Coastal Area

Coastal Area

The Hama-dori (coastal) area comprises the eastern third of Fukushima Prefecture, sitting along the coastline with the Pacific Ocean. Historically, it served as a major coastal route of travel through ancient Japan. To the south, the Iwaki area is famous for its hot springs, as well as designated a National Treasure, Shiramizu Amidado Temple.

The wider region continues to enjoy a resurgence, thanks to reconstruction and recovery efforts following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, which affected several parts of this eastern region.

Attractions

Soma Nakamura Shrine
Historical Sites

Soma Nakamura Shrine

Soma Nakamura Shrine, long revered for enshrining the patron deity of the Soma clan, is built on a small hill in the western area of the Nakamura Castle grounds. The shrine was erected in 1643 by Soma Yoshitsune, the 18th head of the Soma family. The main shrine is a an example of Gongen Shinto architecture, in which the main hall and worship hall are connected by a passageway, and the lacquer, painting, and metal fixtures are authentic representations of its Kan'ei era construction. The shrine was designated as a national important cultural property in 1984.

Cherry Blossoms in Baryo Park
Historical Sites

Cherry Blossoms in Baryo Park

As the park's 630 Somei Yoshino cherry blossom trees bloom simultaneously, it is easy to be swept away by the scenery. You will be able to enjoy the coming of spring as you walk along rows of cherry blossom trees on the sando (a road which runs from the torii gate to the shrine). Baryo Park is a well-known location for viewing cherry blossoms, and every year from early to mid April the park holds a light-up event at night. We recommend you visit in the evening to see the cherry blossoms illuminated by the lights from the paper lanterns. A good spot for taking pictures is at the bottom of the sando, looking up at the torii.

Bentenjima Shrine
Nature & Scenery

Bentenjima Shrine

In a crescent shaped cove separated from the mainland on the small island known as Bentenjima Island, you will find the mysterious Bentenjima Shrine. The vermillion painted tori gate stands out against the jagged stone and the powerful waves. It is believed that the shrine was land based until an earthquake that occurred in 1410 resulted in the formation of this jagged rock island. The construction date of the original shrine is unknown. The island is also known as Wanigafuchi because, according to legend, a creature known as a “wanizame” (crocodile shark) lived on the island. Half crocodile, half shark, this creature can be seen in many old Japanese paintings. The creature may have been believed to cause the swirling water and violent waves that crashed against the rocks, sometimes resulting in people getting swept into the water. Another legend suggests that the wanizame once kidnapped a young woman from Iwaki who had wandered out to explore the island. This coast is lined with small round pebbles that shine when the water hits them. However, do not take any of these pebbles home, legend says that anyone who takes pebbles home from this coast will suffer from eye disease. This area was once a very popular destination for tourists and I highly recommend checking out the photos on the Iwaki city website linked below. It is all in Japanese, but you can read it with the google translate extension on google chrome browsers.

Activities

Where to stay

Irori no Yado Ashina
Hotel

Spa Resort Hawaiians

Iwaki Yumoto Onsen is the source spring for Spa Resort Hawaiians, and together with Dogo and Arima hot springs, has a long history as one of the three major Japanese hot springs. You can enjoy five kinds of spa theme parks, including Water Park, Spring Park, Spa Garden PARO, Vir Port, and the largest open-air bath in the world, Edo Jowa Yoichi. These 5 parks are fed with 3 tons of natural hot spring water per minute. Spa Resort Hawaiians gives center stage to daily Polynesia-inspired dance shows that present dances from the South Pacific.

Irori no Yado Ashina
Hotel

Hotel Palmspring

Hotel Palmspring is a resort hotel that is perfect for both business and leisure. A convenient base for sightseeing in Iwaki, the hotel has excellent access to Spa Resort Hawaiians (5 min by car or taxi) and Aquamarine Fukushima (20 min drive). Sourced a natural hot spring, the cypress wood baths of Hotel Palmspring have the atmosphere of authentic Japanese hot springs. The spring water, supplied directly and abundantly from the source, is high-quality sulfur water. Hotel meals are comprised of dishes using many seasonal ingredients and Hotel Palmspring's head chef has been ranked No. 1 in the Tohoku Region according to reviews on Japanese travel information websites. The hotel is popular with families, couples, and business people alike, as a place where guests can refresh both their bodies and their minds.

Irori no Yado Ashina
Ryokan

Ujo no Yado Shintsuta

Ujo no Yado Shintsuta is a Japanese-style ryokan located in the Iwaki Yumoto Onsen hot spring town. Shintsuta’s open-air bath surrounded by a bamboo grove in the inner garden has a rich atmosphere and offers the utmost enjoyment of onsen and the four seasons. Japanese-style course menus are provided featuring lots of seafood fresh from Onahama Port, to ensure guests can enjoy an abundance of seasonal fruits of the sea. The onsen of Iwaki Yumoto are a type of sulfur spring rare in Japan, which have gained fame for their beautifying properties. The various baths have different nicknames that reflect their properties, such as ‘Bijin no Yu’ (hot spring for beauties: good for the skin), ‘Shinzo no Yu’ (hot spring for the heart: good for lowering blood pressure, arterial stiffening, and high blood pressure), and ‘Atsu no Yu’ (Thermal hot spring: good for keeping warm). Guests can enjoy taking a dip in an open-air bath in a Japanese style garden at Shintsuta. Close to the inn are such famous sightseeing spots as Spa Resort Hawaiians, which is also called ‘the Hawaii of the Tohoku Region,’ and Shiramizu Amidado, a temple designated as a national treasure, which is representative of the architectural style of the late Heian Period.

Posts about Coastal Area

  1. Useful Information

    Cycling in Iwaki

    Cruising along the beautiful coastline of Iwaki, it’s easy to forget that this coast was once ravaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Since then, the area has been rebuilt and is once again a beautiful place to explore! The coastline of Iwaki has been fortified with sea walls that now provide an excellent course and panoramic views for cyclists. Bicycle rentals and paths are accessible with various options that will entertain beginner, intermediate, and even expert cyclists!  From long coastal stretches where cyclists can enjoy endless sea views and a refreshing sea breeze, to courses that wander inland through forested roads to beautiful natural areas, there is so much waiting to be discovered. Along the various cycling routes there are many unique places to stop including museums, hot springs, restaurants, cafes and more! When I visited we rented bicycles from the Shinmaiko Cycling Station, from there we cycled along the coast and enjoyed the sea breeze and views of the lighthouse in the distance. We stopped by the Iwaki 3.11 Memorial and Revitalization Museum to learn about how the area was affected by the 2011 disaster, it was very touching and interesting to see artifacts that were preserved since the disaster.  The Iwaki Cycling Map and other information is available in English and other languages on the PDFs that may be accessed from this link.  More information on cycling and places to visit in this area is available here (Open this link in Google chrome for automatic English translation).

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  2. Destination Spotlight

    Shiramizu Amidado Temple in Iwaki

    Shiramizu Amidado Temple is a beautiful, historic Buddhist temple in a serene and peaceful garden. For those planning a trip to Iwaki or Northern Ibaraki, it is a great place to add to your itinerary! WHAT IS AN AMIDADO? 'Amidado' is the name given to a temple dedicated to the Buddha referred to as 'Amida Buddha'. Those who have done their fair share of travelling in Japan have probably encountered temples dedicated to Amida Buddha already. The Great Buddha in Kamakura is in fact an Amida Buddha! SHIRAMIZU AMIDADO GARDENS After entering the temple grounds, visitors cross a bridge over a pond, and walk through scenic gardens before reaching the temple itself. The gardens are very peaceful, and really quite large, making Shiramizu Amidado Temple a lovely place to go for an afternoon walk. I visited last winter with some tour participants. Even though it was not the best season to visit to see flowers, it was still a great visit. After taking a look around the park, we moved to the main hall of the temple. The priest at Shiramizu Amidado Temple even explained how to pray inside the main hall of the temple. However, his explanation of the significance of Shiramizu Amidado Temple contained quite a lot of very specific vocabulary, so I am glad I did my research before going! WHAT MAKES SHIRAMIZU AMIDADO Temple SPECIAL? It has been designated a Japanese National Treasure – the only one in Fukushima. Built in 1160, in the Heian era, Shiramizu Amidado Temple is historically a very important building. One thing that makes Shiramizu Amidado Temple easily identifiable as an Heian place of worship is the fact that it was constructed on a piece of land jutting out towards the centre of a pond, in keeping with traditional Japanese Buddhist architecture of the time, known as 'Jodo Teien' (浄土庭園). From July to early September lotuses bloom, and in autumn, the leaves of the trees that close around the temple turn bright red and yellow. The temple is also lit-up at night during the autumn-leaf season, giving the gardens and main hall a really impressive, magical atmosphere. From what I’ve seen in photographs, the sight of the temple covered in snow is also really lovely. More information on visiting Shiramizu Amidado Temple here

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  3. Destination Spotlight

    Tomato Heaven in Wonder Farm, Iwaki

    Peaches are the most famous produce of Fukushima, but blessed with a climate slap bang in the middle of Japan, Fukushima produces countless types of delicious fruit and veggies. At Wonder Farm, a ‘new age farm’, visitors can learn about farming and also eat lots of delicious, local food. If you like fresh fruit and veg, pizza and BBQs then Wonder Farm is definitely worth a visit. If you love tomatoes, then it's a must! Wonder Farm is split into 5 areas 1) JR TOMATO LAND Wonder Farm’s tomato farm. Visitors can pick as many tomatoes as they can fit in their allocated Tomato Land bag for only 900 yen!* *Correct as of June 2020. There are over 9 types of tomatoes grown at the farm – many with interesting and puzzling names such as 'Hula Girls', 'Midori Chan' and 'Carol'. Depending on the type, the colour of the ripe tomatoes vary from yellow to dark purple, and each has its own unique flavour and texture. It’s fun to try all the different types out and pick a favourite. See here for details on visiting. 2) MORI NO MARCHE A shop selling locally-produced food, souvenirs and tomato ice cream. So far, the farm has sold many unique products such as tomato jam, tomato curry, tomato beans and tomato dressing, as well as more standard kitchen staples like tomato ketchup, puree and sauce. 3) MORI NO KITCHEN A buffet-style restaurant where customers can choose from around 30 different dishes, including wood-fired pizza! Of course, dishes are made with local products as much as possible. Not only this, but the menu changes daily! Take-out pizza is also available. 4) AGRI KOBO This may sound a little sinister, but it is actually the farm’s innovation workshop, where new products are developed. Visitors can have a look inside! 5) BBQ AREA The BBQ area is available to rent (Must be reserved in advance by phone). There are many places to sit down outside and just relax – which is surprisingly rare in Japan! Wonder Farm also has its resident cat Tatsu who has a little house outside near the BBQ area. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see him! To see more photos of Wonder Farm, check out their Instagram @wonderfarmiwaki and website. ACCESS Wonder Farm is a 20-minute drive from Iwaki Station, so renting a car from outside the station or going by taxi would be easiest. To reach Iwaki from Tokyo, take the JR Hitachi-Tokiwa Limited Express train from Ueno Station to Iwaki Station, taking around 3 hours. For visitors already in Fukushima, get to Koriyama Station, then there is a direct train to Iwaki, which takes just over 1.5 hours. See below for an example 2 day trip in Iwaki, including a visit to Wonder Farm!

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  4. Destination Spotlight

    Hanami & Hope in Tomioka

    The Sakura Tunnel, made up of 400 cherry blossom trees that line Tomioka’s Yonomori district, made the area a well-known hanami (flower-viewing) spot. However, following 3.11, the fantastic cherry trees could no longer be enjoyed in the springtime. That all changed in April 2017. In April 2017, for the first time in 7 years, visitors have been filling the streets throughout the day and during the evening too, for fantastic views of the sakura trees lit up from below. All areas of Tomioka, excluding those labeled as ‘Difficult-to-Return Zone’, had evacuation orders lifted on April 1st 2017, meaning that former residents can now return home, and anybody can stay overnight in the town without applying for permission – something that was not possible prior to April 1st. Over half of the Yonomori district’s beautiful sakura trees stood within Difficult-to-Return Zones, meaning that those visiting the park over in April 2017 weren't able to walk the full length of the former cherry blossom spot. When I visited in April 2017, barricades block entrance to the Difficult-to-Return Zone, but visitors could still enjoy over 100 cherry blossom trees in the area close to the Junior High School. Another area also lit up was on the west side of Yonomori Station - where service will be resumed on March 14 2020, for the first time since the disaster. My visit to this area coincided perfectly with the setting of the sun, meaning that I got to see the flowers in daylight, the warm glow of sunset, and basking in the bright lights of the light-up display. The 900-year-old, 13 meters tall weeping cherry tree inside the grounds of Hosenji Temple was also lit up during my visit. The grounds of this temple have been lovingly looked after and cared for by former-residents who were evacuated to Iwaki since the disaster. For the people of Tomioka, April 2017’s event acted as a symbol of hope of things to come. That being said, the abandoned buildings on either side of the road and the barricades cutting through the centre of the cherry blossom tunnel remained a stark reminder that everything is not exactly as it was. However, as the sky darkened, the barricades and empty houses slid into shadows, and the blossoms slowly began to glitter with light. Standing in the centre of the long road, looking straight at the rows of trees, it was possible for me to imagine how this area would have looked in 2010. Although the light shows of years gone by were held with tourists and visitors from near and far in mind, 2017’s light show was for the people of Tomioka – for those who have returned with cautious hopes, and for those who have not. It is a reminder of the excitement and beauty of the town that these people loved, and still love. A symbol of the blossoming of splendor from the tiniest spaces. The joy of nature and the cycle of spring after winter, of warmth after cold.

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  5. Destination Spotlight

    Shoko Kanazawa Calligraphy Art Museum In Iwaki

    The Shoko Kanazawa Art Museum in Iwaki City is home to many fantastic pieces of calligraphy created by Shoko Kanazawa, an artist who was born with Down syndrome. The art museum shares its location with a kimono museum called Kimononoyakata Marusan (which contains the world’s largest kimono!) and a beautiful garden inspired by the traditional Japanese gardens of Kyoto. I was really moved by Shoko’s beautiful and emotive calligraphy when I visited the Shoko Kanazawa Art Museum. I’ve practised shuji (calligraphy) before, so I can only imagine the amount of time it takes to produce the artistic form of calligraphy referred to as shodo in Japanese. Many shodo artists imagine the form they want their brushstrokes to take before starting a piece. The sheer size of her pieces also gives Shoko an extra challenge. ABOUT SHOKO KANAZAWA & HER ART Shoko started practising shodo (Japanese expressive calligraphy) at the age of 5 years old, inspired by her mother, who is also a shodo artist. Shoko’s work was first exhibited publicly in 2005, and the Shoko Kanazawa Art Museum was opened in 2012, following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Many of the key works at the Art Museum, including the piece featured below which stands in the main hall, are related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, and express Shoko’s hopes for the reconstruction of the areas on the coast affected by the events that followed the triple disaster. The piece above contains the kanji words 共に生きる(tomo ni ikiru), which can be translated as “to live together”. The meaning of this work is left up to the viewer, but it’s likely that it refers to humans living together with natural disaster, or the need for communities to pull together after a disaster to move forward. Another piece related to post-3.11 reconstruction is 希望光 (kibou hikari), which translates as “the shining light of hope”. The message is concise, and the viewer can really feel Shoko’s emotion through the size and style of her characters. One more connection between Shoko and the events of 3.11 is the use of her calligraphy as the logo for the Onahama Marine Bridge – this bridge was opened during certain hours for the public from last August, and is a symbol of reconstruction for the people of Iwaki City. I found her calligraphy to be very moving, especially the piece which is shown in the photograph below. The calligraphy says 福は内 鬼も内 (fuku wa uchi, oni mo uchi). This phrase relates to the Japanese tradition of Setsubun, which takes place in early February every year. During Setsubun, family members throw beans out the doors of their house – or throw them at a member of the family wearing a devil / demon mask – as a symbol of purifying their homes. During Setsubun, the phrase ‘fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto‘ (Luck stays inside, demons stay outside). In Shoko’s piece, she changes this well known phrase to mean “Luck stays inside, demons also stay inside”. When asked about the creation of this piece, Shoko said that she felt sad for the demons, and felt like they would be lonely if kept outside alone! I think this message is really moving, and also that this pieces demonstrates Shoko’s personality very clearly. As well as viewing Shoko’s art, visitors can also experience holding tools that Shoko uses to create her compositions. A number of the brushes she uses are on display, a long with an example of the size and type of paper she uses. When I tried out her tools, I realised just how much you have to use your whole body to smoothly bring the brush over the page – creating work this big must be a really good workout! I can imagine myself making so many mistakes… Shoko regularly does calligraphy demonstrations at public events throughout the year, and is always accompanied by her mother. Shoko, now in her thirties, lives by herself, and is an amazing role-model, as her status as a public figure allows her to communicate and share with her home country, and the world, about her experience as a person with a disability. READ MORE ABOUT SHOKO KANAZAWA See more of her works online here. This website is only in Japanese but it has a large selection of her calligraphy. Read more about Shoko’s life in English here. VISITING THE SHOKO KANAZAWA ART MUSEUM Opening Hours: 10:00 to 16:00 (last entry at 15:30) Closed on Tues / Weds unless on a National Holiday (in which case, the following day the museum will be closed). Closed at the end of the year / new year Price: 800 yen per adult. 400 yen for those with a disability. (Free for elementary school kids) REACHING THE MUSEUM See here for travel information about getting to Iwaki Yumoto Station. By Public Transport: Take the train to Yumoto Station. From there the museum is a 20 minute taxi ride. There is also the option of renting a car near Iwaki Station and driving there using a Rental Car company such as Times Rentacar, Nippon Rentacar, JR Rent-a-Car etc. By Car: Get off the Joban Expressway from Yumoto IC (from there it’s a 15 minute drive). OTHER PLACES TO VISIT NEAR SHOKO KANAZAWA ART MUSEUM SHOKUJI TOKORO OKAME Want somewhere close by to Iwaki Yumoto Station to eat traditional Japanese food? I recommend Shokuji Tokoro Okame (食事処おかめ) . I don’t have a photo, but it’s a really cute, cosy izakaya-style restaurant which serves cheap lunches with very generous portions. I had a really delicious meal there which was served with lots of tofu and tomato. See its location here. IWAKI YUMOTO ONSEN’S HOT SPRINGS Various onsen hot springs in Iwaki Yumoto Onsen Town. Read here for more. IWAKI FC PARK Enjoy some great food at Red & Blue Café, located inside Iwaki FC Park, or pop over to the bar next door which sells pizza and a big range of craft beers on tap! SPA RESORT HAWAIIANS See a Polynesian-inspired dance show & enjoy the water parks at Spa Resort Hawaiians. See here for more info. CHINAN SHOKUDO Eat some really good ramen at Chinan Shokudo (チナン食堂). HORURU Get up close & personal with some dinosaurs at Horuru (Iwaki City’s Coal & Fossil Museum). See here for more info. AQUAMARINE FUKUSHIMA Lose yourself among the amazing exhibitions at Aquamarine Fukushima (See here for more info.)

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  6. Destination Spotlight

    Watching Exhilarating Samurais On Horseback – Soma Nomaoi

    The Soma Nomaoi is a 3-day festival takes place during the last weekend of July every year, and is centered around 3 main shrines in the cities of Minamisoma and Soma. It is thought that the festival has its roots in a local tradition from the 10th century, when horses were chased and tamed as part of military exercises secretly held by the city’s samurai warriors. How amazing is it to go to a festival which has been happening in one form or another for 1000 years?! Those who take part in the festival are people from samurai or noble families, many of whom have received armour passed down from their ancestors. On the first day, A ceremonial opening act called a ‘Departure Ceremony’ is held at the 3 main shrines involved in the festivals. There are also pre-event horse races, to get everyone excited for the excitement to come during the next day. There are quite a lot of websites with the details of the festival, but I’ll briefly about the festival’s schedule during this post! I actually headed to Minamisoma on the second day of the festival, and have written about the day’s events below. PROCESSIONS (GYORETSU) Those who will take part in the day’s events take part in a stunning 3 km procession through Haranomachi, to the town’s race course – bringing portable shrines and all! Going to see the gyoretsu means you’ll get a chance to see cute kids wearing samurai armour – not to be missed! KACCHU KEIBA HORSE RACING 10 horse races are held at midday. All of the riders wear 'kacchu' – a type of samurai armour, which I got to try on during a previous visit to Minamisoma! Having had experience wearing real kacchu, I know how hot and heavy the armour is. I could only wear it for about 10 minutes before getting a bit tired, so I don’t know how everyone managed to wear them for the whole day, despite the hot midday sun! The races were really exciting to watch. As the riders zoomed past, mud was thrown up in the air, covering a lot of them – and some members of the crowd! A number of people tumbled off their horses, many of the races were incredibly close, so I couldn’t take my eyes off of the race course. SHINKI SODATSUSEN This is the part of the day that I could not pronounce no matter how many times I tried to say it! Hundreds of riders gather in the central field. Flags are shot into the sky using fireworks, and the riders must chase after them, and catch them before the others. There were 2 things that surprised me about this event There were boys and girls who looked like they must be middle school kids taking part It reminded me so much of Quidditch – with flags as the Snitch, and horses instead of brooms! I spent a lot of the second festival day trying – and failing – to take good photographs, so I am jealous of the attendees who sat in the audience seats and got to watch the whole thing. I enjoyed the day a surprising amount for someone with a phobia of horses, and I would definitely like to go again! We left before evening, but if we had stayed, we would have seen a fireworks display, held in Odaka town for the first time in 7 years. The third day also includes important traditional events, such as Nomagake – where two brown and one white ‘wild’ horses are caught barehanded, and then taken to Odaka Shrine to be blessed. This is the part of the festival which gives it its name – which translate as 'Soma’s Wild Horse Chase'. It’s so exciting that Odaka has once again become able to hold an event which has been practised and celebrated among local people for a millennium. It certainly is a clear demonstration of Odaka’s revitalization progress. I’m hoping to interview somebody who participated in the festival at some point – I’m looking forward to finding out what they think about this tradition! TIPS FOR VISITING THE FESTIVAL: Bring water! And sun cream! Bring a camera with a long zoom! If you come on the second day and want a good seat for the horse race, you have to leave the street processions early. The road to the race course is just a straight line from where the processions are, so it is easy to find! ACCESS: Shuttle buses run from JR Haranomachi Station during festival time. There are also buses that leave Sendai Station.

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  7. Destination Spotlight

    Visiting Aquamarine Fukushima

    Aquamarine Fukushima is a fun, thought-provoking aquarium and research center in Iwaki. Aquamarine Fukushima educates visitors about the marine animals and ecosystems found in oceans, rivers, streams, seashores, and even rice paddies, through a wide range of displays. From ‘living fossils’ – ocean creatures whose genes have hardly changed since ancient times – to recently discovered species, this aquarium takes visitors on a journey from the Jomon period (c. 14,000 – 300 BCE) to the present day. SO, WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING? 1. COELACANTH Since opening, Aquamarine Fukushima has been conducting research about the ancient Coelacanth, which has inhabited our oceans for approximately 400 million years. The two species of Coelacanth that still exist can be found near the Comoro Islands off of Africa’s east coast, and off the coasts of Indonesia. The aquarium includes a moving robotic Coelacanth, a large exhibition of Coelacanth fossils found around the world, and even a specimen from the Comoro Islands. 2. THE WEIRD TO THE VERY ORDINARY Aquamarine Fukushima includes all kinds of wonderful creatures, such as carnivorous plants, sea pineapples, fennec foxes, among many others. Various ecosystems and their inhabitants are exhibited at Aquamarine. I was particularly drawn to these cute little spotted garden eels, which live at the sandy bottoms of coral reefs. Aquamarine Fukushima also has an exhibit of 8 species of goldfish. Visitors might think that goldfish aren’t worth seeing at an aquarium. Aquamarine Fukushima challenges this by demonstrating their variety and beauty. Displayed in magnificent tanks, these goldfish are referred to as ‘living works of art’. There is one more thing that makes these goldfish very special. On 3.11, aquarium’s pumps, air conditioning and water temperature control units lost power. Tragically, 90% of the animals were lost (200,000 species over 750 species). The aquarium reopened in July 2011. The goldfish were one of a handful of species to survive the disaster. 3. A NEW APPROACH TO AQUARIUMS Aquariums can be dark, gloomy, and can feel enclosed. But Aquamarine Fukushima has been designed so that all natural light is used to the utmost efficiency. Aquamarine also utilises all green spaces around the aquarium. There are a number of exciting outside exhibits, including the Jomon village, rice paddies, fishing areas, and beach area (home to the world’s largest touch pool (4500 sq.m). THINGS TO DO 1. GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS Say hello to the different animals and give them a stroke if you get a chance at a touch pool. 2. FISH, COOK & EAT EXPERIENCE Set up initially to teach children about where their food comes from, this experience is held daily between 10:00 – 15:00. You can catch Silver Salmon and Horse Mackerel, prepare them for cooking yourself, and have them deep-fried as tempura by members of staff! Be mindful that you have to take home every fish that you catch! See here for more information. 3. BACKYARD TOUR Volunteer-led Backyard Tours offer visitors a chance to see the work that goes into maintaining an aquarium – machinery, food preparation techniques, animals currently not on exhibit etc.! These tours last around 30 minutes and can be reserved at the Information Corner on the 2nd floor (Japanese only). If you want to learn more about the aquarium and its aims, there are exhibits that showcase Aquamarine’s current research, information about conservation projects, and the fishing industry’s effect on the ocean. 4. CHECK OUT THE VIEW The observation deck on the top floor of the aquarium offers a great view. They even have an English website, so go have a look and start planning your visit! INFORMATION FOR VISITING See here for opening hours, entry fee, and access information.

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  8. Destination Spotlight

    The Hula Girls Of Iwaki Yumoto Onsen

    A city on the eastern coast of Fukushima is probably the last place you would expect to find a Polynesian Hula Girl Show. Since the 1960s, Spa Resort Hawaiians (a resort complex, home to countless spas, swimming pools, hotels and the world’s largest open-air bath) has been a venue for daily Polynesian dance performances. I was quite confused by the concept of Spa Resort Hawaiians… I couldn’t comprehend why you might want to go to somewhere themed as a Hawaiian resort if you were coming to Japan… but after learning a little about the history of the resort, I realised it is a pretty interesting place after all. Iwaki used to be a thriving mining city, with the majority of local workers involved in the industry, but a shift in demand from coal to oil during the 1960s left the future of the local community thrown into uncertainty. To tackle this issue, Joban Mining Co. (a local company) decided to open the Hawaii-themed resort, in order to provide jobs for locals, and allow many those who couldn’t afford to travel abroad a chance to experience a vacation in another country! Spa Resort Hawaiians, and its Hula Girls, soon became famous across Japan. The story was even turned into a film in 2006! Grand Polynesian Shows and Knife Fire Dance Shows are held every day, with seats available to both guests and day-time visitors. The performances are 1 hour long, and are fun and engaging. I particularly enjoyed the topless, oily men juggling fire… I couldn’t help but break into a smile whilst watching the girls’ dancing. I even briefly daydreamed about learning how to hula dance, and joining them onstage. I soon snapped out of my daydream when the girls called for participants to join them! I wasn’t brave enough this time, but maybe next time… In the evening, I stayed at Koito Ryokan, and was lucky enough to meet three members of the Hula Okami group (Okami translates as ‘hotel proprietress’). This group of ladies who own or manage ryokan (Japanese inns), have found inspiration from the story of Iwaki’s Hula Girls. In turn, they have decided to start their own group, and to begin performing a traditional local dance across the country in order to revive their local area, in the same way as Spa Resort Hawaiians did when it originally opened in 1966. Instead of creating jobs at a hotel, they are establishing and spreading interest in the fun, lively community of Iwaki Yumoto Onsen town. They’re dancing in the hope of increasing tourism to the area they love, and to show the world that, despite the damage of the 2011 tsunami, the town is alive and moving forward. I was really moved by the passion of the Hula Okami, and their determination to do anything possible to revive tourism Iwaki’s tourism. The Hula Okami usually perform once a month outside of Yumoto Onsen Station, and have also danced in other venues across Japan. I hope I’ll get the chance to watch them perform next month! You can read more about Spa Resort Hawaiians here.

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
  9. Destination Spotlight

    2 Days in Iwaki

    DAY 1 1. IWAKI STATION This example itinerary departs from Iwaki Station. For directions to Iwaki Station see here. I recommend traveling by rental car for this 2 day itinerary. 2. AQUAMARINE FUKUSHIMA Aquamarine Fukushima is an amazing aquarium and research centre which is in some ways very similar to a botanical garden. As well as being captivated by the plants, fish and other forms of sea-life on display around the aquarium, visitors can experience catching fish, preparing them themselves and having them cooked as tempura! (Read more about Aquamarine Fukushima here) 3. LALAMEW Buy souvenirs, have lunch, take a trip on a sightseeing boat which leaves outside, peruse the fresh produce on sale, or learn about the effects of the disaster on Fukushima at the Iwaki Mew-seum on the 2nd floor. (Read more about Lalamew here) 4. HORURU: IWAKI COAL AND FOSSIL MUSEUM See the first elasmosaurid dinosaur to be discovered in Japan – and by a high school student, none the less! Learn about the mining history of Iwaki Yumoto Onsen, and if you visit at the weekend, you can try out some of the activities on offer, such as making your own amber necklace! (You must reserve in advance by email). 5. YUMOTO ONSEN (ACCOMMODATION) Stay overnight at Iwaki Yumoto Onsen, where there are a number of places to eat, and lots of places to take a dip in a hot spring. Yumoto Onsen has been celebrated as a hot spring town since the Heian Era (710-794), and most ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) in the area have their own hot spring bath where you can relax. Private baths can also be rented in a number of establishments! (Read more about Yumoto Onsen here) DAY 2 1. YUMOTO ONSEN START Have breakfast in the ryokan of your choice. 2. WALK AROUND YUMOTO ONSEN The small town is the perfect size for a morning stroll. There are lots of quaint little shops and shrines to explore, and if you’re lucky, you might bump into some of the locals for a chat! 3. SHIRAMIZU AMIDADO TEMPLE Constructed in 1160, this historical Buddhist temple was registered as one of Japan’s National Treasures in 1952. Beautiful at any time of the year, but perhaps especially stunning in Autumn when the leaves turn red, the park surrounding the temple is beautifully kept and well worth a visit. You can also enter the temple, of course, but many people come here for religious reasons, so remember to take off your shoes and turn off your cameras! (Read more about Shiramizu Amidado Temple here) 4. WONDER FARM A large establishment where over ten types of tomatoes are grown throughout the year! Take a bag and pick as many tomatoes as you can fit in, then visit the souvenir and food shop next door. If you have time, and the weather is nice, you could even have a picnic or BBQ in the open facility outside. There’s also a restaurant on the premises with local fresh vegetables available in the buffet, and wood-fire pizzas available to take out. (Read more about Wonder Farm here) 5. IWAKI STATION Finish off your trip in central Iwaki!

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)
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