Park

Image courtesy of Iwaki Illumination Project Team

Illumination events certainly brighten up harsh winter nights. During the Forest of Light Illumination Event at Nijuisseiki-no-Mori Park (21世紀の森公園) in Iwaki City, over 150,000 light bulbs light up the flower beds of the park, a beautiful sight that awes children and adults alike!

We recommend visiting during the weekends, when there are also food trucks and special events (check official website for details). We also featured this event in our post titled 6 Fun Things to Do in Fukushima in December 2022.

How to get to Iwaki

 There are many ways to get to Iwaki from Tokyo and other cities in Japan!

By Train from Shinagawa, Tokyo or Ueno Stations to Iwaki Station:

  • JR Joban Line’s Hitachi trains (Tokiwa trains don’t go to Iwaki!).
  • Travel time: Less than 3 hours (the exact time depends on the point of departure and which train you take)
  •  Cost: ¥6290 one way (as of December 2022).

This trip is covered by the JR East Tohoku Pass.

By bus from Tokyo Station to Iwaki Station:

  •   JR Tokyo-Iwaki Highway Bus
  •   Travel time: Approximately 3 hours
  •   Cost: ¥3800 one way (as of December 2022).

By Train from Koriyama Station (Fukushima) to Iwaki Station:

  • JR Ban-etsu East Line
  • Travel time: Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Cost: ¥1690 one way (as of December 2022)

This trip is covered by the JR East Tohoku Pass.

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    A Complete Guide to Visiting Fukushima During Winter

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Finding the Public Transportation Winter Schedule Some buses or trains, like the Saruyuugou loop bus in Ouchi-juku, have different schedules in the winter. The service can either become reduced or extended for special events. If you’ll be relying on public transportation, take a close look at the time schedule for any notations of changes during the winter. If it’s only in Japanese and you can’t read it, inquire at the closest station or local tourist information office (or send us a message and we’ll do our best to assist you). Some hotels and ski resorts offer shuttle bus services to and from the closest station, such as the Minowa Ski Resort free shuttle bus service from Fukushima station. Be sure to make a reservation in advance. Activities Extreme Onsen Experience We’ve been getting many inquiries about the Extreme Onsen Experience recently. 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Experiences that are still available during the winter months: The Ouchi-juku kimono experience,  Kitakata Ramen-Making Experience, Minamiaizu Private Taxi Program and the Minamisoma Coast Trekking. Finding Winter Destinations While some places and experiences enter an hibernation of sorts, others take center stage. Ski slopes, with powder snow and lots of activities for the entire family, become one of the main attractions in Fukushima (check out our 2-day skiing itinerary here). Winter festivals, illuminations and other events enliven several spots around Fukushima (check our calendar for winter events in Fukushima in 2023). If You’re Planning The Ultimate Winter Road Trip... Bring snacks and drinks with you! Japanese convenience stores and vending machines are spread out in remote rural areas. It’s always safer to bring snacks and drinks with you, particularly if you are traveling with children. If you would like to know where to go for pit stops, roadside stations, known in Japanese as “michi no eki” (道の駅) usually have local specialty foods and souvenirs. Prepare for the Unexpected—and the Beautiful We recently visited the famous No. 1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint with my coworker. In the morning, we were told that the JR Tadami Line, which famously runs over the scenic bridge, had canceled operations for the day due to heavy snowfall, but we decided to go anyway. When we arrived at the viewpoint, it was snowing heavily and there was zero visibility—the iconic view was nothing but an indistinguishable mass of white and gray. We decided to drive to another scenic point (Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba Viewpoint) hoping the sky would clear up. It finally did and we were lucky to get beautiful shots of both places. You never know when you can enjoy a snow-covered landscape with clear skies. Winter is a delightful season to travel around Fukushima and take in the views of its many scenic towns, winter festivals, and glistening lakes nested in the mountains. Miyakoji Area in Tamura City The coastal area is also worth a visit during this time; its famous sunshine and tropical feel make it a perfect getaway from the harsher cold inland. If you’re thinking of visiting the sunny city of Iwaki, check out our recent post, 5 Things to Do in Iwaki City This Winter. If you have any questions about traveling in Fukushima, please send it to us using the contact form you can find on our website. We hope you enjoy your stay in Fukushima!

    A Complete Guide to Visiting Fukushima During Winter
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A Glimpse into Minamisoma City’s History The area that we now call Minamisoma was once an important enclave for the Soma samurai clan, which ruled over the land from the Kamakura period of Japanese history (1185–⁠1333) until the 19th century. The Soma samurai did military drills with wild horses, a practice that continued for over a thousand years and evolved (adapted from its original form) into a festival that is still celebrated today and draws thousands of visitors each year, the Soma Nomaoi Festival. Following the end of samurai rule, Minamisoma specialized in the manufacture of silk and housed a military aviation school, which was destroyed during WWII. Even though industrialization brought about big changes, the bond between people and horses never fully went away from the hearts, minds and daily lives of people of the area we now call Minamisoma. 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View Directions By Train: From Tokyo Station: Approx. 3 hours 30 min. by JR Hitachi 26 Limited Express Shinagawa to Haranomachi Sta. in Minamisoma City; or 3 hours 30 min. by shinkansen and JR train (shinkansen from Tokyo Sta. to Sendai Sta. and JR Joban line from Sendai Sta. to Haranomachi Sta.). You can find more information about access to Minamisoma here. If you’d like to know more about Minamisoma, please refer to the city’s English homepage. If you are visiting by train, we recommend renting a car at Haranomachi Sta. to get around the city, as many of the locations listed above are not easily accessed by public transportation.

    Modern Samurai Horsemanship in Minamisoma City
  3. Useful Information

    Rotenburo Heaven – Private Open-air Baths In Fukushima

    In this article, I’m going to introduce you to a number of traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) in onsen towns throughout Fukushima where you can experience the magic of private rotenburo outdoor baths. WHAT ARE ROTENBURO? 'Rotenburo' translates as ‘open-air bath’. The word refers to onsen baths that are located fully or partially outside. Depending on the location, bathers might be sheltered from the elements to some extent by roofs and bamboo walls, trees, glass windows etc. Rotenburo are very popular in Japanese onsen towns, especially during the winter months, when guests can enjoy bathing in a hot bath whilst surrounded by snowy mountains. WHY USE PRIVATE BATHS? At ryokan hotels in Japan, it is common to bathe together with other guests of the same sex, and in some cases, together with guests regardless of sex. There are, however, many people who prefer to bathe alone, or in the company of friends, family and loved ones. This is one of the main reasons why people use private baths, or ‘kashikiri buro‘. Another reason is that Japan has a long history of tattoos being associated with gangsters known as yakuza. Of course, the majority of tattoo designs don’t resemble those traditional ones sported by yakuza, but even so, it has remained taboo to enter a public (or shared) bath if you have a tattoo. Although many ryokan turn a blind eye to this rule, it’s still the official policy of many ryokan and hotel in Japan to turn away guests with tattoos from using baths shared with other guests. In order to avoid any drama, and any potential stares, many tourists from overseas choose to use private baths when they stay at ryokan hotels. Private baths can usually be booked at the front desk of the ryokan hotel, and guests are usually asked to choose a specific time to bathe. WHICH RYOKAN IN FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURE HAVE PRIVATE OPEN-AIR BATHS? There are around 130 hot springs in Fukushima Prefecture and hundreds of ryokan hotels. In order to make a list of suggestions, I’ve had to cut this number down quite a lot. I’ve decided to highlight the ryokan hotels in Fukushima Prefecture where guests can book private rotenburo, giving priority to those with English websites or associated websites which make it easy to book even if you don’t speak Japanese. There are so many amazing ryokan in Fukushima Prefecture, and this list is by no means extensive. Ryokan Hotel Private Rotenburo (Overnight Guests) Private Rotenburo (Day Guests) English Website Price 1) Harataki   (Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu) 2000 yen (50 min) 2) Takinoyu   (Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu) No extra cost for overnight guests 3) Seifutei   (Bandaisan Roku Onsen, Inawashiro) (Computer translation) No extra cost for overnight guests 4) Okawaso   (Ashinomaki Onsen, Aizu) 3240 yen (45 min) 5) Yoshikawaya   (Iizaka Onsen, Fukushima City) 2160 yen (45 min) + 1000 yen per person for day visit 6) Kikuya Ryokan   (Iizaka Onsen, Fukushima City) (Computer translation) 30 min for free 7) New Ougiya   (Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City) No extra cost for overnight guests 8) Sansuiso   (Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City) 1080 yen (60 min) 9) Yumori Onsen Hostel   (Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City)   (Responds in English to Facebook  messages) 2000~4000 yen per bath for overnight guests. 10) Furutakiya   (Yumoto Onsen, Iwaki) (Computer translation) 1000 yen (45 min) + 800 yen per person   AIZU AREA Aizu is known for its very snowy winters and long history. 1) Harataki A tattoo-friendly ryokan hotel in Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu-Wakamatsu City. Day-guests and overnight-guests can use the private open-air baths. When I stayed a couple of years ago, they even had CD players so you could play music while you bathed! More information on Fukushima.Travel English website here 2) Takinoyu Also located in Higashiyama Onsen. Private rotenburo open-air baths are free to book for overnight guests at Takinoyu Ryokan Hotel. More information on Fukushima.Travel English website here 3) Seifutei Every room at this ryokan in Inawashiro Town has its own en-suite open-air private bath so you don’t even have to worry about booking time-slots for going in the bath. Their homepage has an automatic translation function. Seifutei can also be found on Booking.com & other booking sites. 4) Ookawaso Ookawaso ryokan is in Ashinomaki Onsen town (the town is known for it’s cat station master)! Ookawaso has a great selection of food at its dinner buffet, which is really good for those who don’t want to be forced into eating a specific, Japanese-style meal. Overnight guests can book and pay an extra price to use the open-air private baths, but only 4 groups can make a booking each night, due to time and space restrictions. Reservations in English can be made directly via email, or through a booking website. More information on Fukushima.Travel Here is their homepage. NAKADORI AREA Ryokan hotel in the central region of Fukushima Prefecture. 5) Yoshikawaya Large ryokan hotel in Iizaka Onsen, near central Fukushima Station. Yoshikawaya Ryokan welcomes guests during the day and evening to use its open-air baths. It costs 2160 yen for each group to book the private bath for 45 minutes, as well as a 1000 yen charge per person. They’re featured on a number of booking sites. More information on Fukushima.Travel English homepage 6) Kikuya Ryokan Ryokan in Iizaka Onsen. Kikuya Ryokan offers guests who stay the night a free 30 minutes in the private open-air bath, as well as the chance to dip in all the other baths. Their website is machine translated but is ok to understand. They are also featured on some booking sites where bookings can be conducted in English. Machine-translated English homepage 7) New Ougiya New Ougiya Ryokan in Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City has private open-air baths free for overnight guests to use. They’re featured on a couple of English-language booking sites. They also have an English website. 8) Sansuiso Large ryokan hotel in Tsuchiyu Onsen. Overnight guests can bathe for 1 hour in a private half-covered open-air bath for 1080 yen. Featured on English-language booking sites. More information on Fukushima.Travel See their English homepage here. 9) Yumori Onsen Hostel Recently-opened hostel in Tsuchiyu Onsen with very reasonable prices. Tattoo friendly onsen. They have English-speaking staff who can answer any questions you might have via their Facebook Page (See here). See their homepage here. IWAKI AREA Iwaki has much milder winters than the western and central part of Fukushima Prefecture, so visit Iwaki if you want to avoid the snow as much as possible!   10) Furutakiya In scenic Iwaki Yumoto Onsen town by the coast. Private open-air baths can be reserved by overnight guests and day-guests. This ryokan has private open-air baths that can be rented for 1000 yen per 45 minutes (plus 800 yen per person for day-guests). Featured on English-language booking websites. Automatic-translation available on their website

    Rotenburo Heaven – Private Open-air Baths In Fukushima
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