Itineraries for trips around Fukushima

Make the most of your time in Fukushima by following these recommended itineraries, including suggested things to see and do.

Top Trips

Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip
Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip
Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip
Driving

Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip

This trip highlights some of the best Fukushima has to offer and is perfect for those looking to get the most out of the prefecture in a limited time. Take in castles, nature, traditional villages, and more as you treat yourself to local styles of soba and ramen along the way. Renting a car is a must if you want to hit all the spots on this tour. You can take it slow and complete this trip over three days, or skip out an overnight stay in Urabandai area, and do it in two days. Start the day from Fukushima Station with a scenic drive to the the beautiful Urabandai region. We recommend taking the Bandai-Azuma Skyline road so that you can enjoy a mountain drive and check out the great sights at Mt. Azuma-Kofuji. From there, take the stunning sightseeing road Azuma-Bandai Lake Line into Urabandai. Explore the Urabandai area, have lunch, go on a walk around the five-colored ponds of Goshiki-numa, and maybe even take a dip in a hot spring or two. Choose whether take it slow and stay the night in Urabandai area, or whether to press on to Aizu-Wakamatsu City.  Later that day - or the next morning, depending on your schedule - head into the castle town of Aizu-Wakamatsu City where samurai culture is prevalent. The majestic Tsurugajo Castle offers beautiful views of the surroundings from the keep. Check out the nearby Tsurugajo Kaikan to paint an akabeko or two and maybe have some lunch. Then explore the mysterious Sazaedo Temple and the surrounding Mt. Iimoriyama area. From here, we suggest staying overnight in the city. There are plenty of budget hotels in Aizu-Wakamatsu, but if you are looking for something traditionally Japanese, we recommend looking into lodging at the nearby Higashiyama Onsen hot springs town just east of the city. On the next day prepare to jump into the past with a trip to the Ouchi-juku mountain village. You can spend hours here shopping and eating local foods while walking up and down the street lined with traditional thatched-roof houses. Lastly, head to the To-no-Hetsuri Crags, a natural monument filled with towering cliffs overlooking the Okawa River. Cross the nearby suspension bridge which offers breathtaking views of the surroundings. After getting fully refreshed head back to Shin-Shirakawa station by car, drop off your rental car, and connect back to Tokyo or the next stop on your journey!

Relaxation in Tsuchiyu
Relaxation in Tsuchiyu
Relaxation in Tsuchiyu
Culture

Relaxation in Tsuchiyu

You can enjoy this multi-day relaxation tour of Fukushima any time of year. But that’s not the only thing to make this trip so enticing. You’ll find something for everyone in the family or quiet spots of solitude to be enjoyed alone. Whether you’re traveling with someone or by yourself, this is the perfect way to enjoy Fukushima. Take a bus ride from Fukushima Station to Hotel Sansuiso. Enjoy a quiet room at this lovely hotel where you can soak away your worries in one of their many hot spring baths. Especially nice during winter are the outdoor baths, let the cool air wash over your exposed face while the waters keep you warm. After a day sequestered in baths, why not take a stroll about town and visit the famous shop Matsuya. See their own unique kokeshi dolls, which are popular toys around Japan with each area creating completely unique kokeshi dolls. After you’ve admired the curious little wooden dolls, try your hand at painting your own under the guidance of one of the shop’s staff. Take your very own kokeshi doll back with you as a unique souvenir and memory of your time in Fukushima Prefecture. Finally, explore the other hot spring baths that Tsuchiyu Onsen has to offer. Choose from public baths, baths in other ryokan, or a number of a foot baths dotted around the town. No matter where you turn, you’re sure to enjoy the calming and rejuvenating waters. When you’ve finished enjoying everything that the area has to offer, head back to Fukushima Station by bus.  

Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)
Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)
Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)
Adventure

Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)

Have you ever wanted to take a cross-prefecture tour of Japan, from Tokyo to the impeccable countryside of Fukushima? Well, now is your chance to travel from the international hub of Tokyo and see what else Japan and—especially—Fukushima have to offer. Enjoy this cross-country tour of Japan any time of the year, over the span of a few days so that you can enjoy things at your pace. You’ll find life outside of Tokyo goes at a much slower pace. Start your trip from Tokyo Station and ride a short distance to Asakusa. See one of the busiest shrine-and-temple locations in Tokyo. You’ll love the bustling atmosphere and the street stalls with their many trinkets and souvenirs. Once you’ve finished in Asakusa, head out of the city and make your way for Tochigi Prefecture’s Nikko. Nikko is perhaps most famous for the three monkey statues that people equate with “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. You’ll see these wonderful statues and more while you stop over in Nikko. From there, travel north to Higashiyama Onsen and enjoy the sights form the train along the way. Higashiyama Onsen is Fukushima’s home to some truly great hot springs and Japanese-style inns. Soak up the hot waters and relax your tired muscles. At Tsuruga-jo Castle, you can walk the pristine gardens and enjoy the castle grounds. Be sure to make note of the red-roof tiles of the castle as well, this is the only castle in Japan that boasts having these deep-red tiles. Inside the castle keep, discover the history of the Aizu samurai through the many exhibits and displayed artifacts. Make your way to Nanokamachi-dori Street and admire the local architecture, which is quite different than that from the rest of the area. Search out local hidden gems along the narrow streets and find the perfect souvenir to take home. Enjoy your time in Tokyo, Tochigi, and Fukushima like never before with this route.  

Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train
Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train
Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train
Nature

Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train

Jump start your vacation in Fukushima’s Aizu region with this multi-day tour, which can be enjoyed at any time of year. These ideas make for great additions to already existing plans, or as a tour of their own. No matter how you decide to use this itinerary, you won’t be disappointed. Travel by train and local bus, or taxi, to enjoy Aizu to the fullest. Begin your adventure at Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (don’t forget to snap some pics of its bowing red akabeko cow out front) and use the local bus or taxi to make your way for Tsurugajo Castle. Walk through the gardens and grounds of this magnificent castle and marvel at the red-tile roof—the only one of its kind in all of Japan. Inside you can tour the castle keep and see the artifacts of Aizu, let history come to life before your eyes. From the castle, travel to Nanokamachi-dori Street; this quaint area has preserved its early-20th century architecture and is now home to souvenir boutiques and many diners and hidden gems. With that being enough for one day’s excitement, head over to Higashiyama Onsen and soak your travel aches away in the hot springs of Harataki ryokan, which even has its own hot spring source. You’ll love taking a dip in these hot, refreshing, and soothing waters—the outside open-air bath is especially recommended. The next day, why not head over to Ouchi-juku, here you can tour an authentic preserved Aizu village and try local cuisine. The whole area gets really busy in winter and, if you’re brave enough to face the cold, the snow festival is a popular event.  

Destination Spotlight

  1. Destination Spotlight

    Visiting the Mitsuishi Shrine (Three Stones Shrine)

    A red Tori gate marks the forest trail that leads up through a dense forest where a shrine seems to hide among the rocks and trees. Here, in the Mitsuishi Shrine where three stones and three rituals wait for you to improve yourself and also wish for love or connection. Ichinoiwa (The First Stone) The first stone has a deep pit where, it is believed that sticking your head into the pit will actually improve your IQ! It can be a bit scary, but it’s definitely worth a try. Who knows, you might invent something spectacular with your new and improved high IQ level!  Ninoiwa (The Second Stone) A mysterious source of spring water drips down the side of this stone, making it seem as though the rock is crying real tears... Its waters have long been believed to improve eyesight. Long ago, people thought that touching the water from this stone to one’s eye would improve eye health and eyesight. However, this ritual may be best left in the past since it might not be 100% sterile. Still, it is interesting to visit, touch the water and think of the past. Saniwa (The Third Stone) The third and final stone is the connection or love rock. The stone is porous and full of holes; the trick is to find a set of holes that make a tunnel so that you can stick a string through. You can get strings from the visitors’ center or bring your own and try to find a place to tie up a 5-yen coin. Some single people who are looking for love or connections will come in the middle of the night with a flashlight and spend hours search for a place to tie their coin! If you are lucky you might discover an unclaimed tunnel in the stone where you can tie up a 5-yen coin for good luck in the love and connection department. Whether you are a believer or not, it’s a lot of fun to poke around looking for a place to tie your coin. If you fail to find a spot you can always tie in the same spot as someone else, or tie your coin on the shrine’s rope.  The short hike to and from the shrine is absolutely gorgeous, but a bit steep in places. Be sure to wear shoes that are easy to walk in. Through a clearing in the tree line you can look down and see the town below. If you time your visit right, you can even watch the small local train roll by.  Mino kasa Experience You can hike the trail in normal clothes, but, if you are feeling adventurous… I recommend renting a mino kasa, that is an old fashioned rain coat. Mino kasa like the one I am wearing in the photo are becoming increasingly rare in Japan. As craftsmen die out and no one takes their place, fashions like this risk fading into the panels of history. So I hope that when you visit you will rent one to take photos and walk to the shrine in. The people in the area are very friendly and if they see someone walking around in a mino kasa, you are sure to bring a smile to their faces! After all, the greatest joys of traveling are connecting with the local p Click here for more information on accessing this shrine.

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

    Fukushima x SIGMA: A Photographer's Paradise Route

    This route through part of Fukushima has it all, fantastic autumn views, history, and adventure! Follow the route that we took to produce our video, "Fukushima x SIGMA: A Photographer's Paradise."  Grab your camera, and LET'S GO! Tsurugajo Castle First we went to the gorgeous and historic Tsurugajo Castle, a bright white castle that pops against the fall colors. The high walls of the castle that once gave archers the strategic advantage against invaders, now provide fantastic angles for photographers. We walked along the castle walls and searched for the best angles of the bright white castle framed in the warm autumn leaves. The castle tower is now a museum where visitors can view artifacts and learn about the history of samurai in the area. This castle was one of the final strongholds of samurai during the Boshin War and the final days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Something to think about as you photograph this historic location. Be sure to check out the Rinkaku Tea Rooms on the castle grounds, it’s a great place to photograph some Japanese plants and a traditional garden atmosphere. Not only is the garden beautiful, but you can even enjoy traditional Japanese sweets and Matcha green tea if you have time. (Read more about Tsurugajo Castle...) Sazaedo Temple Next, we arrived at Sazaedo Temple, a unique Buddhist temple that was built in 1796.   When we first arrived, I was a bit confused. The entrance is a red tori gate that seems to be the entrance to a deep forest. After crossing under the gateway, we followed the stone path and suddenly the sound of a rushing river greeted us. A river surges through a curving canal and under a small bridge, then out of sight. Before even catching a glimpse of the temple we could feel the spiritual power of this place. To the right, a set of stairs and leads up to Sazaedo Temple.  This architectural wonder is hexagonal in shape and has a unique double helix staircase. A must-see! The outside is beautiful, but the inside was what I looked forward to the most. We went inside to capture photos of the walls and ceilings that are plastered with the names of families who visited hundreds of years ago, an old Japanese tradition. Lit only by the natural night that streams in through the windows, this place truly felt like a step back into another time. (Read more about Sazaedo Temple...) Yunokami Onsen Next we went to Yunokami Onsen, one of my favorite places to visit in Fukushima. We searched ahead to find out what time the train would be coming and arrived just in time to capture photos of the train passing by. Watching the local train roll into this cozy countryside station was one of the highlights of my day! This place is truly special. The mountains around the station are small and cute, shaped like the triangular mountains that a kid might draw. In autumn when the autumn foliage gives the mountains their warmer colors, it provides a cozy backdrop to the thatched roof of the station. The name of this station has the word onsen in it, and sure enough, there is a foot onsen to warm you up! A great way to spend some time while waiting to capture the perfect picture of the train rolling into the station. I get cold easily so this was a great place for me to warm up. Inside the station there are lots of old fashioned candies and snacks, I picked up a few to try and they were so delicious, I highly recommend checking that out. (Read more about Yunokami Onsen Station...) To-no-hetsuri Crags Next we visted the To-no-hetsuri Crags, a beautiful and romantic place where huge cliffs overlook a gorgeous river. The autumn leaves, white cliff faces, and turquoise water contrast beautifully making for great memories and photographs. We crossed the suspension bridge and wandered around the cliffs to find places to take some great photos. A narrow staircase leads to a viewpoint and a small shrine that is built into the rock face, that was an exciting surprise! One of my favorite memories here was just standing at the bank of the river after crossing the bridge, autumn leaves gently falling from the cliffs above and landing delicately on the surface of the river. We explored here for a while and captured some really amazing photos, this is a great spot and felt like the kind of dramatic landscape that you might see in an old Japanese painting. (Read more about the To-no-hetsuri Crags...) Ouchi-juku Arriving in Ouchi-juku felt like stepping back into the old world of samurai! The historic post town, looked like an ancient village, and the coolest thing was that there were still traditional businesses run by families whose ancestors lived here since ancient times. There are tons of alleyways and old fashioned cafés to stop and take photos of. At the end of the road if the most popular photo spot where you can capture an image of the street that runs through the middle of town. We explored the shops, and captured photos of the town and the unique alleyways. We stopped at one of the many noodle shops in town and tried negi soba (fresh buckwheat noodles eaten using a green onion), stick-roasted char fish, fire roasted rice cakes and more! My favorite memory here was holding up one of my snacks to photograph it against the blue sky. I got really excited when I noticed the warmly colored thatched roofs seemed endless as they blended into the warm colors of the mountains. Sitting down to enjoy my snack in one of the alleyway cafés was a nice way to spend the last moments of the day as the sun set behind the mountains. After a long day of photography, it was nice to slow down in the evening and spent the night in one of the historic buildings that have been functioning as guesthouses for hundreds of years. (Read more about Ouchi-juku...) Lake Sohara In the early morning light we drove to Lake Sohara for gorgeous views of the lake. We almost went paddling on the lake to see what kind of photos could be taken from the water, but ultimately we chose to move on to the next location. However, if you like paddling it seems like a lot of fun! Bandai-Azuma Lake Line Next we drove along the beautiful Bandai-Azuma Lake Line and enjoyed the excellent views. But of course we didn’t just drive by, we stopped a few times for photos and these were two viewpoints that you should definitely check out! Nakatsugawa Valley Viewpoint First we stopped at the Nakatsugawa Valley Viewpoint, here we captured photos of the gorgeous view of the Nakatsugawa river winding through the autumn colored valley. To access this viewpoint, you will want to park at the Nakatsugawa Keikoku Resthouse and walk to the viewpoint through a short path through the trees. The trees on this path were also very beautiful so be sure to have your camera out, but watch your step. I had a hard time focusing on the path as the wind through the trees along the path was truly enchanting. Sanko Paradise Viewpoint We continued driving along the Bandai Azuma Lake Line to reach the second viewpoint, the Sanko Paradise Viewpoint. Sanko literally translated to “three lakes,” from this viewpoint you can enjoy the view of three lakes framed by autumn colored mountains. My jaw dropped at this view, the mountains and lakes were so beautiful. As we drove there were quite a few clouds forming in the sky that made me a bit nervous... However, as we pulled up to this viewpoint, the clouds made way for rays of sunshine that illuminated the mountains and valleys in a truly magical way. Goshiki-numa Ponds Next we visited the Goshiki-numa Ponds where the bright blue water contrasted with the warm autumn leaves and made for a fantastic sight! Take a stroll around the lake and enjoy this spectacular view, while you pick out your favorite angles to take photos from. This unique lake was formed due to volcanic activity in the area, so it can change colors slightly depending on the time of day and the season, so you are sure to capture a unique photo. After taking a lot of photos outside, I was feeling rather chilly, so I quickly grabbed a cup of warm, non-alcoholic amazake, a popular cool weather drink in Japan. Inawashiro Herb Garden Next we headed towards Lake Inawashiro and stopped by the Inawashiro Herb Garden. Here you can go inside and see beautiful collections of flowers, depending on when you visit, there may be an art installation as well. When we visited there was a beautiful exhibit that featured colorful umbrellas by the reflective pond. Research ahead of time when you visit to find out what art installation will be on display when you visit. Outside there are huge fields of flowers, and depending on the season and what’s in bloom you can take some really beautiful photos. In autumn there are some very cute fluffy red plants called “kochia,” which look like a plant right out of a Doctor Seuss book! We couldn’t go outside when we visited due to the rain, but if you have nice weather, get creative and see what photos you can take here! Be sure to check Instagram for some photo inspiration as many talented photographer flock to this garden every autumn. There are delicious floral flavored ice creams and snacks to try here, I recommend the floral ice cream, despite the cold, it’s worth it! Lake Inawashiro As we headed towards the station to travel home, we drove around Lake Inawashiro and gazed out at the gorgeous water and fantastic views of Mt. Bandai in the distance. If the weather is warm or you don’t mind the chilly weather, I recommend finding a spot along the lake shore to stop and relax under some trees. The rain was coming our way so we went to a café instead. There are lots of local coffee shops and cafes, there are many to choose from and they are quite popular among locals, so I recommend checking one out before heading home. I was nice to relax and drink some coffee and have a bit of cake before heading home. This two day / one-night long photography tour of Fukushima was a really special way to visit these wonderful places in Fukushima. It was my first time seeing these places and I was in awe for two days straight. These have become some of my favorite places to visit and photograph in Fukushima, and even the whole of Japan. For more on Fukushima, follow us on Instagram ( @rediscoverfukushima ) and Facebook ( Travel Fukushima Japan )!

    Fukushima x SIGMA: A Photographer's Paradise Route
  3. Destination Spotlight

    Mt. Iwatsuno’s Gankakuji: Amazing Buddhist Mountain Temple

    I discovered Mt. Iwatsuno by accident. I did a farmstay in Motomiya City, and when I asked my farmstay host about her favourite place in Motomiya, she told me about Mt. Iwatsuno. My farmstay host described Mt. Iwatsuno as a mountainside scattered with huge rocks that had either been etched with beautiful carvings, or moluded into statues. She told me how it had been used by Buddhist monks as a training retreat for centuries. I was keen to go, but what I found at Mt Iwatsuno far exceeded my expectations. WHAT IS GANKAKUJI? Gankakuji Temple is the main temple located on Mt. Iwatsuno, and was founded in 851. Both Gankakuji and Mt. Iwatsuno share the same kanji (岩角), even though they are pronounced completely differently. Mt. Iwatsuno is a place of religious training for Buddhist monks from the school of Tendai. Tendai Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 8th century by a Japanese monk called Saicho, who founded the spectacular Enryakuji Temple at Mt. Hiei, Kyoto, after bringing Tendai Buddhist texts from China. The Tendai Buddhist school is centered around the practice of Shugendo, a Heian era religious practice that includes elements of Shintoism, Taoism, and pre-Buddhist mountain worship, as well as other forms of Buddhism. As well as being a place of mental and physical Buddhist training, Gankakuji Temple is actually designated as the main home of the 一隅を照らす運動 ‘Ichigu wo Terasu Undo’ Buddhist movement, which was started at Kyoto’s Enryakuji Temple as a way of keeping Tendai Buddhist teachings relevant to current generations. HIGHLIGHTS OF MT. IWATSUNO Mt. Iwatsuno is a huge Buddhist complex. It takes quite a while to explore on foot, and has a lot to see, as you can see from the illustrated map posted below: TEMPLES & SHRINES Mt. Iwatsuno is home to numerous temples and shrines, including the beautiful Nachi Kannon Pagoda. The Nachi Kannon Pagoda stands three-quarters of the way up the mountainside and was unfortunately badly damaged during the earthquake of March 11, 2011. It was subsequently knocked down and rebuilt. Other structures on the mountainside have managed to stand strong for a lot, lot longer. For example, the Okunoin Temple at the very top of Mt. Iwatsuno is thought to have been built in the Kamakura Era, and Bisshamondo was rebuilt in the mid 19th century. The carvings and statues aren’t the only old aspects of Mt Iwatsuno – there are also huge, ancient cedar trees on Mt. Iwatsuno, including this giant cedar, which is over 800 years old! STATUES & CARVINGS There are over 800 carvings and statues at Mt. Iwatsuno, each of which has its own meaning and relevance as a place of worship. If you’re interested in reading more about this (and you can read Japanese!) please take a look at this link. Many of Mt Iwatsuno’s rock carvings, including the 33 carvings of kannon (Goddess of Mercy), were made in the Edo period. The Jundei Kannon, pictured below, is known as a place to worship for those hoping to become pregnant, and for those praying for the perpetuation of their family line. Other carvings are known for their matchmaking properties. POWER SPOT The 落ちない石, or 'the Stone That Never Falls', is a giant granite rock that towers over the edge of Mt. Iwatsuno. Despite experiencing 3 major earthquakes since the Heian Era, this rock has never shaken or shifted, and is now recognised as a power spot. It is a popular place to pray for the realisation of dreams and wishes. PLACES TO EXPLORE The winding path up to the top of Mt. Iwatsuno is flanked with naturally-forming rock pools, tunnels and pathways to explore. I found myself surprised time and time again by the sheer scale of the area. The variety of foliage on the mountainside also really impressed me. To top it all off, when I reached the top of Mt. Iwatsuno, I was greeted by a lovely panoramic view of the surrounding area. Although the weather wasn’t amazing on the day of my visit, the view still stretched out before me. On a clear day, you can apparently see Adatarayama, the Azuma Mountains, Ryozen, Zao and Nasu! ZAZEN MEDITATION EXPERIENCE Another sight towards the top of Mt. Iwatsuno is the Zazen Meditation ‘Tatami Rock’ (photo below), which was used as a place of meditation until the Meiji era. Although it is no longer used for meditation, visitors can try out Buddhist meditation at Mt. Iwatsuno 4 times during the year on decided dates. Read here for more information (Japanese language only). It is also possible to have private or group experiences, but reservations have to be conducted in Japanese. ACCESS Mt Iwatsuno lies on the border between Nihonmatsu City and Motomiya City in Fukushima Prefecture. You can reach Mt Iwatsuno from Motomiya Station via a 15 min taxi ride. For those driving, Mt Iwatsuno is a 15 min drive from the Motomiya IC off of the Tohoku Expressway. The sign below marks the entrance to the temple complex.

    Mt. Iwatsuno’s Gankakuji: Amazing Buddhist Mountain Temple
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