Spring in Fukushima

Spring is undoubtedly one of the most exciting times to visit Fukushima. Take Aizu’s Tsurugajo Castle, which reaches a higher level of beauty when surrounded by cherry blossoms. Fukushima City’s Hanamiyama Area comes alive with over 60 different kinds of flowers, with Soma’s Baryo Park being another popular destination. In the central Miharu area, the Miharu Takizakura weeping cherry blossom tree can be found—over 1,000 years old, it is considered one of the most beautiful cherry trees in Japan.

Learn more about cherry blossoms in Fukushima

Average temperature

  • Mar 11° / 0°
  • Apr 18° / 6°
  • May 23° / 11°
  • Cherry Blossom Late March to early May

Hanami spots

Kannonji-gawa River Cherry Trees
Nature & Scenery

Kannonji-gawa River Cherry Trees

Only a one-minute walk north of Kawageta Station (JR Ban-etsu West Line) is this beautiful 1 km-path along the banks of the Kannonji-gawa River. In the spring the path transforms into a spectacular tunnel of Yoshino cherry trees and weeping cherry trees. Kannonji-gawa River is perhaps the most fantastic place to see cherry blossoms in Fukushima Prefecture; the calming river and the lovely petals falling like snow are a sight that can’t be beat. The lush green bank contrasting with the pale pink blossoms creates an unforgettable scene. Altogether there are about 200 trees growing along the Kannonji-gawa River on both banks. Additionally, the river maintains its natural curves and bends as it hasn’t undergone any work to adapt its shape to the city surrounding it. It’s one of Fukushima’s most splendid and respected natural landscapes. Currently, the Kannonji-gawa River cherry trees rank number 11 of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the entire Tohoku region! While enjoying the delicate blossoms and the sweet, fresh air, visitors to Kannonji-gawa River can also enjoy some of the tasty food from street vendors available only during the cherry blossom season. We’d really recommend a springtime picnic right on the river bank with various yatai (food stand) delicacies. Be sure to come back during the evening when the trees are illuminated, and the river transforms into a magical dreamscape.

Miharu Takizakura
Nature & Scenery

Miharu Takizakura

Miharu is a small town in central Fukushima Prefecture. The town’s name means “three springs” and it is easy to see how it got such a name. With cherry, plum, and peach trees blossoming in spectacular displays every spring, it is almost as if spring has tripled! But the most famous of the trees in Miharu is the Miharu Takizakura tree, which is a nationally recognized Natural Monument.Over ten centuries old, the beautiful Miharu Takizakura is a flowering cherry tree that spreads out in all directions and makes for a breathtaking vista. The cascading blankets of blossoms are how this tree got the name takizakura, or “waterfall cherry tree.” It is even one of the “three great cherry trees” of Japan (along with Usuzumizakura in Gifu and the Jindaizakura in Yamanashi Prefecture).Miharu Takizakura sits in a sakura hollow in order to protect it from the elements while providing excellent drainage. The heavy boughs of the tree are supported by wooden beams and lend to its elegant form. The Miharu Takizakura begins blooming from mid-April. During the day the sight is whimsical, but visit in the evening and you’ll be treated to an almost haunting beauty as the tree is illuminated.Aside from this huge cherry tree (over 12 meters tall and 18 to 22 meters in spread), the area is also blessed with various wildflowers, including cherry and rapeseed flowers. But, of course, the Miharu Takizakura is what the annual 200,000 visitors are there to see. The view from the base of the sakura is considered to be the most beautiful and the Miharu Takizakura often ranks as the best sakura tree in all of Japan.

Tsurugajo Castle
History & Culture

Tsurugajo Castle

Tsurugajo Castle allows visitors the opportunity to experience history, nature, and tradition with all five senses.Despite being mostly reconstructed, the surrounding park's stone walls remain in their original state. In 2010, for the first time since it was refurbished in 1965, the castle underwent a cosmetic restoration. Following completion in 2011, the same red-tile roofs seen by the Byakkotai (during the Boshin War and finals days of the Tokugawa shogunate) are now displayed for all to see.This castle is one of the final strongholds of samurai that remained loyal to the shogunate and today stands as a symbol of courage and faithfulness.Within the castle tower's museum, the swords and armor of the castle’s successive lords are on display. Visitors can watch a CG-enhanced theatrical video reflecting on the great history of Aizu.In addition to the historical atmosphere surrounding Tsurugajo, visitors can sense the changes that have occurred throughout history, thanks to the engaging and informative museum within the castle walls. It’s fun to gaze across Aizu from the fifth floor, like a feudal lord admiring his domain—the viewing platform up here provides panoramic views taking in Mt. Bandai and Mt. Iimoriyama.The castle is also a must-see in the springtime when approximately 1,000 cherry trees offer a magnificent display within the castle's grounds.When you’re in the mood for a rest, visit the Rinkaku Tea Rooms for some freshly-prepared matcha green tea. This tea house on the grounds of Tsurugajo was vital in the spread of this traditional art—and had it been destroyed during the Meiji Restoration, tea ceremony as it is known in Japan might have vanished.Tsurugajo Castle is truly a place where the modern visitor can slip into the past and become immersed in history. 

Hanamiyama
Nature & Scenery

Hanamiyama

Hanamiyama Park is a privately-owned field for flowering and ornamental trees, in southeast Fukushima City.The park is located within a satoyama-type landscape i.e. managed woodland hill country close to human habitat. What originally began more than 60 years ago with local farmers planting flowers and trees, has grown into a beautiful scene. The landowner generously turned the area into a park in 1959 to allow visitors to enjoy the beautiful flowers there.Hanamiyama Park, and the wider Hanamiyama area, is now visited by thousands of admirers every year!Springtime visits see cherry, plum, and forsythia trees paint everything in vivid colors. A gentle pink and purple landscape waving in the breeze with the picturesque snow-capped Azuma Mountains in the distance makes for an amazing sight.The riot of spring colors is spectacular enough to merit calling this park Fukushima's very own paradise.The flowering landscape moves all who see it and has been preserved through the cooperation of the local residents. Enjoy a leisurely one-hour stroll that will take you from the foot of the hill to the summit. Travel through groves of flowering trees and other vibrant flowers in full bloom.Hanamiyama is the perfect getaway for a day for nature lovers, hikers, or people trying to escape for a short time.The best part is that spring isn’t the only beautiful time to visit. Marvel in wonder during the lush green summer foliage or the dappled colors of autumn. When you visit this fairytale-like wonderland, it is recommended that visitors wear comfortable walking shoes as the terrain includes graveled paths, steep slopes, and slippery areas. Mid- through late April is the peak season, so ready your camera and your heart for the beauty that awaits.

Kassenba's Weeping Cherry Tree
Nature & Scenery

Kassenba's Weeping Cherry Tree

These two weeping cherry trees are said to be the grandchildren of the great Miharu Takizakura weeping cherry tree in nearby Miharu Town. They bloom with fantastic pink flowers. When they are in full bloom, the trees are if a waterfall of blossoms is cascading from their branches. These trees are estimated to be around 170 years old. We recommend taking photographs from the bottom of the slope, so you can capture the pink of the blossoms, together with the blue of the sky, and yellow of the canola flowers.

Fukushima City Minka-en Open-Air Museum
History & Culture

Fukushima City Minka-en Open-Air Museum

Traditional structures from northern Fukushima built between the Mid-Edo to Meiji era (1700 – 1912) – including restaurants, private houses, storehouses, and even a theater – have been relocated to Fukushima City Minka-en Open-Air Museum.At Minka-en these buildings are restored and displayed to the public, along with a range of artefacts and tools used in daily life in years gone by.Also, a number of special events, such as sword-smithing demonstrations, are held every year to celebrate and promote traditional folk crafts and skills.

Cherry Blossoms in Baryo Park
Nature & Scenery

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.

Natsui Senbon-Zakura
Nature & Scenery

Natsui Senbon-Zakura

There are 1,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees planted along both sides of the Natsui River, giving the area the name of 'Natsui Senbon-Zakura', which translates as 'Natsui's 1000 cherry trees'. The view of the river stretching out in the distance is calming. The cherry blossoms actually line the river for a distance of 5 km. Natsui Senbon-Zakura offers good spots for taking pictures. Take a walk along the promenade near the banks of the Natsui River for some beautiful shots of the contrast between the glistening river and the cherry blossoms.

Kaiseizan Park
Nature & Scenery

Kaiseizan Park

Koriyama’s Kaiseizan Park is a wide realm in the city. Home to around 1300 cherry trees, it is one of the prefecture’s most prominent cherry blossom spots. The impressive trees are lit up in the evening during cherry blossom season, making for fantastic views. The park has a baseball field, an athletics field, and an event venue. Additionally, it is home to one of Fukushima's Chansey's Lucky Parks, making it a popular destination among Pokémon fans. Located nearby is the Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine.There is also a 3,000-square-meter rose garden that blooms in spring (typically from mid-May to late June) and in the fall (usually from mid-September to late October). Exact blooming dates vary each year.No matter the season, there is something to enjoy at Kaiseizan Park year-round.

Isasumi Shrine
History & Culture

Isasumi Shrine

Isasumi Shrine's history is thought to be connected to how the Aizu region got its name - a story that has been recorded in two of Japan’s most legendary books of folklore. According to the tale, around 2000 years ago, four shogun were entrusted with uniting the four areas of land which would become Japan. Two of these shogun happened to be father and son. One was sent to the northeast, and the other to the northwest.When the father and son had completed their work uniting the towns in their respective areas, they met in the middle. They named the area “Aizu” (会津), which can be translated as “The riverbank (津) where we met (会)”. The father and son travelled to Mt. Mikagura-dake, a mountain that borders Niigata Prefecture and Aizu, and prayed to the Shinto god of pioneering new lands to protect Aizu, and the rest of Japan. Isasumi Shrine is thought to be built where they met.In spring, the shrine grounds become decorated with the blossoms of one of the most prized cherry trees in Aizu. It is said that this tree, which is named Usuzumi Sakura (“Diluted-Ink Sakura”), has been the sacred tree of Isasumi Shrine since it was brought down from Mt. Mikagura-dake and planted in the shrine grounds as a way of commemorating the efforts of the father and son. The lovely, light scent of the cherry blossom welcomes visitors each spring.Aizu Misato Town’s historic Isasumi Shrine, known as a great spot for viewing beautiful irises, holds a festival to celebrate the splendor of these flowers every year.

Hanamomo-no-Sato Park
Nature & Scenery

Hanamomo-no-Sato Park

From early April right up to the start of May, 40 varieties of blossoming peach trees present a feast for the eyes for visitors to Hanamomo-no-Sato Park. There are over 300 peach trees spread across the 8,000 square meters of land. From blossoms with a single layer of petals, to the elaborate Yae-zakura and Kikuzaki Sakura flowers, there is a huge variety in the shapes and colours of cherry blossoms to be discovered and enjoyed at Hanamomo-no-Sato Park. As well as being free to visit, Hanamomo-no-Sato Park is conveniently located; just 20 minutes on foot from Iizaka Onsen Station.

Shiki no Sato (Village of Four Seasons)
Nature & Scenery

Shiki no Sato (Village of Four Seasons)

Shiki no Sato (Village of Four Seasons) is a lawn-covered agricultural park of about 8 ha in size. There are western-inspired brick buildings in the center, which house a traditional crafts gallery. The gallery includes a glass workshop and kokeshi (traditional wooden doll) exhibit. You can learn to make blown glass, see kokeshi being made by local artisans, and try your hand at decorating a doll of your own. Shiki no Sato also has an ice cream shop offering seasonal ice creams made with the local fruits of Fukushima. In addition to ice cream, you can try a variety of locally-produced beers at the Shiki no Sato's beer hall. The seasonal flowers are a highlight of a visit to Shiki no Sato, which is loved by families and young couples alike. The summertime firework displays and the winter light-ups in the park are some of the most popular times to visit.

Koshidai no Sakura (The Koshidai Cherry Tree)
Nature & Scenery

Koshidai no Sakura (The Koshidai Cherry Tree)

This huge Japanese cherry tree is over 400 years old and has been designated as a national Natural Treasure. The tree has a trunk circumference of about 7.2 meters and stands 20 meters high, and was thus selected as one of the "100 Giants of the Forest" by Japan's Forestry Agency. Koshidai Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year on May 3. A Yabusame horseback archery event accompanied by taiko drumming takes place during this festival, and local organizations set up food stalls. Photo tip: Try taking photos from the south side of cherry blossoms.

Kairyu no Sato Center Theme Park
Nature & Scenery

Kairyu no Sato Center Theme Park

Kairyu no Sato Center Theme Park is a dinosaur themed theme park in Iwaki city. Here there are three rides as well as some unique dinosaur statues including a huge long-necked dinosaur. Around late March to early April is the best time to visit if you want to see the unique sight of dinosaurs surrounded by cherry blossoms. Iwaki is well known for its excavation of fossils and most notably the discovery of the Futabasaurus dinosaur. You can learn more about the mining history of Iwaki at the Horuru: Iwaki Coal and Fossil Museum.

Nanohana Flower Fields and Mazes
Nature & Scenery

Nanohana Flower Fields and Mazes

A massive field of nanohana flowers that first bloomed in Spring 2012, bringing great joy to the community. Since 2013 to today, huge flower fields and mazes are organized for the public to come and enjoy entirely for free. Children can receive prizes for completing the maze and visitors of all ages are encouraged to walk through the maze and have fun. Takayuki Ueno is a local farmer and creator of the Nanohana Flower Maze, planting the first flowers here in November 2011; eight months after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Click here to read more about his inspiring story.

Nijuisseiki-no-Mori Park (21st Century Forest Park)
Nature & Scenery

Nijuisseiki-no-Mori Park (21st Century Forest Park)

Stretching over more than 80 hectares, Nijuisseiki-no-Mori Park (二十一世紀の森公園) is a true haven for recreation; complete with a tennis court, a baseball stadium, a skateboard park, and a family sports garden, as well as a variety of flower fields, trees and shrubs.21st Century Forest Park is also a popular cherry blossom spot: it has both early-blooming Kawazu-sakura (which mostly bloom mid-February to mid-March) as well as Somei Yoshino cherry blossom trees (which typically bloom sometime between early to mid-April).During winter each year illumination events are held in the park, and, during autumn, the bright colored leaves attract plenty of visitors. During the summer, sunflowers and rapeseed flowers bloom, so the park truly offers ways to enjoy nature all year round.

Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine
History & Culture

Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine

Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine (開成山大神宮) is a Shinto shrine located in front of Kaiseizan Park in Koriyama City. The shrine was established in 1876 and is famous for its cherry blossom festival during the spring, as well as for its New Year celebrations, among other festivities.Three deities are enshrined at Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine: Amaterasu, a Shinto deity believed to be the ancestress of the Imperial family of Japan; Emperor Jimmu, who according to Japanese mythology was the first emperor of Japan; and Toyouke-Ōmikami, the goddess of agriculture and industry in Shintoism.

Jorakuen
Nature & Scenery

Jorakuen

Jorakuen (浄楽園) is a traditional Japanese garden located in Fukushima City. It was completed by an expert gardener who worked on the famous Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, and it has a total area of about 25,000 square meters (over 269,000 square feet).The garden can be enjoyed in spring, summer and autumn. Spring brings about delicate cherry blossoms, irises, and rhododendrons; water lilies and lotus flowers adorn the ponds during the summer; and brightly colored trees decorate the park in autumn.  No matter the season, the backdrop of the Azuma mountains makes for a spectacular sight at Jorakuen.There is a souvenir shop and traditional teahouse at the garden where visitors can enjoy matcha and Japanese sweets (‘wagashi’). The park remains closed during the winter season, from December 1st to March 31st.

Mt. Shinobu (Shinobuyama)
Nature & Scenery

Mt. Shinobu (Shinobuyama)

Mt. Shinobu, with a total altitude of 275 meters, is one of the landmarks of Fukushima City. It is estimated that it formed about 500.000 years ago when the Fukushima basin caved in and Mt. Shinobu became an isolated hill, which later became the object of multiple local poems, stories, and legends.Visitors can hike up Mt. Shinobu for unobstructed views of the cityscapes. Hikers of all levels can try climbing Mt. Shinobu, as its peak can be reached in a few hours and many parts of it can be reached by car.Each year in April there is a spring festival with cherry blossom night illuminations that attract hordes of visitors. Summer and autumn are also great times to follow the hiking routes at Mt. Shinobu.A spiritual power spot for locals, Haguro Shrine can be found at the top of the central peak, where there is also a giant straw sandal that weighs about 2 tons and is 12 meters in length and is believed to be among the biggest in Japan. The sandal is paraded along Fukushima City each year in August during the Waraji Festival. Also in Mt. Shinobu, you can find the Shinobuyama Neko Inari Jinja(‘cat shrine’), and the Gokoku Shrine, along with several parks.For stunning views of the city, including the Shinkansen bullet train tracks, head to the Karasugasaki Observation Deck on the western side. Located nearby are the Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art and the Fukushima Prefectural Library.

Ja no Hana Gardens
Nature & Scenery

Ja no Hana Gardens

The Ja no Hana Gardens (蛇の鼻) are located in Motomiya, in the central area of Fukushima. From spring to autumn, this vast park features a display of natural wonders like cherry blossoms, wisteria, roses, hydrangeas, water lilies, and autumn leaves. It is particularly famous for its 500-year-old wisteria tree that typically blooms in May.There is also a historical residence, Ja no Hana-goten (Ja no Hana mansion), which is a registered tangible cultural property of Japan. Built in 1904, the impressive residence has intricate wooden carvings in the front entrance, and houses artworks and calligraphy works, often housing exhibitions. Visitors can enter the house and look at the artwork up close.Best season: Cherry blossoms: Early to late April Tulips: April to early May Peonies: Early to mid May Japanese wisteria: Early to late May Azaleas: Early to mid May Roses: Most varieties reach their peak around late May; from then until November, other varying kinds might be in bloom Water lilies: June to July Autumn leaves: Late October to November

Itineraries in Spring

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.  

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.  

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.  

Must See Sights of Fukushima:Halal Friendly Model Route
Must See Sights of Fukushima:Halal Friendly Model Route
Driving

Must See Sights of Fukushima:Halal Friendly Model Route

Including halal friendly information! This is a two-day model course by public transportation and rental car that takes you through breathtaking nature to the historic post town of Ouchi-juku and Tsurugajo Castle, home of the once mighty Aizu samurai clan! Information about halal restaurants and lodgings is available at the bottom of this page. From Tokyo to Fukushima, you can conveniently use the Shinkansen bullet train or the Tobu Liberty train that leaves from Asakusa station. From the terminus at Aizu Tajima Station, you can easily hire a cab that offers a full-day plan to get to the historic Ouchi-juku and nearby Aizu-Wakamatsu City. On the first day, you will visit Ouchi-juku, where you can experience the historical charm of the Edo period, followed by the castle town of the former Aizu clan, Tsurugajo Castle in Aizu-Wakamatsu City. On the second day, get a taste for the rich nature of Tohoku. From Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, you can rent a car and drive towards the Urabandai area. Goshiki-numa, located in Bandai Asahi National Park, is a beautiful natural park named after its five colored lakes and ponds, which appear to change colors depending on the light at different times or day and seasons. Hop into a rowboat and paddle around to admire the carp swimming around in the crystal-clear waters of the lake. There is a trail that takes you around the Goshiki-numa area, where you can appreciate the hues of the various ponds. If you happen to be visiting in the fall, you will be blown away by the spectacular array of autumn leaves in their stunning gradients of red and gold. Finally, be sure to go fruit picking so that you can taste the delicious flavors of Japanese fruits at the end of your trip. HALAL-friendly Restaurant ※Reservations required [Japanese Restaurant] Kissui Restaurant Aizu-Wakamatsu City "Halal / VG Requests OK / Reservations required" http://aizu-kissui.jp [Chinese Restaurant] Hotel Hamatsu / Shaga Chinese Restaurant Koriyama City https://www.hotel-hamatsu.co.jp HALAL-friendly accommodations ※Reservations required ・Yosikawaya Iizaka Onsen Ryokan http://www.yosikawaya.com/ ・Inawashiro Rising Sun Hotel (Villa Inawashiro) https://www.villa.co.jp/ ・Bandai Lakeside Guesthouse Kitashiobara Village https://www.bandai.ski/   Taxi ・Minamiaizu Kanko(Hire a Taxi for 2-hour or 4-hour flat rate plan) https://www-minamiaizu-co-jp.translate.goog/tour/index.php?_x_tr_sl=ja&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=ja Rent a Car ・Eki Rent-a-car https://www.ekiren.co.jp/phpapp/en/  

Fukushima’s Revitalization Educational One-Day Trip
Fukushima’s Revitalization Educational One-Day Trip
Fukushima’s Revitalization Educational One-Day Trip
Culture

Fukushima’s Revitalization Educational One-Day Trip

This is a model itinerary for visitors who would like to learn about Fukushima’s revitalization. The coastal area of Fukushima is the only place in the world to have survived a triple disaster: an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. Following extensive decontamination efforts and a great deal of demolition and reconstruction, several areas that were once designated as ‘difficult to return’ have started welcoming both residents and visitors again, with many residents eager to share their stories with the world. This itinerary centers on the towns of Futaba and Namie, both of which were severely affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in 2011.  The first stop is Futaba station and the surrounding Futaba Art District, a mural art initiative that pays homage to the residents and folk art of the town. From there, you’ll visit the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum, which has a detailed account of the area before, during, and after the disaster. At the museum, you’ll learn about the stories and testimonies of locals, as well as the plans and ideas for the future of Fukushima. The last stop is the remains of the Ukedo Elementary School in Namie town. Although the school building, located only 300 meters from the sea, sustained great damage from the tsunami, students, teachers and staff were able to evacuate from the school safely, for which it is known as a ‘miracle’ school.  This is a one-day itinerary, but we recommend staying somewhere in the coastal area of Fukushima after your visit.

One-Day Drive in Minamisoma City
One-Day Drive in Minamisoma City
Driving

One-Day Drive in Minamisoma City

Located in the Northeastern part of Fukushima prefecture, Minamisoma City is one of the main hubs in the prefecture’s coastal area. The city perhaps draws the most crowds in July for the Soma Nomaoi festival, an event featuring horseback riders in samurai attire, which developed from an ancient samurai practice of military drills with horses. Outside of the event times, visitors can still experience Minamisoma’s equine traditions year-long. Once a vital enclave for the Soma samurai clan, Minamisoma specialized in manufacturing and the military during the most pressing years of Japan’s modernization. Many samurai customs continued; for one, people kept breeding and caring for horses even when this practice disappeared from most other places in Japan. In 2011, the city suffered greatly from the triple disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Despite difficulties, people have sought to pass on their heritage to new generations, adapting samurai traditions to modern times to continue cultivating their love for horses. The city is reachable from Tokyo in a few hours by car or public transportation, but this itinerary is designed specifically for driving. By horseback riding along the coast, having lunch at a cafe that has made a significant impact on the community after the 2011 triple disaster, and visiting a National Historical Treasure that is over 1,000 years old, you will travel through ancient history, medieval history, and modern times in Minamisoma.

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  1. Useful Information

    Meaningful Travel Experiences in Fukushima

    Apart from exploring Fukushima’s extraordinary landscapes and indulging in its cuisine, plenty of travelers seek opportunities to engage with local communities through hands-on experiences. Japan’s third-largest prefecture, Fukushima, has a diverse and rich history, which is reflected in the variety of activities that visitors can enjoy. Here are some meaningful travel experiences unique to Fukushima.1. Explore the Extreme Side of Fukushima: Ebisu Circuit Drift Taxi Experience & Extreme Onsen (available April-November)Fukushima’s central area is home to active volcanos and mind-bending cliffs that make even experienced hikers jitter with adrenaline. It is no surprise, therefore, that two of the most extreme activities in the prefecture can be enjoyed in this region.The Drift Taxi Experience at the Ebisu Circuit in Nihonmatsu is a thrilling drift ride by a seasoned driver who takes participants through several courses full of twists, turns, and speed. It is the most popular experience on our website and offers a rare opportunity to drift in Japan alongside famous drivers.The Extreme Onsen Experience at Numajiri Onsen is another unique and popular activity. Alongside a guide, you will hike through volcanic terrain to reach a wild hot springs river source where you can soak in and contemplate the surrounding mountain peaks. This experience is perfect for those looking for an adventure, as it combines outdoor sports and relaxing in wild hot springs. Additionally, participants enter the hot springs in a swimsuit (and those with tattoos are also welcome!). 2. Get Creative and Make Your Own SouvenirsBy participating in a craft workshop, you can learn about traditional crafts hands-on by making your own. This helps craftspeople continue to develop their industry while encouraging others to learn about and appreciate their work—plus, you get to take home a unique souvenir. Here are some craft workshops you can join in Fukushima: In Aizu-Wakamatsu, you can paint your own Akabeko (Fukushima’s lucky red cow) at a souvenir shop a short walk away from the Tsurugajo Castle, or paint on lacquerware using traditional techniques at Suzuzen, a lacquerware shop and museum. Takashiba Dekoyashiki, also known as Takashiba Craft Village, is a traditional crafts-making village that looks suspended in time. Here, you can paint a papier-mâché fox mask, and explore the fascinating history of its close-knit community. Even today you can make washi, traditional Japanese paper, by hand in Nihonmatsu. The area has a history of over 1,000 years producing Kami-Kawasaki Washi paper, a local variety of Washi paper. At its Washi Denshokan (Washi Traditional Crafts Gallery) you can make a postcard out of washi and decorate a lampshade. You can assemble a tatami coaster at Tatami Village in Sukagawa City. Kuboki Tatami is a centuries-old family business that has honed the skill of producing and manufacturing tatami mats.3. Pick Your Own Fruit at Japan’s ‘Fruit Kingdom’Eating locally-grown food is a great option to make your travel more sustainable, and there is a wide variety of locally sourced produce to try in Fukushima. Apart from the many restaurants that use local ingredients, several farms and orchards offer a 30-minute all-you-can-pick course in which you can taste seasonal fruit (typically available from late June to December). You can book a fruit-picking experience at Marusei Orchard, for instance, and afterward, visit their cafe to try their delicious fruit parfaits.4. Traverse the Mugenkyo Ravine by Ferry BoatMugenkyo no Watashi is a ferry boat that traverses the Tadami River in Western Fukushima Prefecture. The ride is the brainchild of a local man, Hoshi-san, whose hometown disappeared due to a landslide. Refusing to let the beauty of the area disappear forever, he decided to craft an experience for others to see the stunning natural scapes while traversing the Tadami River, which often gets misty, creating a mysterious atmosphere. During this peaceful boat ride, you can sit back and relax to the sounds of nature as Hoshi-san and/or someone from his team takes you on a relaxing ride. The experience is only offered from spring to autumn each year (roughly from April to November) due to heavy snowfall in the area during winter.5. Make the Local Noodle SpecialtiesNoodles are a key ingredient in some of the most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine, and a few signature foods in Fukushima. Kitakata ramen is considered one of Japan’s big three ramen varieties, and visitors to Kitakata City can not only taste this delicious dish but also try their hand at making it under the guidance of a local expert (and then enjoy a delicious bowl of handmade ramen complete with toppings). The city is all about ramen, to the point that they famously have a tradition of enjoying ramen for breakfast (known as asa-ra!).Also famous is Ouchi-juku’s negi-soba, a bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated daikon radish and eaten with a green onion as a utensil. At Ouchi-juku’s soba dojo, you can make the noodles from scratch, after which the staff will boil them for you and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Wait a few minutes, and you can enjoy a steamy bowl of negi-soba of your own making before you go back to exploring the town.Note: The Ouchi-juku buckwheat (soba) noodles are typically made using a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour, but it is possible to request an alternative version using only buckwheat flour (which would make the noodles gluten-free). Please note, however, that there may be cross-contamination, as regular noodles are prepared in the same space.More Experiences AwaitFrom learning samurai martial arts to riding a horse along the coast, there are many more activities to try in Fukushima, which you can request directly through our website. Once you place your booking, we will contact the provider and let you know within a few days whether the date and time you requested are available. If you have any questions about visiting Fukushima or booking experiences through our website, please feel free to send us a message!

    Meaningful Travel Experiences in Fukushima
  2. Destination Spotlight

    5 Things to Do in Showa Village

    ‘Showa’ in Japanese marks a historical period that spanned from 1926 to 1989. Nowadays, the term is sometimes used to describe something retro, vintage, or nostalgic. Coincidentally, there is a village called Showa in Oku-Aizu, a tranquil mountainous region in Western Fukushima Prefecture, and the name seems fitting. Driving through Showa’s winding roads and quaint traditional houses and businesses feels both nostalgic and insightful. With a population of just over a thousand people and no train lines, in this quiet village, you can experience the charm and quietness of Japanese countryside life.If you are planning a trip to the widely overlooked Oku-Aizu area and are considering spending the day in Showa, here are some of the attractions we recommend visiting:1. Visit the Historical Kuimaru Elementary SchoolKuimaru Elementary School was open from 1937 until it closed in 1980 after being replaced by a newer school building. Although no longer operating as a school, Kuimaru was preserved, along with its old desks and vintage books. Walking through the hallways, it feels as if the bell might ring and students will come into class at any moment!What is more, in front of the school stands a towering ginkgo tree that is an attraction in itself, particularly during the autumn when its leaves turn golden. There is also a cafe, 蕎麦カフェ SCHOLA, famous for its galettes made of 100% buckwheat flour. You can read more about the Kuimaru Elementary School here.2. Have Fun at Chansey’s Lucky ParkDid you know that Chansey is Fukushima Prefecture’s support Pokémon? One of the four Chansey’s lucky Parks in the prefecture can be found at the Michi-no-Eki Karamushi Ori-no-Sato (Roadside Station) in Showa Village. While the park is a little smaller than other Chansey’s Lucky Parks, it has several photogenic Pokémon-themed attractions. While you are there, we recommend looking for the unique Showa village-themed Poké Lid (utility hole) featuring Chansey!3. Try Ramie Weaving at the Michi-no-Eki Karamushi Ori-no-Sato (Roadside Station)Ranging from delicately woven shirts to sturdy mats, a wide range of items made of ramie fiber have been produced in Showa Village for around 600 years. The village prides itself in its long tradition of craftsmanship, and it is one of the few places where ramie (karamushi in Japanese) is still commercially cultivated in Japan. Apart from learning about ramie production and seeing the ramie varieties at the garden next to the roadside station, you can also weave a ramie souvenir! At the Michi-no-Eki Karamushi Ori-no-Sato (roadside station), you can make a ramie coaster to take home.On site, you will also find a restaurant offering the area’s staple lunches, like buckwheat noodles, ramen, and tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets). There is also a souvenir shop.4. Climb to a Viewpoint to See the Entire VillagePerhaps the most photogenic view of the village can be found at a viewpoint located at the Okuaizu Showa no Mori Campsite. From there, you can see just how picturesque its traditional houses look surrounded by the lush mountains. The viewpoint can be accessed after hiking up a hill from the parking lot of the campsite. If you visit during the early morning, particularly in the autumn, you might be lucky enough to see a barrage of clouds rapidly passing through the mountains, a phenomenon known as unkai, or sea of clouds.5. Relax in the Area’s Natural ReservesShowa is not densely populated, and its vast forests are lush with vegetation. A recommended spot, particularly during autumn, is the Yanohara Marsh, where the vivid colors of the leaves reflect on the marsh creating a picturesque scene. Another popular spot is the Takashimizu Nature Park in nearby Minamiaizu Town. There, you will encounter a million Himesayuri flowers, highly treasured by the locals, which bloom between mid-June to early July. Please note, however, that there are wild animals in many of the green spaces of Showa and its surroundings, so take due precautions and hike safely!Visiting Showa VillageThe best way to get to Showa is by car, as there are no trains that travel to or within Showa, and buses that connect it with nearby towns are scarce. By car, Showa is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Aizu-Wakamatsu City, or about 45 minutes from Ouchi-juku.Related LinksChansey’s Lucky Parks and Poké Lids: Must-See Pokémon Attractions in Fukushima5 Reasons to Visit Mishima Town2 Day Road Trip to Oku-Aizu

    5 Things to Do in Showa Village
  3. Destination Spotlight

    6 Destinations to See in Fukushima With the Japan Rail Pass

    About the Japan Rail Pass & the Japan Rail Pass TohokuThe Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a travel pass that allows foreign visitors in Japan to ride freely on JR lines, shinkansen (bullet trains), and JR buses for a set price during a fixed period.The Japan Rail Pass Tohoku (JR Pass Tohoku) is another travel pass available for both foreign visitors and foreign residents in Japan that allows for unlimited travel within a designated area comprising some parts of Kanto (Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, etc.) and Tohoku (Fukushima, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, and Aomori) during a set period.In this post, we introduce attractions and experiences in Fukushima Prefecture that are easily accessible for visitors both on the regular JR Pass and the JR Pass Tohoku. Trips on the JR PassAizu Area1. Immerse Yourself in Samurai History in Aizu-Wakamatsu CityIt is no wonder why Aizu-Wakamatsu is one of the main attractions in Fukushima. This historical city was one of the last strongholds of the samurai and is packed with beautiful natural attractions and historical sites, like Tsurugajo Castle or Sazaedo temple. You can reach Aizu-Wakamatsu Station from Tokyo in approx. 3 hours (bullet train + local JR line train, fully covered by either of the JR passes).ℹ️ To move comfortably around the city it is best to rent a car or buy a one-day pass for the local loop bus (600 yen, not included in the JR Pass) that will take you to the main attractions. 2 Days in Aizu-Wakamatsu  Recommended seasons:  Year-round 2. Take a scenic train ride on the JR Tadami LineSome train rides are not just a means of transport, but an attraction in themselves. That is the case of the JR Tadami Line trains that run between Aizu-Wakamatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture and Koide in Niigata Prefecture. Known for its stunning views of rural towns, rice fields, and forest-covered mountains, this is a famous scenic train ride that is growing in popularity among visitors.ℹ️JR Tadami Line trains only run a few times a day, so please check the schedule before your visit.ℹ️Note that only the stretch between Aizu-Wakamatsu Station and Tadami Station is covered by the JR Pass Tohoku.ℹ️Trains may become canceled due to heavy snowfall in the winter (December-March). Tadami Line: 5 Sights You Shouldn't Miss Recommended seasons:  Year-round Central Area3. Shirakawa: Komine Castle, Specialty Ramen & Daruma PaintingThe beautifully restored Komine Castle, with its striking black-and-white structure and lush gardens, is a powerful symbol of Shirakawa, located only a few minutes walk from the JR Shirakawa Station (only a short train ride away on the JR Tohoku Line from the Shin-Shirakawa shinkansen Station).After exploring the castle, indulge in a bowl of hearty ramen (a specialty of the area) and end your visit to Shirakawa by shopping for a Daruma lucky doll at the nearby Daruma Land. If you would like to explore more, take a local bus (not included in the JR Pass) to a very special park that looks breathtaking in the autumn and spring.  More about this route Recommended seasons:  Cherry blossom season (typically mid-April to early May) Autumn foliage season (typically late October to early November) February 11 (Shirakawa Daruma Market) 4. Nihonmatsu: Kasumigajo Castle Grounds, Sake Tasting & Drift Taxi ExperienceNihonmatsu is an area with natural features that make it perfect for the cultivation of rice and the production of sake. After arriving at the JR Nihonmatsu Station, visit the Kasumigajo Castle Grounds, and go sake tasting at a local brewery. If you are feeling adventurous, why not try the Drift Taxi Experience at the Ebisu Circuit? You will need to make a reservation beforehand and arrange how to get there in advance, but the thrill of the experience will surely be unforgettable. Recommended seasons:  Cherry blossom season (typically around mid-April). Each year there are ‘sakura matsuri’ (cherry blossom festivals) celebrated at the Kasumigajo Castle Grounds. Autumn festivals (October-mid November). The Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival is held every year on the first Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of October, while the Nihonmatsu Chrysanthemum Doll Festival (Nihonmatsu Kiku Ningyo) is held from Mid-October to Mid-November each year. The Ebisu Circuit is typically unavailable during the winter (December-April). Coastal Area5. Ride next to the seaside on the JR Joban LineThe JR Joban Line connects the Tokyo area to Sendai through Chiba, Ibaraki, and Fukushima Prefectures. You can enjoy a scenic ride along the seaside in Fukushima’s coastal area, stop by Yumoto Onsen, or visit a famous novelist’s book cafe in Odaka Station. Wherever you choose to stop, you are sure to enjoy the best views of the Pacific Ocean through the train window. Recommended seasons:  All year Two Days in Iwaki6. Learn about Fukushima’s reconstruction in FutabaFutaba town was profoundly affected by the triple disaster of 2011 and has now become a powerful symbol of Fukushima’s recovery. Although the town had to be evacuated in 2011, some of the evacuation orders were lifted, and new initiatives, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum, and the Futaba Art District, revitalized the area. Visitors can walk around the town and visit the museum to learn more about Fukushima’s recent history and recovery. Recommended seasons:  All year Upon arriving, consider renting a free bicycle from the Futaba Station (100-yen deposit system), and cycle to The Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum and The Remains of Ukedo Elementary School in Namie Town (both have bicycle parking available). Check here for more details about this model route.Shinkansen and JR Trains in FukushimaFukushima has three Shinkansen Stations: Shin-Shirakawa, Koriyama, and Fukushima. To reach Fukushima from Tokyo, you can take either the JR Tohoku Shinkansen or the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station and get off at any of the three stations mentioned above. It is also possible to reach Fukushima by highway bus, local JR trains, and more. See our Access page for more information about getting to Fukushima.Please bear in mind that local trains and buses have fewer frequencies than in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, etc., so we recommend checking the schedules before you travel.

    6 Destinations to See in Fukushima With the Japan Rail Pass
  4. Destination Spotlight

    Drift Taxi Experience at the Ebisu Circuit

    Nihonmatsu, a charming city in central Fukushima Prefecture, is known for its cultivation of rice and chrysanthemums, a famous lantern festival, and its motorsports scene. Many racing and drifting enthusiasts visit the Ebisu Circuit, a racing and drifting circuit tucked in the mountains of Nihonmatsu, to experience the adrenaline rush of drifting with a professional racer— a thrilling experience known as Drift Taxi.Experience OverviewDuring the Drift Taxi Experience, participants get to enjoy a thrilling ride while a pro driver drifts a few laps through three of the circuit courses. Although this might seem extreme at first, you can trust that your safety is in good hands with knowledgeable drivers who are experienced drifters. Since they are the ones who do the drifting, those who do not have a driver’s license can also participate.Please note that the Drift Taxi Experience is available from April to November, and is unavailable during the winter months (December-March) due to snowfall.©JNTOWhat is Drifting, and What Does it Involve?Drifting is a motorsports technique in which a driver approaches a curve by oversteering the vehicle, causing it to glide sideways with the wheels facing the opposite direction to the turn. When drifting started growing in popularity in Japan during the 1980s, there were no closed courses where to practice, which meant that drifters would do it on public roads in the mountains at night, for which drifting gained a reputation for being dangerous. Nowadays, however, drifting has evolved into a widely recognized motorsport, with safety standards in place and thousands of enthusiasts and apprentices worldwide. Facilities like the Ebisu Circuit provide a safe space to enjoy and learn about drifting (the circuit also has a drifting school!).Driving and drifting safely is a top priority at the Ebisu Circuit. Apart from basic measures like fastening seat belts and wearing helmets, rest assured that drivers have a deep understanding of cars, oversteering, and drifting techniques.Meet Your Drivers“I am sometimes told that I have the best job in the world”, says Naoto Suenaga of his role driving for the Drift Taxi Experience at the circuit. Since first picking up an interest in cars decades ago, Suenaga has been an active member of the racing and drifting scene in Japan and is one of the salient members of Team Orange.So is Nobushige Kumakubo, the managing director of the Ebisu Circuit, who, after winning the D1 Grand Prix International Drift Championship in 2006, established himself as one of Japan’s legendary drifters and also travels the world connecting with others who share his passion for drifting.Although Kanta Yanaguida is among the youngest at the circuit and at Team Orange, his age should not be mistaken for a lack of experience. He is, in fact, a skilled and confident driver who has been honing his drifting abilities for over 10 years and frequently participates in racing and drifting events around the world.Cars Used for Drifting at the Ebisu CircuitCar manufacturers are making it increasingly difficult for drifters: new cars are anti-drifting by design. So, the drivers at the Ebisu Circuit tuned their vehicles for drifting. The two drift taxis used at the circuit are modified cars: a Toyota Chaser and a Toyota Mark II with above-average horsepower and bucket seats.Fasten Your Seatbelt for a Crazy Ride!Once the experience starts, the driver will drive you through the complex towards the drifting course. You will be required to wear a helmet and fasten your seatbelt. The driver will let you know once the drifting is set to begin. Whether you choose to sit on the passenger or the back seat, enjoy the electrifying halts, twists and turns as you dash through each of the three courses.BookingYou can book Ebisu Circuit’s Drift Taxi experience in English through this link.FAQs About the Drift Taxi Experience Are there any restrictions on who can participate? Participants must be over 140 cm tall to ride. Those with heart conditions or other health afflictions should ask their doctor before drifting. Do I need a driver’s license for this experience? No, you do not need to have a driver’s license to be able to participate in the experience. A professional driver from the Ebisu Circuit will be the one doing the drifting. Are there any requirements for participants? Participants are required to purchase insurance for an additional 500 yen. It is mandatory to ride with a helmet on and with the seatbelt fastened. How much does the Drift Taxi Experience cost? The experience is offered at a flat fee of 50,000 yen per vehicle.The price includes drifting several laps on three courses in one car with up to three passengers per car ride. For four participants or more, you can either take turns riding three at a time or book an additional car (up to two cars with a maximum of three passengers per car).The tires of the car wear off almost entirely after each Drift Taxi Experience. The price is calculated to cover the change of tires, as well as the cost of the gas and the expertise of the professional driver.If you go with a group, you will pay less per person than if you are going individually.  Can the drivers speak English? The drivers can speak basic English and are used to being around international visitors. How much time does the experience take? The experience takes approximately 45 minutes. How do I get to the Ebisu Circuit from Tokyo? Check the final section of this page for information about different ways of accessing the circuit from Tokyo. Is this experience available year-round?This experience is typically available from April to November and is unavailable during the winter months (December to March).If you have any other questions, send them our way and we will do our best to assist you!Useful LinksEbisu CircuitEbisu Circuit: A Drift ParadiseEbisu Drift Matsuri (Ebisu Drift Festival)

    Drift Taxi Experience at the Ebisu Circuit
  5. Destination Spotlight

    Fukushima’s ‘Miracle’: A Visitor’s Guide to Ukedo Elementary School

    Step inside Ukedo Elementary School, and you’ll find dark walls, hanging cables, and rubble scattered across cracked floors. Yet, many call this place miraculous. While the building itself reflects the painful story of a disaster, it also stands as an enduring symbol of hope and unity.After a tsunami warning on March 11, 2011, teachers and principals at the Ukedo Elementary School, located 300 meters from the ocean in the coastal area of Fukushima, swiftly evacuated all students before the towering waves engulfed the area. All lives were saved. The school building sustained great damage, but it did not collapse. In the following years, residents asked for the building to be preserved as a testimony of the destructive force of the 2011 tsunami.Ukedo: A Fishing Area With Close Ties to the SeaUkedo Elementary School is located in Namie, a town in the Northern coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture. Today, the school is surrounded by flat fields and construction sites, but not long ago the area was a bubbly district made up of houses by the ocean where families enjoyed sea festivals, sailing, and going to the beach in the warmer months.The 2011 Earthquake and TsunamiStudents at Ukedo Elementary School were attending classes as usual when the earthquake hit on March 11, 2011. A few minutes later, a tsunami warning was issued for the area. The teachers and principals promptly urged everyone to evacuate to Mt. Ohira, located approx. 1.5 km away.A Hasty but Successful EvacuationStudents had no time to take their belongings, or even put on their coats. The cold wind blew strongly as they escaped inland, guided by their teachers.Once they reached the foot of the mountain, one of the students led the group, and everyone climbed to the other side toward safety. They reached a main road, where a truck driver picked them up and took them to an evacuation center.Upon arrival at the center, students and teachers could ascertain that no one was missing or had been left behind. Even though everyone from the school survived, the tragedy brought by the triple disaster changed their lives forever.The Area’s Aftermath & ReconstructionIn Ukedo, the tsunami resulted in the loss of over 120 lives, and many people went missing. A total of 402 houses in the district were destroyed. People’s hometown as they knew it was lost forever.To make matters worse, the area had to be evacuated due to the nuclear accident at the nearby TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. This meant that search parties couldn’t enter for weeks; and residents, who initially thought the evacuation would only last a few days, could not fully return home for several years.Once rescue and recovery personnel were allowed back into the area, many houses and buildings started being demolished as part of the decontamination efforts. Devoid of vitality, the wrecked town looked nothing like the cheerful locality it had been only months ago. For about six years, residents had to be granted permission to return, and could only do so for a few hours at a time due to radiation concerns. Knowing that some returning residents may also visit the school on their way to or from their houses, rescue personnel left encouraging messages and wishes for the area’s recovery on the school blackboards. Those who stopped by the school, in turn, replied. Soon, the blackboard was filled with cute drawings and kind interactions between both strangers and lifelong friends. The blackboard and the messages were preserved and are on display at the school today.When the evacuation order for the Ukedo area was lifted in 2017, the Ukedo Elementary School building was one of the few left standing, although it was utterly devastated. With time, more and more people expressed their wish to make the school building a memorial site to pass on the lessons of the tsunami, honor the Ukedo community, and let visitors see firsthand how disaster preparedness can save lives.In October 2021, the school opened for visitors and has since then become one of the flagship facilities where visitors can learn about Fukushima’s recent history and revitalization.After the disaster, a sakura tree began inexplicably growing from the asphalt by one of the old school entrances. The tree blooms beautifully each spring.Flow of the visitYou will begin your visit on the ground floor, with an exhibition showing life in Ukedo before the disaster.Next, you will enter the main school building, where you will grasp the scope of the destruction of the tsunami. You will see what the classrooms, staff rooms, kitchen, dining room, and school gymnasium look like now, alongside photographs showing what they used to look like.After walking in and around the first floor, you will head to the second floor, where you will learn more about the impact of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear accident. There is information about the area, a model of the town, as well as images of the blackboard with support messages.Advice for Visitors Scan the QR code at the entrance to access the English translation of the explanation panels. As you walk inside the school, look for the corresponding number for each panel on the website to read the explanations in English.   When looking at the building from the outside, notice the blue panels showing the height of the tsunami.   Because this area has undergone extensive reconstruction, sometimes car navigation systems cannot accurately guide you to the school. If you notice your car GPS trying to take you down a road that is no longer there, we recommend using your phone navigation system instead, which might be more updated.   There is a toilet and a vending machine at the site, but no convenience stores, supermarkets, or restaurants are nearby, so consider eating or buying snacks before your visit.   After visiting the school, we recommend walking to the Ukedo Port to see what the area looks like today.AccessBy Train, Bus & Bicycle From the JR Futaba Station (JR Joban Line), take the shuttle bus from Futaba Station to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum. Take one of the free rental bicycles at the museum and ride to Ukedo.By Car Approx 1 h 45 min from JR Koriyama Station [郡山駅] via National Road 288. Approx 1 h 29 min from Sendai Station [仙台] via the Joban Expressway. There is a parking lot available at the site.By Train & TaxiAbout 15 min. by taxi from Namie Station [浪江駅] (JR Joban Line). Please note, though, that there are no taxis at the station, so please make your travel arrangements in advance.Useful LinksThe Remains of Ukedo Elementary School in Namie TownFukushima’s Revitalization Educational One-Day TripThe Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial MuseumNamie Roadside Station

    Fukushima’s ‘Miracle’: A Visitor’s Guide to Ukedo Elementary School
  6. Destination Spotlight

    Practicing ‘Kengido’ With Kamui Samurai Artists in Aizu

    “For many, samurai equals fight scenes in action movies, but that is not all there is to it,” says Tetsuro Shimaguchi during our kengido practice. “To me, samurai culture goes beyond fighting. It is also about the way of living that drives those battles”.His words popped back to mind as I gripped the wooden sword tightly: I inhaled, lifted it, exhaled, and wielded it down firmly with a sudden stop before it touched the ground. The samurai warriors’ graceful fighting on the battlefield was a force of habit. Through drills and practice, they studied each movement to a T, pacing their breath and training their posture. Shimaguchi’s kengido experience for visitors to Japan reveals the efforts, invisible to the untrained eye, that make samurai battles so engrossing.Shimaguchi is no stranger to samurai fight scenes in action movies, however. He choreographed the fight scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol I, and has traveled the world performing samurai fight acts with Kamui, his samurai artist collective. He is one of Japan’s top samurai performers, with over 25 years of experience. Now, he has crafted a workshop in his home country to share the values that inspire him to keep the samurai legacy alive.‘Kengido’ (剣伎道) is Shimaguchi’s samurai technique, a mix of martial arts and samurai fighting performance. The term combines three Japanese characters: ‘Ken’ (剣) stands for sword or swordsmanship. For safety, wooden swords (bokken) are used for this practice. ‘Gi’ (伎) refers to an art or method; in this case, a type of performing arts. ‘Do’ (道) is a set of practices or teachings, a process that becomes a way of life.Shimaguchi has been teaching kengido to hundreds of enthusiasts from Florence to Abu Dhabi. He has toured over 150 cities in 35 countries performing with Kamui. “I am lucky to have so many friends around the world”, he says. Anyone can participate in his kengido practice, which can be adapted to different levels of expertise. People of all fitness levels and ages are welcome. The Practice BeginsBefore getting my hands on the sword, I watched a samurai battle between Shimaguchi and another Kamui artist. Through a screen, with editing involved, a fight like this one looks impressive enough, but it is a different experience to see it live. Their movements were completely in tandem: If one turned, the other one got closer, as if they were inexplicably joined by an invisible coordinating force.We opened the practice with an initial greeting. Then, it was my turn to draw the sword. At first, it felt a bit heavy to hold, but I soon got used to its weight. Shimaguchi taught me how to grip the sword, unsheathe it properly, and place my feet as I wielded and thrust it in several directions. Other Kamui artists went over the exercises with me, allowing me to mimic their posture and movements.A vigorous performance consists of fast movements of arms and legs and sudden, firm halts. Rather than blading the sword slowly and delicately, a thrust followed by a sudden stop makes samurai fights dramatic and animated, Shimaguchi explained, as he exemplified the movements with Kazu-san.After some repetition, I gathered pace. Shimaguchi’s guidance helped me strengthen each pose, taking breaks as needed.Time to Face an Opponent (And Work As a Team)After a few drills with the Kamui team, I was comfortable blading the sword in different ways, so it was time to put my newfound skills into a team effort. We would practice fighting together.At first, I thought there would be no way I could coordinate so many steps, but after drilling each sequence a few times with them I grew in confidence.Looking at my partner in the eyes, rather than fixing the gaze on their movements, was a game changer. Soon enough, Kazu-san and I were engrossed in battle, the wooden swords clicking and our movements following a natural sequence with a shared pace.Shimaguchi is a passionate advocate of samurai history and culture, as well as a skillful teacher who inspires the same passion in his apprentices and team. During his kengido experience, you will: Watch a professional samurai fight performance.  Learn a series of sword-wielding movements and exercises. Face both Shimaguchi and other Kamui samurai artists in choreographed battles and training exercises.  Have some time after practice to talk about the experience and ask questions. Receive a video showing your performance.Booking & More InformationThe experience is held at the traditional Japanese inn Ookawaso in Ashinomaki Onsen and includes a stay at its facilities, some meals, and other options, depending on the plan. For more details about booking this experience, please check here.About the Location: Ookawaso in Ashinomaki OnsenWhen Shimaguchi decided to teach kengido in Japan, the region of Aizu was an obvious choice. Aizu was once a vital enclave for a homonymous samurai clan that fought against modernization until the very end, in a famous battle against government forces that destroyed the city’s emblematic Tsurugajo castle and ravaged the city to its core.The castle was rebuilt and visitors to the area can learn of the history of the Aizu samurai clan that ruled over the land for centuries. Nearby attractions, like the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan (a former samurai school) and the Bukeyashiki (a historical open-air museum and former samurai residence), offer rare glimpses into the everyday life of the samurai. Ookawaso is a traditional Japanese inn in Ashinomaki Onsen, less than an hour south of Aizu-Wakamatsu City (where Tsurugajo castle is located). Guests in Ookawaso can enjoy relaxing in the hot springs, savor traditional Japanese cuisine, and watch shamisen performances on the inn’s traditional Japanese stage that resembles the one featured in the popular anime series Demon Slayer. The hotel offers both Japanese-style and Western-style rooms.This kengido practice is held at the Kamui dojo in Ookawaso, a pristine room made of sakura wood that follows the traditional Japanese aesthetics of the inn.The samurai legacy in Aizu is still very much alive. During your next visit, you can be a part of it as you embody ancient samurai precepts, guided by one of the world's leading samurai artists.Access InformationOokawaso is located 40 minutes by local bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (会津若松駅), or approx. 3.5 hours by car from Tokyo Station. More information about access to Ookawaso here.LinksDiscover Samurai History6 Things to Do at the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai SchoolHistorical Samurai Tour2 Days in Aizu-Wakamatsu

    Practicing ‘Kengido’ With Kamui Samurai Artists in Aizu
  7. Destination Spotlight

    Exploring Minka-en, Fukushima City’s Architectural Garden

    Architecture and history enthusiasts can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring Minka-en (民家園) in Fukushima City, a charming garden with traditional buildings originally built between the 18th and 20th centuries which were relocated from different parts of Northern Fukushima prefecture.A Green Realm Awaits by the CityOnly 2.5 hours from Tokyo station by shinkansen and local bus, Minka-en is located in the vast Azuma Sports Park, a former Olympic site with many sports facilities. The park, albeit a year-round attraction, sees many of its crowds in early November, when its yellow ginkgo trees make for an unforgettable sight. During spring, May’s rose festival envelopes visitors in the fragrant smell of flowers.The area has a peaceful atmosphere with spectacular views of the surrounding mountain range; its serenity is perhaps best reflected in the cats often found snuggling under the sunlight along the paths leading up to the Minka-en.What Does ‘Minka-en’ Mean?Minka (民家) means ‘people’s houses’. Minka-en has several old Japanese-style buildings known as kominka, a term used mostly to refer to former residences of farmers, artisans, and merchants built before the influence of Western architecture permeated Japan during the 19th and 20th centuries. En (園) is the term for ‘garden’. Minka-en, therefore, is a term that describes open-air architectural parks where visitors can explore traditional Japanese buildings.Basics of Traditional Kominka ArchitectureTraditional kominka epitomize the harmony with nature that Japanese architecture is famous for. Some of the distinctive features of kominka include: Locally-sourced natural materials like clay and wood. Built without nails or concrete. Thick thatched roofs. Tatami floors (tatami is a thick straw mat widely used as flooring) Slightly curved pillars that follow the natural shape of the wood. Shoji, door or window frames paneled with translucent paper. Irori, a sunken hearth used for heating and cooking that can be usually found in the center of the main room.From Humble Homes to Glamorous Stages: The Buildings of Minka-enFukushima City’s Minka-en houses a variety of buildings, from former residences of upper-class families to farmhouses, granaries, and even toilets. Visitors can freely step inside each and take a close look at the details of the construction, as well as discover the artifacts developed and used back in the day.There is also an exhibition building with plenty of household items on display, which sometimes hosts special events.The thatched-roof theater is perhaps the most spectacular building in Minka-en. Constructed in 1887, it is one of the oldest theaters of its kind in Japan and remains in strikingly good condition.There is detailed information on display in five languages (English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese & Korean) about each building and the families who inhabited them.Here you can find a detailed account of all the buildings at Minka-en.Greenery & Events: Minka-en in Every SeasonAlthough buildings are the main attraction, there is something to be said about Minka-en’s pristine gardens.Each season brings out the beauty of the traditional buildings in a different light. Towards late October, fallen leaves make the place look like a fairytale cottage town. During cold winters, visitors get to experience the warmth of the sunken irori hearth. The park is adorned with cherry blossoms and irises in the spring, while hydrangeas bloom during Japan’s rainy summer. The spectacle of the changing seasons is not limited to nature. Minka-en celebrates different events such as Lunar New Year, rice field flooding, planting, and harvesting, an autumn festival, and more. Event updates are posted on the Minka-en website (in Japanese).Other Kominka Destinations in FukushimaOuchi-juku in Shimogo town (left) and Maezawa L-Shaped farmhouses in Minamiaizu town (right) are other popular kominka destinations in Fukushima prefecture.A big difference, however, is that Ouchi-juku and Maezawa are inhabited, and both of them are over an hour away from the closest JR or shinkansen station. Because of that, they make great destinations if you would like to take your time exploring off the beaten path and learn how locals preserve their heritage and traditions.On the other hand, because no one lives in any of the buildings at Minka-en, you can go inside each one and explore at your own pace. The open-air museum is located only 30 minutes away from the shinkansen/JR Fukushima Station, making it a good option for visitors with only a few hours to spare who want to learn about the traditional way of living in rural Northern Japan.The Leisurely Allure of Fukushima City’s Minka-enBuildings at Minka-en retain their original structures and are carefully preserved, both inside and out. Seeing how cohesive they look now, it is difficult to believe that they were originally built apart from one another.Muroishi, the cafe at Minka-en, goes in line with the traditional atmosphere of the other minka buildings. After exploring the park, it is a lovely place to wind down over lunch or coffee while contemplating the relaxing landscape outside.For information about how to access Minka-en, please see this page.

    Exploring Minka-en, Fukushima City’s Architectural Garden
  8. Useful Information

    Learn More About Fukushima as Seen in Japan’s New Blockbuster Film ‘Suzume’

    Suzume (original title in Japanese: すずめの戸締り, Suzume no Tojimari) is an animated movie and the latest blockbuster from Japanese director Makoto Shinkai and production company CoMix Wave, which also produced hit films like Weathering with You (天気の子) and Your Name (君の名は).The film tells the story of a highschooler and a young man on a mission to close doors throughout Japan to prevent natural disasters. The film is already a box office success both domestically and abroad after only a few months of screening.Suzume Official YouTube Trailer (Toho Movie Channel, 東宝MOVIEチャネル)Many areas that have been hit by disasters in the country are shown in the movie, including the Tohoku area in Northern Japan, which suffered greatly from the devastating effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear accident in 2011.At one point in the film, the characters pass through an area with “Difficult-to-return” signs reminiscent of those that had to be placed in areas where evacuation orders were enforced due to radiation in Fukushima.Although some remain today, evacuation orders have been lifted in many of the areas that were once labeled “difficult-to-return zones'' (only approx. 2.3% of Fukushima Prefecture’s territory is under evacuation order now).The Remains of Ukedo Elementary School in Namie Town is a popular destination for visitors who want to learn more about the effect of the disaster in the coastal area of Fukushima.These past years have seen people come together to rebuild these areas, taking on the challenge of rekindling a community, honoring the history of towns and villages, as well as fighting the lingering stigma and misinformation surrounding Fukushima.As ‘Suzume’ sheds light on the importance of disaster preparedness and brings attention to the devastation brought by 3.11, many young people are drawn to learn more about what happened in Fukushima and how the prefecture has sought to recover. Commutan Fukushima (Communication Building of the Centre for Environmental Creation, Fukushima prefecture) in Miharu Town has a lot of information for visitors to learn about Fukushima's environmental recovery.Fukushima remains the only place in the world to have survived an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster, and by visiting Fukushima, particularly the coastal area, you can learn a lot about how disaster preparedness saves lives, see the recovery efforts for yourself, and get to know the stories behind those driving the prefecture's revitalization.If you would like to know more, please check model the model itinerary ‘Fukushima's Revitalization Educational One-Day Trip’.

    Learn More About Fukushima as Seen in Japan’s New Blockbuster Film ‘Suzume’
  9. Destination Spotlight

    Chansey’s Lucky Parks and Poké Lids: Must-See Pokémon Attractions in Fukushima

    In recent years, Pokémon fans from Japan and abroad have flocked to Fukushima prefecture to enjoy the newly built Chansey parks, snap pictures of its Instagrammable Poké Lids, and buy souvenirs from Fukushima Prefecture in collaboration with Chansey.Since Chansey was appointed Fukushima’s Support Pokémon in 2019, many parks, Poké Lids and other cute stuff that any Pokémon fan would love has been popping up in different parts of Fukushima, making it pinker and brighter!Here are some of the Pokémon-related things you can expect to see in Fukushima.Chansey as Fukushima’s Support PokémonChansey’s original Japanese name is “Lucky” (ラッキー), while “Fuku” (福) in ‘Fukushima’ means luck or happiness. This shared etymology is one reason why Chansey was chosen as Fukushima’s representative.The fact that Chansey’s pale pink color resembles that of Fukushima’s famously delicious peaches and beautiful cherry blossoms is just a lucky coincidence!Also, Chansey is said to be a kind Pokémon that lays and shares its nutritious eggs with injured Pokémon and people. Similarly, Fukushima has always been known for producing delicious produce and dairy products, which obviously includes eggs, for people to enjoy in Japan and beyond.Chansey’s Lucky Parks in FukushimaAs part of a collaborative regional revitalization effort with Fukushima Prefecture, The Pokémon Company donated four parks to Fukushima prefecture, which were opened between 2021 and 2022.All Chansey’s Lucky Parks have very similar structures and attractions. You can find things like a Happiny sandbox, Cleffa and Igglybuff swings, a Lickitung slide, and more!It’s perfectly valid to visit these parks with the sole purpose of sitting on a Pikachu bench, though.Here’s a closer look at each park.1. Chansey’s Lucky Park in Namie Town (ラッキー公園 in なみえまち)Opening Date: December 2021 (first Pokémon park in Japan)Location: Michinoeki Namie (Roadside Station)Distinctive Features: Don’t miss the cute Chansey vending machines. There’s also a ‘kid’s room’ (indoor play area) for children located right next to the park.2. Chansey’s Lucky Park in Koriyama City (ラッキー公園inこおりやまし)Opening Date: March 2022Location: Kaiseizan ParkDistinctive Features: Kaiseizan Park is home to around 1,300 cherry blossom trees, and offers wonderful views of the city. Chansey looks particularly happy when surrounded by the many beautiful cherry blossoms at Kaiseizan!The park is easily accessible by bus from Koriyama Station, which has a direct shinkansen connection with Tokyo!3. Chansey’s Lucky Park in Showa Village (ラッキー公園 in しょうわむら)Opening Date: June 2022Location: Michinoeki Karamushiori-no-sato Showa (Roadside Station)Distinctive Features: Unlike other predominantly pinkish parks, the playground equipment at this park looks beautifully blue.While you’re there, don’t miss going into the Roadside Station, where you can learn about this village’s long standing textile tradition and history.4. Chansey’s Lucky Park in Yanaizu Town (ラッキー公園 in やないづまち)Opening Date: July 2022Location: Michinoeki Yanaizu (Roadside Station)Distinctive Features: The nearby Hot in Yanaizu center has local products, a rest area and more. While you’re there, try the awamanju-making experience or painting your own akabeko!Fukushima’s Adorable Poké LidsWhile visiting Fukushima, you’ll probably notice these colorful utility hole covers. As of March 2023, there are 26 ‘Poké Lids’ (ポケふた) scattered around the entire prefecture, each showing Chansey (and other Pokémon friends!) in designs that are unique to each region.For a detailed list of the Poké Lids in Fukushima prefecture, check out this website.Finding Cute Chansey Souvenirshttps://www.tif.ne.jp/pokemon/goods.html?id=3Even if you don’t visit any of Chansey's Lucky Parks or see any Poké Lids, you can still indulge in Chansey souvenir shopping!You’ll find Chansey adorning Fukushima’s delicious fruit butter, peach jellies, puddings, curries, apple teas, and more! The array of products from Fukushima prefecture in collaboration with Chansey is wide, so you’ll have plenty to choose from to make the perfect present to the Chansey fan in your life (which, let’s face it, is most likely yourself anyways).https://www.tif.ne.jp/pokemon/goods.html?id=10Some places where you can get Chansey items include the Fukushima Prefecture Souvenir Shop as well as most michinoeki (roadside stations), like that in Namie Town.If you visit Fukushima on a Pokémon adventure, don’t forget to tag us on your social media posts! We love seeing your pictures and videos exploring Fukushima prefecture.

    Chansey’s Lucky Parks and Poké Lids: Must-See Pokémon Attractions in Fukushima
  10. Destination Spotlight

    5 Dazzling Flower Parks to Visit During Golden Week in Fukushima

    As cherry blossom season slowly comes to an end towards the end of April each year, spring in Fukushima prefecture only just begins! With lush nature and wide natural parks awaiting, Fukushima is an ideal destination to venture into nature for a relaxing Golden Week holiday (a Japanese bank holiday that typically goes from the end of April to the first days of May).If you are looking for a place to enjoy spring to the fullest this Golden Week, check out these flower beds and parks that have its peak viewing season from late April onwards:1. Jupia Land Hirata’s Shiba-zakura Festival in Hirata Village   Date: Late April to Early May (2023: April 18-May 14) Location: 437 Yomogidadake, Yomogida Shinden, Hirata Village, Fukushima Pref. View Directions Entrance Fee: 500 yen. Discounts are available for groups of 15 people or more.Contrary to what the name may suggest, shiba-zakura flowers do not grow on trees!Shiba-zakura literally means ‘lawn cherry blossoms’, and these brightly-colored flowers cover the ground like a beautiful carpet when they bloom, typically between late April to mid-May.Every year, plenty of visitors enjoy a shiba-zakura festival at Jupia Land Hirata, a wide park in Hirata village, central Fukushima prefecture. The park also has an impressive hydrangea festival from late June to mid-July.2. Furoyama Park’s Yama-tsutsuji (Mountain Rhododendron) in Hanawa Town Date: Late April to Early May Location: 271-1 Sakuragi-cho, Hanawa, Hanawa Town, Fukushima Pref. View Directions Entrance Fee: Free  Azaleas are endemic in Japan, which means they can be found virtually everywhere. But few sights are as awe-inspiring as a mountain of orangey-red yamatsutsuji (known in English as Mountain Rhododendron)!Fun fact: This type of azalea strives in the sun, and grows beautifully in mountains like the one at Furoyama Park. This is a great place to hike along the beautiful flowers and take in the fresh mountain air.You can also rent a bicycle and cycle along the town! There are two places where you can rent your bike: the Michi-no-eki Hanawa Town Tourism Information Center (塙町観光案内所), where you can rent normal bicycles, and the Hanawa Town Community Plaza (塙町コミュニティプラザ) where you can rent either normal bicycles or electric assist bicycles.3. Mr Ueno’s Nanohana Flower Maze in Minamisoma City Date: Late April to Early May   Location: Kitasainoue-82 Haramachiku Kaibama, Minamisoma, Fukushima Pref. View Directions Entrance Fee: FreeThis flower maze, located in the coastal area of Fukushima, stands for more than just the advent of spring. Cultivated by a farmer who decided to plant flower fields in his hometown after losing his family to the tsunami in 2011, this field has become a beloved spot for children and a powerful symbol of Fukushima’s reconstruction.  You can visit the field on any day when the flowers are in bloom. Events are only on weekends and public holidays when the flowers are in bloom. Read more about Mr Ueno’s Nanohana Flower Maze here.  4. Japanese Wisteria Festival at the Ja no Hana Gardens (Motomiya City)   Date: Early to Late May for Japanese wisteria (other flowers/attractions at the park can be enjoyed from April to November) Location: 38 Motomiya Janohana, Motomiya City, Fukushima Pref. View Directions Entrance Fee: General Admission: 800 yen. Children: 400 yen. Discounts available for groups of 20 people or more.Japanese wisteria flowers bloom beautifully each year throughout the month of May at the Ja no Hana Gardens in Motomiya City. The gardens, which were initially opened during the Meiji period of Japanese history, also have interesting historical buildings you can visit (its Janohana mansion was named a registered tangible cultural property of Japan). With its many flower and tree varieties, the gardens can be enjoyed in any season.  Click here to read more about the Ja no Hana Gardens.5. Inawashiro Herb Garden in Inawashiro Town Date: From late April to the end of October Location: Listel Park, Kawageta, Inawashiro town, Fukushima pref. View Directions Entrance Fee: General Admission: 450 yen. Elementary school students: 300 yen. Discounts available for groups of over 15 people.This vast garden occupying over 100,000 square meters is any gardener’s dream, with different nature and landscape changes according to the seasons. Late April is the best season to see the fuchsia bougainvillea flowers in the indoor greenhouse area, while early to mid-May is the ideal time to see nanohana, shiba-zakura and tulips, among other flowers, in the outdoor area.  Check out our itineraries for more trip ideas in Fukushima prefecture!

    5 Dazzling Flower Parks to Visit During Golden Week in Fukushima
  11. Destination Spotlight

    Following Fukushima’s Footpath in Katsurao Village

    Japan is blessed with plenty of green areas where clear rivers and pristine forests are everyday sights. Such is the case of Katsurao (葛尾村), a rural mountain village, located between Namie Town and Tamura City, in the coastal area of Fukushima prefecture.Traversed by gushing rivers and gentle slopes, this village was the location of a footpath event held on a breezy day in early February, 2023. I joined the event, along with +70 participants, and I’d like to share how it went! But first…What’s a footpath event, you may ask?As part of something called the ‘Reconstruction Exploration Project’, Fukushima prefecture is developing footpaths (hiking trails) in towns and villages that were severely affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in 2011. These trails are designed alongside residents, who include some of their favorite local spots that they’d like visitors to see.By following footpaths, visitors and locals can come together to experience firsthand the reconstruction and revitalization of Fukushima, as well as discover the beautiful sights that each area has to offer!Katsurao Village’s Evacuation & RevitalizationDue to the nuclear accident, Katsurao village had to be entirely evacuated in 2011. Five years later, following decontamination work, the evacuation order was lifted for most of its districts, and in 2022, the entire village saw the end of the restrictions.As of today, over four hundred residents live in Katsurao. There is a restaurant, a convenience store, a traditional Japanese-style inn and other services, although businesses in the village remain few and far between, with dense woodlands and wide roads dominating the landscape.Katsurao’s FootpathWe began our walk under the early afternoon sun, our boots crunching on the snow-covered roads. At one point, the slope became steep and slippery, but we persisted all the way up to a beautiful shrine, which was well worth the climb. Myoken ShrineMyoken shrine's (妙見神社) light wooden structure contrasts beautifully against the dark woodlands in the background.Some participants stopped to pray at the shrine, while others rested or had some water. There was also a picnic table nearby where participants could sit and catch a break while breathing in the cool mountain air.Among the participants were some local celebrities and influencers, as well as editors from travel magazines.Katsurao Village Reconstruction Exchange Center Azalea We descended the slope and after a bit of walking came across a big, modern building that, in spite of looking strikingly new, seemed to fit its surroundings perfectly.This, I learned, is Katsurao Village’s Reconstruction Exchange Center Azalea. And it looks as beautiful and cozy inside as it does from outside!Here, you will find a souvenir shop that sells local crafts and snacks, and a cafe, as well as a vending machine for… sheep meat! (Katsurao’s specialty).That day, they were having a big Valentine’s Day sale for knitwear made in Katsurao.Lunch Time!We finally returned to the starting point, the lobby of “Midori-no-Sato Seseragi-So” (みどりの里せせらぎ荘) a Japanese-style inn and onsen resort. We were welcomed back with a warm homemade curry prepared by local chefs using herbs from the area. Needless to say, it was delicious, and the perfect way to end the hike.Itadakimasu!Shimi-Chan: The Star of the VillageI must admit that at first I thought Katsurao village’s mascot, ‘Shimi-chan’, was modeled after a peach, but it turned out I was very mistaken! (To my defense, I live in Fukushima City, and peaches are kind of a big deal here).‘Shimi-chan’, which you’ll see all over Katsurao, both in crossings, as well as in souvenirs, is modeled after...Shimi-mochi!a.k.a., the area’s delicacy. Shimi-mochi, as the name indicates, is a kind of ‘mochi’ (Japanese rice cake), but it is unique both in flavor and in the way it is prepared.  First, the mochi is hung outdoors during the winter months, so that it freezes and dries up (‘shimi-mochi’ means ‘frozen mochi’ in Japanese). The mochi is then soaked in water so that they regain moisture. The water is then drained, and the mochi rice cakes are cooked in a pan. Shimi-mochi is usually served warm and topped with a sauce. This time, we got to try shimi-mochi with a sweet soy sauce which was absolutely delicious!The texture and flavor of the mochi was unlike any other I’ve tasted before. I’d recommend trying it yourself during your next visit to Katsurao village!Participants were given this towel. This deep green shade is dubbed ‘Katsurao green’, and it has an illustration of Akabeko (Fukushima prefecture’s folk red cow) drawn by ‘Meli et Malice’, a French illustrator based in Fukushima. I was thrilled that I got to keep it as a souvenir! If you’re interested in following this footpath, check out the following link where you can find more information.If you’re interested in knowing more about Fukushima’s footpath, check out this post about hiking in the Miyakoji area of Tamura City.<iframe src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d50643.46579429731!2d140.72563751329045!3d37.50280895868981!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x60208c815aeb546d%3A0x90a44d09df53b9a6!2sKatsurao%2C%20Futaba%20District%2C%20Fukushima!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sjp!4v1692338203672!5m2!1sen!2sjp" width="600" height="450" style="border:0;" allowfullscreen="" loading="lazy" referrerpolicy="no-referrer-when-downgrade"></iframe>

    Following Fukushima’s Footpath in Katsurao Village
  12. Useful Information

    2023 Cherry Blossom Full Bloom Forecast & Spots in Fukushima

    Update (2023/03/14): This article was originally published in February 2023. Cherry blossoms are blooming earlier than expected this year, so most of the dates that were originally included in this article are inaccurate as per current predictions. Please find the updated dates (as of March 14, 2023) in red. Fukushima prefecture is the ultimate cherry blossom destination—home to Miharu Takizakura, said to be one of the oldest waterfall sakura trees in Japan, and the idyllic Hanamiyama Park in Fukushima City, a park on a hill with countless varieties of flower trees and shrubs, to name only two of its most famous spots. Miharu Takizakura in Miharu Town. Photo: (株)三春まちづくり公社 When to See Cherry Blossoms in Fukushima Hanamiyama Park in Fukushima City You may have heard (or experienced) that the cherry blossom season is painstakingly short. The blooming period typically lasts for about two weeks—flowers usually reach full bloom about a week after blossoming and keep blooming only for an additional week. Ozawa Sakura in Tamura City Fukushima prefecture boasts a long sakura season, however, with flowers sprouting along the prefecture from late March to early May. How Cherry Blossoms Bloom in Fukushima Cherry blossom tunnel at Sakura Hill in Dake Onsen Although the exact dates vary by year, cherry blossoms are known to bloom in an ‘m’ shape across Fukushima prefecture.  The coastal area, on the east side, sees the first blossoms between late March and early April, going from South to North. Next, flowers start sprouting in the central and western areas from North to South. The last blossoms can be seen sometime up until mid-May in South-West Aizu. Sakuratoge Pass in Kitashiobara Village For more information about how sakura blooms in Fukushima, please refer to this guide. Because it is best to see sakura in full bloom (or near full bloom), we recommend picking destinations according to the dates you have available.  2023 Forecast Dates Per Area Yonomori Sakura in Tomioka Town It is difficult to predict the exact date when cherry blossoms will bloom, as weather conditions in the prior weeks and months directly affect when the blooming starts and for how long it lasts. But there are ways to know a rough estimate. The following information is based on the website of the Japan Meteorological Corporation “Sakura Navi” (please note, however, that this is simply a forecast and actual blooming dates may vary).   As of February 2023, here are the projected dates for cherry blossoms in different areas of Fukushima in 2023 (Dates in red are as of March 2023): Coastal Area Iwaki City: Early April (Late March) Soma City: Early to Mid-April (Early April) Central Area Fukushima City: Early to Mid-April (Early April) Koriyama City: Mid-April (Early to Mid-April) Shirakawa City: Mid-April (Early to Mid-April) Aizu Area Aizu-Wakamatsu City: Mid to Late April (Mid-April) Yanaizu Town: Mid to Late April Full Bloom Forecasts Per Area The flowers are most beautiful when in full bloom, and for a few days to a week later. Cherry blossoms in Inawashiro Town Here are the Japan Meteorological Corporation's 'Sakura Navi' estimated dates for full bloom in Fukushima in 2023 (forecast as of mid-February; actual blooming dates may vary depending on future temperatures and the weather). Coastal Area’s Sakura Spots Full Bloom Forecast for 2023 (Dates in red are updated as of March 2023) Iwaki Flower Center (Iwaki City): April 5 (March 30) Miyukiyama Park (Iwaki City):  April 5 (March 29) Matsugaoka Park (Iwaki City): April 7  (April 1) Soma Odaka Shrine (Minamisoma City): April 8 (March 31) Tenjin Misaki Sports Park (Naraha Town): April 11 (April 5) Baryo Park (Soma City): April 11 (April 3) Cherry blossoms at Soma Odaka Shrine in Minamisoma City Central Area’s Sakura Spots Full Bloom Forecast for 2023 (Dates in red are updated as of March 2023) Hanamiyama Park (Fukushima City): April 9* (April 3)* Kasumigajo Castle Park (Nihonmatsu City): April 12 (April 6) Komine Castle (Shirakawa City): April 12 (April 6) Kaiseizan Park (Koriyama City): April 12 (April 6) Fujita River Fureai-Zakura (Koriyama City): April 14 (April 7) Natsui Senbon-Zakura (Ono Town): April 20 (April 16) Although it is difficult to predict the exact date as of yet, Miharu Takizakura is expected to be in full bloom in early to mid-April.  *Hanamiyama Park has different varieties of cherry blossom trees, each blooming at different times. More information here. Heidodan Cherry Tree in Miharu Town Aizu Area’s Sakura Spots Full Bloom Forecast for 2023 (Dates in red are updated as of March 2023) Tsurugajo Castle (Aizu-Wakamatsu City): April 16 (April 11) Miyagawa Senbon-Zakura (Aizu-Misato Town): April 17 (April 13) Yunokami Onsen Station (Shimogo Town): April 19 (April 15) Enzoji Temple (Yanaizu Town): April 20 (April 17) Kannonji-gawa River (Inawashiro Town): April 27 (April 24) Tenkyodai Showa-No-Mori Park (Inawashiro Town): May 7 (May 5) Although it is difficult to predict the exact date as of yet, the Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossom is expected to be in full bloom around mid-April. Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossoms in Kitakata City For information about hanami spots, itineraries, and more visit our section Spring in Fukushima. Cherry blossoms at Yunokami Onsen Station in Shimogo Town (close to Ouchi-juku) The information contained in this post is a rough forecast based on the information provided on the Japan Meteorological Corporation’s website ‘Sakura Navi’ as of February 2023 (dates in red are updated as of March 2023). Actual blooming dates may vary depending on future temperatures and the weather. To access the latest information about the status of cherry blossoms in Fukushima in 2023, visit Japan Meteorological Corporation’s website Sakura Navi (the website is in Japanese but you can change the language to English from the drop-down menu).   Arakawa Sakura Tsuzumi River Park in Fukushima City

    2023 Cherry Blossom Full Bloom Forecast & Spots in Fukushima
  13. Destination Spotlight

    Following Fukushima’s Footpath: Miyakoji Area in Tamura City

    Miyakoji (都路) is a peaceful village located in the Eastern part of Tamura City (田村市), in the central area of Fukushima prefecture. It is said that walking in nature helps you feel more relaxed, and walking around Miyakoji in early January definitely had that effect.The charms of Tamura CityOzawa Sakura in Tamura City. Photo credit: Tamura City, 田村市Once the snow melts, what is known as the ‘green season’ begins. That is when the cherry blossom trees and flower fields in Tamura City see most of their yearly visitors. Lavander in Takine area, Tamura City「Photo credit: Tamura City, 田村市」Tamura City is also home to the Abukuma Cave, said to have the greatest variety and the largest number of stalactites in the whole of Asia.The Miyakoji area in Tamura is lush with vegetation. In the past, the silkworm industry flourished in Miyakoji. As a remnant of this, mulberry trees remain.Mt. Gojyunin-yama, Miyakoji area. Photo credit: Tamura City, 田村市In Miyakoji, particularly, there’s a famous tall weeping tree called “akimoto no shidare-zakura”.Cherry blossom trees can also be found along the main street, and, in spring, visitors can enjoy both the green mulberry trees and pink cherry blossom trees.Miyakoji’s EvacuationLocated about 40 km away from the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Miyakoji became the only area in the city of Tamura that had to be evacuated following the nuclear disaster in 2011.The evacuation order was lifted on April 1, 2014. Among the towns in Fukushima that had to be evacuated, Miyakoji is one of the few where most of the original residents have returned. Over ten years after the 2011 disaster, today Miyakoji has over two thousand residents, a convenience store, a hotel, and a few restaurants. A Picturesque Red-Roofed TownThe first thing that caught my eye about Miyakoji are its red-tiled Japanese-style houses. Is it a coincidence, I wondered, that there are so many buildings with glossy dark red-tiled roofs in Fukushima, something I had rarely seen in other areas of Japan? (By the way, Tsurugajo Castle in the Aizu area is the only red-tiled roofed castle in Japan.)Although I haven’t found a conclusive answer to the mystery of the red-tiled roofs in Fukushima, the widespread theory I found online is that the red color is due to a glaze applied on the tiles to prevent them from freezing and cracking when snow piles up during winter.Little Beautiful Sights in MiyakojiA Buddhist temple, statues and a large bell. The bell is a replica, as the original one was apparently lost during World War II.Jizo, affectionately called ‘ojizo-san’ in Japanese, are stone Buddha statues dressed in red bibs and caps. These statues are believed to be guardians of children and travelers, and can often be found even in remote rural locations.An unattended vegetable stand is one of the sights truly unique to rural Japan. You can buy local vegetables and pay the fee by leaving the money in the designated area.Miyakoji is rural and tranquil. The air is pure and the river flows bright blue.The Mysteriously Beautiful Okame ShrineJapan has countless shrines; some of them see crowds of visitors from all over the country and overseas, while others are visited mainly by locals. Okame shrine (大亀神社), despite its incredibly photogenic and mysterious appeal, falls in the latter category; it is a place of worship that remains quiet and undisturbed.The shrine is located on a hill in the heart of a forest of Japanese cypress trees called Thujopsis. Both the shrine and the trees are believed to be over 400 years old. To reach the shrine, you have to climb up the stairs and venture into the fragrant forest. You’ll notice birds chirping and beams of light coming through the tall tree trunks. The roof of Okame shrine is red but it looks beautiful covered in snow.This shrine is said to worship Princess Tamayori, the daughter of a sea goddess. Why is a sea goddess enshrined in the middle of a forest, considerably far from the ocean, you may ask?That is one of the many mysteries of this shrine.Fostering Community Bonds: Yoriai-dokoro Hana Community Center & CafeYoriai-dokoro Hana (よりあい処 華) was opened in June 2014 after the evacuation order for Miyakoji was lifted. At the time, there were no other restaurants in Miyakoji, so this cafe and community center quickly became a place for returning residents to gather and a pillar of support for the community.Yoriai-dokoro Hana is located at a traditional Japanese house, and it serves warm meals using local ingredients. This seems like a great place to bond with the locals. When I visited, there was an exhibition of handicrafts made by townspeople. Yoriai-dokoro Hana is open from 11:00 to 14:00 only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.Photo credit: Tamura City, 田村市Curious about visiting Miyakoji? Would you like to see more beautiful sights in this area?Traveling to Miyakoji by carIt takes approximately an hour to reach Miyakoji from Koriyama station (see route).Traveling to Miyakoji by public transportationFrom Koriyama Station, take the JR Ban-etsu East Line train bound for Iwaki, and get off at Funehiki Station (approx. 25 minutes). From the bus stop in front of Funehiki Station (船引駅前) take a “Furumichi” (古道) bus and get off at Miyakoji Administrative Bureau (都路行政局) (approx. 52 minutes). There are only a few buses a day, so be sure to check the bus schedule before your visit.<iframe src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d50697.2045773572!2d140.7509628626667!3d37.42351238629868!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x6020f3c6946beca7%3A0xa477d29a6d2f3782!2sMiyakojimachi%20Furumichi%2C%20Tamura%2C%20Fukushima%20963-4701%2C%20Japan!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1692338315197!5m2!1sen!2sus" width="600" height="450" style="border:0;" allowfullscreen="" loading="lazy" referrerpolicy="no-referrer-when-downgrade"></iframe>

    Following Fukushima’s Footpath: Miyakoji Area in Tamura City
  14. Useful Information

    Guide to Visiting the Famous Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint

    Tadami Line has fully resumed operations on October 2022 after 11 years, and it’s only natural that the interest in seeing the world-famous Tadami River Bridge No. 1 Viewpoint (第一只見川橋梁ビューポイント), also known as Daiichi Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint, is rapidly increasing.Taking a look at the beautiful photographs that can be taken there, it is easy to understand why people all around the world have fallen for this picturesque area.Getting to the viewpoint can seem quite daunting, so we’ve created this guide on how and when to visit the Tadami River Bridge!VISITING VIA PUBLIC TRANSPORTThe Tadami River Bridge No. 1 Viewpoint is a few minutes’ walk from Ozekaido Mishima-juku Michi-no-Eki (道の駅尾瀬街道みしま宿), a roadside station known simply as ‘Mishima-juku’ (みしま宿), which sells omiyage  (souvenirs), snacks, and light meals. See here for a map of Mishima-juku. Mishima-juku opens daily at 8:00am.

    Guide to Visiting the Famous Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint
  15. Useful Information

    Kimono Experience in Ouchi-juku

    On a clear autumn morning, I stepped out in a bright purple kimono, tabi socks, and wooden sandals, my hair up in a pink flower kanzashi hairpin and a cloth purse in hand. The sky looked sparkling blue in the quiet town of Ouchi-juku, located between the mountains of the Japanese countryside.What happened next was unforgettable.The Start of my Ouchi-juku Kimono Experience“Kimono is for everyone”, the kimono specialist assured me. Few garments are as universal and inclusive.Sunlight was timidly spilling into the room through the translucent paper windows when my kimono experience began.We were in a wide room parched with tatami floors, warming up close to a heater. First, using a kanzashi hairpin, she quickly and effortlessly arranged my hair. Next, it was time for me to pick my kimono.Kimono means ‘a thing to wear’ in Japanese and is a timeless item of clothing adaptable to different body types and designed to last for generations. I opted for a bright purple one that matched the fuchsia flowers on my hair. I put on white tabi socks and a black cloth bag with embroidered cherry blossoms. As a cat lover, I was delighted when the staff suggested I wear a white obi with pictures of cats.That kimono must have been worn by many before me. Kimono has no sizes and is a timeless piece. In the face of ultra-fast fashion (and its subsequent toll on the environment), this sustainable and inclusive garment has stood the test of time and remains as relevant as ever.Welcoming as it is, kimono does have its intricacies—for one, you need someone to fit you into it. The kimono specialist will answer all the questions you may have, as well as teach you a few local secrets to make your visit even more memorable. Booking a kimono experience brings you closer to Japanese culture in more ways than one.Stepping into the Past: Picture-perfect Ouchi-jukuOuchi-juku is an old town preserved to look exactly the way it did 300 years ago. With rows of thatched roof handcraft shops and restaurants, no cars nor electricity poles on the streets, and little streams shushing along the road, it is a postcard-like gem hidden between the mountains of the Aizu region.Either people in Ouchi-juku are extremely welcoming or the kimono was truly special because people would go out of their way to compliment me or even ask to take my picture. Elderly ladies tending for the shops would greet me with a broad smile and a friendly “kawaii, desune!” (‘You look very cute!’).It was a lovely way to connect with everyone—the flowery kimono helped start many warm conversations.A Taste of Aizu Samurai’s Soul FoodsIt finally was time to sit down for a meal.If you visit Ouchi-juku, make sure to build up some hunger and indulge in local specialties.This is what I ordered and would recommend you try it! Takatosoba (高遠そば) is Ouchi-juku’s signature dish: buckwheat noodles served with grated radish soup and eaten with a green onion. The radish used in this dish is called azagi daikon and grows naturally in the Aizu mountains. It smells as tangy as it tastes. What makes this dish unique is that you eat it with a green onion instead of chopsticks or a spoon.     Nishin no sanshosuke (にしんの山椒漬)is pickled herring with sansho (Japanese pepper). The herring was buttery soft and marinated in soy sauce. The Japanese pepper leaves on top had a strong but refreshing taste. Kozuyu (こづゆ) is a staple dish of the region, said to have been a favorite of the Aizu samurai. It is made up of a hearty scallop broth, fish cakes, carrots, konjac noodles, and gluten croutons. This delicately presented dish is wonderful to warm up during cold days. Sweet soybean flour-flavored tochimochi (栃もち・きな粉) was my personal favorite. These two chewy, warm, and powdery mochi were perhaps the best I have had in over four years that I have been living in Japan. Each bite had just the right amount of sweetness, with the sweet soy flour kinako powder sprinkled on top leaving behind an almond-like aftertaste.  An Iconic View of Ouchi-juku The best view of Ouchi-juku can be found after a short walk through the main street towards the shrine. Climb up the stone stairs and you will find yourself in front of a famous photo spot overseeing the traditional kominka houses, mountains stretching out in the background.Despite its striking beauty, this town remains quiet and rarely sees crowds, making it perfect for visitors who enjoy taking their time to explore places off the beaten path.After looking through the pictures of that day, I noticed that the prints of kimono look even more vivid against the backdrop of Ouchi-juku’s earthy hues. Strolling through such a well-preserved historical site in a kimono was a one-in-a-lifetime experience.If you would like to wear a kimono in Ouchi-juku, read more about the Ouchi-juku Kimono Experience, which includes a two-hour stroll in a kimono, matcha, and sweets at a traditional tea house, and entry to the townscape exhibition hall where you can learn more about the way of life way back then at Ouchi-juku.

    Kimono Experience in Ouchi-juku
  16. Useful Information

    Hiking in Oze National Park

    The vast wild space of the national park covers vast areas of Fukushima, Gunma, Niigata, and Tochigi Prefectures. Boasting a diverse environment of marshlands, lakes, and mountains where plants and wildlife can flourish. A wooden boardwalk allows you to walk through nature without disturbing and small wildlife that may be hiding in the tall grass or harming the fragile marshlands.When to visit?Visitors primarily come from mid-May to late-October, outside of these months, the area is blanketed with deep snow.In spring and summer, various wildflowers grow in the fields and the marsh, creating a lovely atmosphere of vibrant greens and bright-colored flowers. In Autumn, the grass turns golden brown and autumn flowers bloom, my favorite was a deep purple flower. Some more adventurous explorers have visited in the winter months, however, I would recommend against doing so unless you have the proper skills, permit, and guide. Facilities are also closed during the winter months.Beginner friendly: Hike to Lake Ozenuma (6.4 km roundtrip)The short hike to Lake Ozenuma takes you through a deep forest where shadows may keep patches of snow and ice frozen even in the late spring and early summer months. The cool shade of the trees is refreshing but may be cold, so I would suggest bringing warmer layers.Once you reach the first marsh area you will be greeted with incredible views of Mt. Hiuchi (Hiuchigatake) in the distance, and as you walk you will start to see Lake Ozenuma as well. The lakeside views of the water are incredible as well as the various plants that are growing along the water. Keep an eye out for animals as you may catch a glimpse of them in and around the water.Overlooking Lake Ozenuma, you’ll find the Oze National Park visitors center, as well as a shop, restaurant, and guesthouses that operate here. Snacks, souvenirs, and even alcoholic beverages can be purchased here, so while you will definitely want to pack snacks, you should be able to buy more here!It’s a very relaxing place to spend time so I would suggest planning to have time to spend here for lunch and relaxing. After which you can choose to head back, or continue hiking if you are able to spend a night or so in one of the lodges or mountain huts in the park.Stay the night! If you want to continue hiking past Lake Ozenuma, then I recommend booking a stay at one of the lodges or mountain huts. When I visited during the Autumn hiking season, I stayed a night at the Chozo Hut (built in 1915!) and had a marvelous time.The weather was much colder, but a wood-burning stove kept us warm, and there were a variety of books and games to keep us entertained.This Lodge is run by the descendants of one of the first pioneers who ventured into the wilderness that is today known as Oze National Park. That pioneer, Chozo Hirano, fell in love with the incredible natural landscape and set up a small cabin along the side of Lake Ozenuma.A bit of history of conservationMore than 130 years ago Chozo Hirano at 19 years old discovered the beauty of the area. In 1890, at 20 years old, he built a small hut near the water where he would spend a lot of time basking in the natural wonder of the area. This hut was later moved and rebuilt a bit bigger in 1915, creating the modern-day Chozo Hut that could accommodate more visitors, allowing Chozo to share his love of the area with more nature enthusiasts who would come to appreciate the incredible nature.Some years later a project to build a dam in the park premises was proposed. This would spoil large parts of the environment that wildlife depended on for survival. Chozo and his fellow nature enthusiast fought against this proposal.Thanks to the efforts of Chozo Hirano and other conservationists, the Oze Conservation Association was formed in 1949. Through their efforts, the natural area was preserved and Oze National Park was created!In the 1950s the placement of wooden boardwalks began in an effort to prevent visitors from harming the soft marshland areas.Today the diverse wildlife and plant life flourish in the park as much of the national park has been left untouched by people.Geological HistoryThe geological history of Oze National Park can be traced back 2 million years when the Oze area was just a plateau. Over time, the plateau became mountainous, the highest peak Mt. Hiuchi (Hiuchigatake) is located in the portion of the park that lies within the Fukushima Prefectural border and can be seen from Lake Ozenuma.Mt. Hiuchi (Hiuchigatake) is not only the highest peak in the park today (at 2,356m), but it is also the most recent to erupt. Recent being a relative term, since we are talking about an eruption that took place some 350,000 years ago or so. Lava flow interrupted some rivers in the area which led to the formation of Lake Ozenuma!The flow of rivers in the area continued to change over time which created the unique wetland landscape that is one of the largest of its kind in Japan.Oze MarshlandA layer of peat that is as thick as 5 meters in some places is thought to have formed over the course of 6000 to 8000 years!What is peat you may ask? It is essentially a mix of soil and an accumulation of plant life that never fully decomposed due to cold temperatures and humidity. If you enjoy whiskey that has a slightly smoky flavor, then you may be familiar with peat and some of its many uses. The peat as well as all other natural features of Oze National Park are protected, so don’t try to take any home with you!To avoid damaging the environment, be sure to stay on the wooden boardwalk trails.Hot Tip:The nearby Hinoemata Village is home to the incredibly unique tradition of Hinoemata Kabuki! Click here to learn more. Oze Eats:While you are in the area be sure to try some of the delicious foods you can try! The soba noodles in Hinoemata Village are incredible, and if you are feeling adventurous, go try this unique ice cream topped with a local favorite: dried salamander (at Mini Oze Park)!! Yum!  

    Hiking in Oze National Park
  17. Useful Information

    Heroes and Kaijyu Adventures in Japan

    Inside each of us, there is a struggle.Call it what you want:Light vs. Dark... Good vs. Evil... Hero vs. Kaijyu...There comes a day when you must decide, which are you?I visited Sukagawa City in Fukushima prefecture to delve into this concept a bit more.Why Sukagawa City?Sukagawa City is the hometown of Tsuburaya Eiji, the creator of Ultraman and a co-creator of Godzilla. He came to be known as the “Father of Tokusatsu,” or, the “Father of Japanese special effects.” His post-war work on the Godzilla film of 1954 brought him international success which allowed him to create more science fiction films featuring different monsters, or kaijyu, as well as the internationally popular Ultra-series!Today, Tsuburaya Eiji’s legacy lives on in his hometown where his heroes and monsters roam the streets!With this in mind, we set off on our adventure!Eating our heroes...You are what you eat? Or are you conquering the enemy by eating them? You decide…My first stop was the Tamakiya Bakery in Sukagawa City where you will find a wonderful family-owned and operated small business. Decorated with Ultraman-related memorabilia. The creativity of the (now adult) kids of the family shines through in the various Ultraman and Kaijyu-related breads and cookies! Each one is absolutely delicious.I recommend stocking up for your adventure, if there is one thing that heroes and kaijyu have in common, it is that they must eat to stay strong and battle ready!I ate a Kanegon chocolate bread, and suddenly the money in my pocket started looking like a.. snack?? Kanegon is a kaijyu who is known to eat money! Oh no, have I absorbed his powers? It’s impossible to say. Somehow, I managed to contain my dark urges. Doing some researchSuddenly it became clear that there was a lot that I still don’t know about Ultraman and Kaiju.So, I walked over to the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum to conduct some important research. The museum has a lot of interesting information about Eiji Tsuburaya’s life and accomplishments, various kaijyu, heroes, and the filming of classic sci-fi and kaijyu-related movies.There is even an original Godzilla suit on display! As you walk around the room, you may feel the eyes of Godzilla following you. Perhaps he is eyeing you up, trying to decide if you are an ally, or a delicious snack. Please tread lightly.There is a video exhibit and an interactive exhibit that turns you into various Kaijyu and heroes. There is also a station where you can create your own original Kaijyu, unfortunately this exhibit is temporarily suspended, however, it will hopefully be up and running again soon. Having important discussions with IRL heroes and KaijyuWhen you walk the streets of Sukagawa, you’ll never walk alone.Kaijyu and Heroes line the streets causing trouble and cleaning up said trouble. I recommend stopping and having a chat with these monsters and heroes to get some diverse perspectives on good and evil.I sat and spoke with Kanegon for quite a while, and we even discussed our struggles with wanting to eat money. Channeling my hero energy Next, we stopped by the Sukagawa Enobori Yoshinoya Workshop to create an Ultraman banner.It was so cool to experience the use of these traditional banner-making techniques in a place with so much historical significance.As I admired my new Ultraman banner, I thought, maybe I am a hero after all. The final testNext, we headed over to the Sukagawa Tokusatsu Archive Center!Succumbing to my true nature and terrorizing a small town.Ultimately, the sight of an unprotected town brought out my worst instincts. I almost went full KAIJYU mode. Fortunately, my coworker is a hero, and he saved the town!After our battle, we explored the various miniature exhibits and classic special effects tools on display.We were also able to watch a short film and then a video about the special effects that were used to create that short film. It was really incredible, and made me want to try to make my own miniatures at home.If you are interested in sci-fi or classic special effects, then I highly recommend checking out the Sukagawa Tokusatsu archive center! You won’t be disappointed.Contact us through email or through our social media channels if you have any questions or need help planning a trip here!©円谷プロPublished 2022/06/10

    Heroes and Kaijyu Adventures in Japan
  18. Useful Information

    5 things to do in Aizu Misato Town

    1. Try out an Aizu Hongo pottery workshop!After all, Aizu Misato Town is best known for its pottery culture!I’ve never used a pottery wheel in my life, but the kind staff at Irori Pottery House was so helpful. The way to use the wheel was not only thoroughly explained to me, but he also gave me a full demonstration!It was so much fun making a cup on the pottery wheel! The staff made it look so easy, however, it was much harder than it looks!The shop is filled with beautiful pieces. https://fukushima.travel/destination/aizu-hongo-pottery-workshops/3222. Investigate the local pottery cultureBe sure to stop by the visitors’ center to learn more about the town and admire a variety of pottery that is on display in the museum area.The town has a rich history in pottery that dates back to the Warring States Period (1467 – 1615)!Aizu Hongo pottery is a local treasure and although it may not be a household name, pieces of Aizu Hongo pottery (known in Japanese as 'Hongo-yaki') can be found in museums around the world! Some pieces are more affordable and available for sale while some pieces are priceless, however, all are beautiful.During the warring states period, the leader of the Aizu Clan, Ujisato Gamo, ordered renovations be made to the nearby Tsurugajo Castle. The need to quickly produce a large number of ceramic tiles for the castle roof led to a surge in pottery production in the area with more than 100 kilns and craftspeople producing the tiles. Along with tiles, potters also crafted a wide variety of products and wares, honing their skills after years of training.Today there are only 13 kilns left in the area, and they are still producing ceramics and porcelain products today to preserve the oldest tradition of pottery in the Tohoku region. 3. Explore the area on a free rental bike!There are actually rental bikes here that you can use for up to 4 hours, for FREE! One of the bikes is an electrical assist bike, so if you are super interested in biking but your travel buddy is less so, then you can put them on the electrical assist bike and go exploring together!The bikes can be rented at the visitors’ center. 4. Check out the the Isasumi Shrine.The history of this shrine is thought to be connected to a 2000-year-old legend, detailed on the Isasumi Shrine page.The grounds of the shrine are shaded with large trees and quiet mossy paths. When I visited, the classic wooden structure was so beautiful against the summer greenery. There is a large Koi pond nearby that is also very relaxing to visit. I had a nice time feeding the koi fish. 5. Enjoy local cuisineThe area is particularly famous for having delicious soba noodles and sauce Katsudon dishes! I ordered the sauce Katsudon at a local diner and it was absolutely delicious. 

    5 things to do in Aizu Misato Town
  19. Useful Information

    Fishing at Aquamarine Fukushima

    I know what you’re thinking... Fishing?? At an aquarium?Well, this isn’t a typical aquarium.Aquamarine Fukushima is an Environmental Aquarium focused on research and providing educational information about sustainability and conservation.The aquarium is most well-known for its triangular tunnel that separates two large tanks that represent the part of the sea where two currents meet. The Oyashio current (home to a high degree of diversity and reef environments) and the Kuroshio current (home to fast-moving fish and wide open sea environments). This was my first time seeing large schools of fish moving together, and it was really mesmerizing!After getting hypnotized by the swirling school of fish, we headed over to the fishing pond to catch some lunch!At the fishing area, I was handed a rod and some bait. You pay (1000 yen) to use the rod, and then it is a small fee (100 yen) per fish you catch.The fish in the pond were really cute, so I was nervous about eating them. I love eating sushi but when confronted with a cute little fish swimming around, I start to think less with my stomach and more with my heart.I’ve never successfully caught a fish on my own, so I was shocked when I almost instantly felt a tug on the fishing pole. I pulled the rod up and suddenly there was a flopping fish in my hands!In the same way, I was able to quickly catch two more fish. So, one for me and each of my coworkers. You aren’t allowed to return any fish to the water, so be careful not to catch more fish than you can eat.Catching the fish here is pretty easy, so I think this is a great activity to try!Most of us have very little experience with fishing or hunting. When you source all of your food from the local grocery store, it can be hard to remember or come to terms with the fact that the meat we eat was once alive. Faced with a living fish, some visitors (mostly children) have broken the rules and released what they caught once no one was looking! However, rather than feeling sad about the fish, I channeled the mindset of gratitude towards the fish for providing me with life-sustaining nourishment. Thank you, fish friend!We carried the fish friends over to the cooking area, said a little goodbye, and handed them over to the chef. Quickly, the fish were swiftly prepared in front of us and cooked. A few minutes later, we were handed a plate of hot fish fry.They smelled really good. We said a heartfelt thank you, “itadakimasu,” and ate. The taste was so fresh and delicious. I have never eaten such fresh fish before, and my coworker and I agreed that the meat almost tasted more like fried chicken than fish. It felt good to know exactly where our food had come from.In order to consume consciously, it is good to remember to value the life of the creatures that we eat.By keeping our oceans clean, we can honor the lives of sea animals. After we ate, we walked around a bit more and took a look at some of the exhibits. One had a lot of information about beach cleanups and efforts that the aquarium is making to stay environmentally conscious which I hope you will check out if you visit!It was a lot of fun visiting Aquamarine Fukushima, and I hope that you will consider visiting!

    Fishing at Aquamarine Fukushima
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    7 Ways to Enjoy the Goshiki-numa Ponds

    1. Rent a boat for a unique perspective!At one of the ponds there is a small boat house where you can rent a row boat to explore the water up close and personal! The vibrant color of the water is beautiful and so fun to paddle around. If you paddle over to the banks of the pond, you can relax on the water beneath the shade of low-hanging branches and listen to the birds singing.Please note: Boat services are not available in the winter months due to ice and snow.2. Locate the koi fish of loveLiving in the main pond is a very special koi fish, the koi fish of love? This is a special koi fish with a heart-shaped spot on its side. Some believe that if you see this fish then you will have good luck in love. So if you’re having trouble landing a date, maybe it’s time to come search for this mysterious koi fish!3. Hike the trailIf you are the adventurous type, then I recommend exploring the trail around the Goshiki-numa ponds to get a look at more of the lakes and ponds in the area. There are many dotted around the area, all formed sometime after the eruption in 1888. There is a spectacular 3.6 km walking route that takes about 70 minutes to complete and wanders through the forest, taking you to see some of the different vibrantly colored bodies of water in the area.If you are visiting in winter, you should look into a snow-shoe trekking tour. They are a lot of fun, but be sure to bring some warm clothes! 4. Ponder the Geological History of the areaIf you look in the distance your will see the back side of Mt. Bandai, however, only the trained eye will be able to notice the remaining evidence of the massive eruption that occurred in 1888. Mt. Bandai is actually a type of volcano! Prior to the eruption, the area around the Goshiki-numa ponds was an area covered with rivers and streams. The eruption greatly altered the surrounding area, including forming the Goshiki-numa lakes and ponds, as well as sinking an entire village! If you are interested in the geology of the area, I recommend a quick visit to the Mt. Bandai Eruption Memorial Museum. Thankfully various tools are used to predict volcanic eruptions here, so you don’t need to worry about that when visiting! 5. Enjoy a pond-colored ice cream!If you like weird foods, or have a sweet tooth, I recommend trying the pond-colored Goshiki-numa ice cream. The vibrant blue ice cream is made using frozen water from the ponds, the unique minerals create an interesting taste. (Just Kidding) The ice cream does not contain any water from the ponds, it is flavored like a lightly salted vanilla. It’s delicious and great for photos!6. Visit during your favorite season! Goshiki-numa has something different and special to offer depending on the season. In late April or early May you can catch a glimpse of some wild cherry blossoms. In summer the vibrant green colors will wow you! In autumn the contrast of the warm autumn leaves and the cool colored ponds is breathtaking. Finally, in winter the bright white snow makes the vibrant color of the ponds really pop!7. Take it slowIf this all sounds a bit too active for you, then I recommend grabbing some snacks or a coffee at the food stand and sitting at one of the benches to admire the scenery at a more leisurely pace. The air here is very fresh and relaxing, so it is a really great place to sit and just be calm for a little while, especially in the mornings.Published 2022/05/12

    7 Ways to Enjoy the Goshiki-numa Ponds
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    6 Things to Do at the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai School

    I visited the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan, originally established in 1803. This was a large and prestigious school where the children of samurai families were sent at the age of ten to learn both academics and physical discipline. Today it is a large interactive museum where you can participate in many of the activities that the students here would have practiced back in the day. So, for anyone interested in history, culture, or anything samurai, I highly recommend a visit! Even if you do not know much about the history, there are lots of interactive group activities that you can enjoy with friends and family.A school for samurai or a Japanese school for wizards? 1. Walk around the school groundsWalking through the front entryway, the beautiful architecture and vastness of the school will immediately draw your attention. The property covers something like 26,500 square meters, making it as large as some modern-day universities. It feels like a Japanese school for wizards and it is so fun to get lost in your imagination as you wander around the grounds.The architecture throughout the complex is beautiful, and there are even the remains of an astronomical observatory where students could have studied the stars.2. Check out the oldest swimming pool in Japan!The first thing that drew my attention was a large pool of water, which is actually Japan’s oldest swimming pool! Today, you can see koi fish swimming peacefully in the water, however, this was once a place when samurai-in-training would wear weighted practice armor and swim while practicing battle moves. This was to train them in the case of a mid-battle river or moat crossing. Swimming was always my favorite subject so I asked a staff member if visitors could swim here, and unfortunately the answer was no. It’s too bad, but I probably wouldn’t have lasted long trying to swim in weighted armor... Maybe it is better this way! My disappointment evaporated when we walked over to the archery course.3. Try out Japanese archery or “Kyūdō”The archery course is shaded by a classic-style wooden roof, and there are a variety of classic Japanese-style bows to practice with. There is a lot of space to sit and watch your friends and see who can hit the target the best. Even if you come alone, the male and female archery teachers are really kind and will give you lots of pointers and advice.Japanese archery is called Kyudo, and has a rich history! Archery in Japan dates back to pre-historic times with images of long-bow-wielding Japanese people first appearing in the Yayoi period which lasted between 500 BC to 300AD. Sometime during the Edo period (1603-1868) the name “Kyūdō” was coined to refer to the martial art of Japanese archery. Kyūdō was commonly used in ceremonies, competitions, and festivals. Today, you can still see Kyūdō events in festivals around Japan.It’s a lot of fun, but it’s harder than it looks! Will you impress yourself and others with unexpected talent? Pricing is very reasonable, only a couple hundred yen (a couple of dollars) for a handful of arrows.4. Decorate some traditional crafts to take homeIf you want a relaxing activity to do, I recommend trying your hand at painting a traditional craft. The open-air craft space is cool in the shade, with an occasional breeze blowing through. You can even hear the songs of birds drifting in through the large open doorways.I painted an Akabeko and a set of Okiagari Koboshi dolls. Akabeko is a good luck charm that is thought to ward off illnesses, while Okiagari Koboshi are little dolls that represent perseverance as even when they are knocked over they stand up again. Both of these crafts are symbolic of Aizu and Fukushima spirit making them a great souvenir once you finish painting them!Learn more about Fukushima Local Crafts5. Learn the history by exploring the classroomsExploring the classrooms, you can get a sense of what it must have been like to live a day in the life of a student here. Students would begin attending from age 10 and continue till age 15, after which they would study etiquette, calligraphy, martial arts, and other subjects. Top students may have gone on to university for further studies.In some classrooms, you can see classrooms recreated as they would have looked to students so many years ago. Other classrooms are left open so that you can enter and even experience some classes that students here would have experienced such as meditation and tea ceremony.6. Become a student!If you visit with a party of at least ten, you can try out Japanese classes the traditional art of Zazen (Japanese Mediation) and Sadou (Japanese Tea Ceremony) which were also traditional cultural subjects that the samurai students would have studied back in the day. Combine this with archery and painting experiences to feel like a student for the day!Learn more about the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai SchoolContact us through email or on our social media channels if you have any questions or need help planning a trip here!Published 2022/05/11

    6 Things to Do at the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai School
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    Cycling in Kitakata City

    1. Renting a Bicycle in Kitakata City Kitakata is a small city full of hidden gems and local secrets! Wandering the streets of the city you will discover traces of the city’s history as a Japanese warehouse or “Kura” town. You will see many unique and distinctive buildings around town. These unique gems are dotted around a large area that is difficult to fully experience in a day on foot or by car, so I highly recommend renting a bike to get the most out of your trip! Option 1: Garden Hotel Kitakata This is a hotel that offers bicycle rentals to guests for free and non-guests for a small fee, the hotel is a short walk from Kitakata Station. A typical bike rental will cost 1000 yen, while an electric assist bike will run you 1500 yen. There are 3 electric assist bikes and 5 regular bikes. During the spring season, bicycle reservations are not accepted in order to give hotel guests priority, however, the bikes are first come first serve, so arriving early in the morning will give you a better chance of securing a bicycle. Staying the night here is another great way to help you secure your chances of renting a bike.If you are arriving by car, the hotel has a free parking lot for guests, so, if there is space available, bicycle renters can request permission to park here.     Option 2: Akutagawa This is a small local business/gift shop that also rents out bicycles. Located immediately in front of Kitakata Station, this a very convenient place to rent. There are only “mamachari” style bicycles (no electric assist bicycles) and the number of bikes is roughly seven, however the cost of daily rental is only 500 yen making it a great deal. Reservations are accepted over the phone in any bicycle friendly season, however staff only speak Japanese so it may be a good idea to ask for help from a Japanese speaker when making a reservation.     2. Cycling the Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossoms path The Nicchu Line is a gorgeous 3km long stretch of path that is lined with weeping cherry blossoms. Roundtrip, the journey can be as long as 6km! So, most people only manage to see half of the cherry blossoms before they turn around, or exhaust themselves from walking. However, if you are cycling you will be able to maintain your energy so can enjoy a full day in Kitakata and see all that the city has to offer!! Cycling through the trees, you will need to watch out for low hanging branches and also pedestrians. The middle kilometer or the trail tends to be really crowded with people taking photos, Fortunately, there are parallel streets so that if you want to go fast you can and enjoy the cherry blossoms while you zoom by the crowds to stop at your favorite trees. The first and third kilometers are much less crowded so you should be able to cycle between the trees without worrying about a crowd. Click here for more information about the Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossoms. ( https://fukushima.travel/destination/nicchu-line-weeping-cherry-blossom/51 )     3. Grab a snack from a street vendor As you zoom along the trail you are sure to notice various street vendors. Food trucks, local famers’ stalls, festival style food, and more! At one point of the trail I even spotted an older couple who had a long extension cord coming from their garage so that they could sell cold drinks from their fridge to people on the street. We love to see the hustle! But seriously, I hope that you will check out some of these little street vendors and chat with the local people. I stopped at an asparagus farmers stall and bought some of her locally grow asparagus to take home and cook. They were SO delicious. Then I stopped at another stall to buy some sakura flavored “Karintou” snacks. Also, delicious! Finally, my coworker and I spotted a place with mini daifuku (rice cakes) and tea, so we stopped to sit and drink some tea have a sweet snack and people watch in front of the cherry blossoms. Although a quick snack will help you find the energy to cycle up and back the entire path, make sure you take the time to enjoy a proper lunch!     4. Kitakata Ramen for Lunch We chose to try the local specialty, Kitakata Ramen! One of the top three ramen varieties of Japan, you can hardly say you’ve been to Kitakata City if you haven’t tried a delicious bowl of Kitakata Ramen! We went to Bannai Shokudo and had zero regrets! The ramen here is absolutely delicious, however sometimes there can be long lines. So I would also recommend Shokudo Hasegawa (https://fukushima.travel/destination/shokudo-hasegawa/286 ), or discover your own hole in the wall ramen restaurant. Although this is a relatively small city, there are over 100 ramen shops, this is a town that takes ramen seriously. If you choose to stay the night, I recommend trying the local culture of “Asa-Ra” which involves eating ramen for breakfast!     5. Makie Painting at the Kinomoto Lacquerware Store After filling up on a big bowl of ramen, I recommend relaxing with a calming indoor activity such as trying your hand at a makie painting experience at the Kinomoto Lacquerware Store. The Kinomoto Lacquerware Store is full of various pieces of lacquerware that are beautiful and long lasting. The tradition of makie painted lacquerware in Kitakata City has a rich history that goes back some 400 years! To draw attention to this local art form, the shop began offering painting experiences, so visitors can experience this beautiful and relaxing art form by painting designs and then dusting pigments onto the pieces. This is a fun activity and a great souvenir from your trip to Kitakata City. After you finish your masterpiece, I highly recommend taking a look at the “Cats School” diorama upstairs which features lots of cute animal figures (mostly cats!) that are handmade from Paulownia wood and posed doing various cute things. The figures recreate nostalgic scenes of Japanese school life in a large model of a traditional Japanese school. The details are incredible and you can spend a good bit of time taking in each scene of little cat dolls enjoying a day at school. There is even a festival scene that is very cute! Photography is prohibited, so you have to see it to believe it. The display is free to see, so I highly recommend checking it out if you are nearby.     6. Okuya Peanut Factory for desert After trying your hand at painting, you may want something sweet, conveniently located just across the street from Kinomoto is the Okuya Peanut Factory. The shop makes a variety of sweets using Aizu-grown peanuts, my favorite is the peanut soft serve icecream. The chocolate covered version was absolutely fantastic, but of course, you can also get it without the chocolate topping in either a cup or a cone. I highly recommend visiting here if you’re craving a sweet treat! Click here for more information about the Okuya Peanut Factory. (https://fukushima.travel/destination/okuya-peanut-factory/287 )     Cycling around Kitakata city was so much fun! This is a pretty jam packed adventure day, but I hope this will inspire you to take a trip to Kitakata City and try exploring this unique city by bike! Thank you for reading, please contact us through our social media accounts or website if you have any questions while planning your next trip.

    Cycling in Kitakata City
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    People of Fukushima

    People of Fukushima Over ten years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster devastated people living along the coastline of the North Eastern region of Japan known as Tohoku. Despite the overwhelming love and support that poured in from around the world, the journey of grieving and overcoming this terrible set of circumstances must have been too great at the time to even imagine a brighter future. However, today when you visit Fukushima you’ll see people smiling, children laughing, and flowers blooming. The smiles on the faces of the people of Fukushima seem contrary to the hardships they’ve experienced… It makes one wonder, could this possibly be the same place? Through their smiles we can begin to understand the story of a people who have overcome difficult circumstances, and continue to stay optimistic and remain motivated to overcome anything that comes their way. In a relatively short time frame, recovery efforts have progressed greatly. This is largely thanks to the astounding motivation and hard work of local people whose love for their hometowns and communities is extremely touching. Although there is still work to be done, Fukushima is a wonderful prefecture that deserves more love and attention, so I hope that you will keep reading to learn more, and even consider visiting someday.     Tokyo Plus 90 Widely considered to be the gateway to the Tohoku region, Fukushima Prefecture is a land of rich history and abundant nature. It’s closer that you think, only 90 minutes from Tokyo! This remote prefecture may seem difficult to reach; however, you can get to Fukushima Station from Tokyo Station in only 90 minutes! From there you can access spectacular historic sights and experience the charms of rural Japan!   Time Travel? Experience the charms of ancient Japan by visiting the historic sights of Fukushima, many of which have maintained their structures for over 300 years! The Aizu region is the main sight-seeing area of Fukushima Prefecture thanks to the regions large number of preserved historical sights. There is also an abundance of hot springs, natural resources, and historical charm that draw in visitors. This is the area of Fukushima that experienced the least damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake.   Tsurugajo Castle in Aizu-Wakamatsu City The Tsurgajo Castle was burned to the ground when the age of the samurai came to a violent end after the events of the Boshin War. With great care, the castle was reconstructed from the rubble to honor the valiant warriors who gave their lives to defend the Aizu Clan and her borders. The original stone base tells stories of the past such as etchings of crosses that suggest the existence of Christian groups within the Aizu clan, a rarity at the time.   Visit the frozen castle of the Aizu samurai clan...   During the winter months, the red tinted tiles of the castle roof covered with snow combine with the striking white walls, making the castle appear to be made of ice and snow. A sight that must have been a great source of pride among the samurai citizens of Fukushima!   Ouchi-juku After vising the former castle town of Aizu-Wakamatsu city, we highly recommend a trip to the one of a kind Ouchi-juku! This beautifully preserved post town once served as a rest stop for samurai travelers who were required to make yearly pilgrimages to the capital of Edo (Modern day Tokyo) during the Edo period (1603-1868).     The town still retains its original thatched roof buildings and atmosphere. The charming local residents are friendly and love to chat with travelers! In fact, all of the inns, cafes, and restaurants are still locally owned and operated by the descendants of the people who lived here hundreds of years ago. Without the presence of modern shops and chain stores, you can feel totally immersed, making it feel as though you’ve slipped back in time.     Enjoy a cup of warm tea & a traditional snack while you soak up the atmosphere.   When you visit, be sure to try a freshly baked rice cracker as well as Ouchi-juku's specialty negi-soba! This fun noodle dish is eaten with a long green onion as a utensil. The streets are lined with different vendors serving up old fashioned Japanese snacks. With so many options, it’s tempting to try them all. Many vendors will offer you tea and a place to sit and soak in the atmosphere of the town. If they aren’t too busy they will almost certainly strike up a conversation with you, whether you speak Japanese or not. Ouchi-juku https://fukushima.travel/destination/ouchi-juku/11     The Suzuki Brewery in Namie Town Namie Town is located in the coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture known as the Hamadori area. This was one of the areas that suffered tremendous damage during the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Suzuki Sake Brewery used to operate a sake brewery in Namie Town's Ukedo district, this building was located steps from the sea and was physically destroyed by the tsunami wave.     This left the owner of the brewery without a home or a livelihood.   They managed to evacuate with the necessities of the brewery and after the disaster, the brewery was moved to Nagai City to the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture in October 2011 (the same year as the earthquake). Since then, they’ve continued to brew sake with the hope of preserving the traditional sake brewing techniques that had been developed by generations of brewers in Namie Town.     Finally, on March 20, 2021, the brewery was able to return to its hometown of Namie with the opening of a new brewery at the Namie Roadside Station. Here, visitors can watch the Suzuki brewers at work making their delicious sake. They even use locally grown rice to make some of their sake, with a focus on maintaining their hometown flavor.     At the Namie Roadside Station, you can visit the sake brewery and taste their freshly brewed sake. For visitors who don't drink sake, there is also a sake flavored soft serve ice cream that is absolutely delicious. The soft serve comes in a traditional wooden sake cup! Namie Roadside Station (https://michinoeki-namie.jp/)   Nature’s Candy These are “Anpo-gaki,” or semi-dried persimmons. This is a healthy and popular traditional sweet from Date City in Fukushima Prefecture. They are dried persimmons with a chewy outer layer and a sweet gelatinous textured interior that is absolutely incredible. The beautiful and distinct orange color (in addition to the superb taste) make it one of the most popular dried persimmon producers in Japan.     Anpo-gaki have a long history that dates back to the Edo period.   Even in ancient times Date City was widely known for its natural abundance of delicious fruits. People used to hang dried persimmons in the sun to preserve them for a longer period of time, the sight of persimmons hanging from private homes was common. However, persimmons lose their beautiful color in the intense light of the sun. So, after many years of careful research and creativity by the local people, they developed a special method of drying persimmons in shaded, open air rafters that help them to maintain their gorgeous orange color and grow in popularity.     When the disaster occurred, local farmers were unable to produce anpo-gaki for many years due to safety concerns. People were concerned that they would lose the tradition of drying persimmons. However, with time and immense efforts from local farmers, they were able to meet strict requirements that deemed the anpo-gaki safe for consumption. Even once the products were tested and found to be safe, due to rumors and fears of radiation, it was difficult to ship products. Finally, this year, we achieved our long-standing goal of exporting anpo-gaki! Anpo-gaki from Fukushima Prefecture are now available in Dubai. This is a huge achievement and mark of progress for farmers in Date city. Today, people in Date City continue to produce delicious Anpo-gaki while preserving their traditional techniques. Persimmon Paradise in Date City Blog https://fukushima.travel/blogs/persimmon-paradise-in-date-city/106   Fighting to preserve rural culture in a rapidly urbanizing Japan The man holding the camera is Mr. Hoshi Kenko. Born and raised in Kanayama Town in the Okuaizu region of Aizu Area, he spends roughly 300 days out of the year photographing his hometown. Thanks in part to his efforts, this beautiful area has become an increasingly popular spot to visit. In post-war Japan, when urban areas were expanding rapidly, many young people left their hometowns to work in bigger cities. This caused a decrease in the population of the Okuaizu region. This is something that has affected rural communities across Japan and has inspired a sense of crisis for some, including Mr. Hoshi.     Without action, there was fear that the tradition & beauty of the farming villages could be lost forever.   Using his own money, he took it upon himself to do anything he could to preserve the local traditions of coexisting with nature. Through his photography, he raised interest in the area. He also revived a once lost traditional Japanese-style river-boat ferry service known as the Mugenkyo Ferry or Mugenkyo no Watashi. Thanks to Mr. Hoshi and many other highly motivated people in the region, the culture of rural Fukushima is being preserved and the area is becoming more lively.   The Tadami Line photo by Kenko Hoshi   Still relatively undiscovered by foreign travelers, this is certainly a unique adventure. The views from the train are beautiful no matter the season, but the atmosphere is particularly romantic in winter. The Tadami Line's No.1 bridge viewpoint became famous in Taiwan and South East Asian countries when a photo of it began to circulate on social media. This incredibly scenic train line runs across the Aizu region and passes through many historic and beautiful areas.   photo by Kenko Hoshi   Part of the JR Tadami Line, which served as a lifeline for the local people was washed away by a major storm that hit the area in the summer of 2011. A bus route was established to complete the route with full restoration predicted to be completed by the end of this year, 2022.   Mugenkyo Ferry (Mugenkyo no Watashi) The ferry was named " misty gorge" or "Mugenkyo" because it was often shrouded in mist on summer mornings and evenings, creating a dream-like atmosphere. This (now restored) ferry service once connected the now abandoned village Sanzara Village in Kaneyama Town to the other side of the river some 50 years ago. Like private cars, ferry boats like these were used as a part of daily life in the area. Although the local people were very poor, they were creative & resilient. Due to volcanic activity, flooding, and landslides they had to relocate their village several times! Each time, however, they adapted and overcame their difficult situations. Continuing to choose a lifestyle that involved coexisting with nature. (https://fukushima.travel/destination/mugenkyo-no-watashi-river-crossing/96)     The mist enveloping the area is great for photographers, and visitors who want to get a glimpse back into the unique lifestyles of ancient Japan. Here you can glide across the emerald waters, and escape the noise and busyness of modern day life for a moment.   Aizu Lacquerware at Suzuzen Aizu Lacquerware is one of Japan's three major lacquerware styles. The history of Aizu Lacquerware dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573) when it was first used. The natural warmth of the wooden container combines with the soft texture of Aizu Lacquer to create a product that has been widely loved by people for generations.     Mr. Kosae Nakamura, pictured in the center of the photo, is a professional craftsman at Suzuzen, a lacquerware wholesale shop that was established in 1833. He creates lovely designs using “Makie” techniques that involve being finished using gold, silver, or colored dusted designs. Due to harmful rumors caused by the nuclear power plant accident, the number of tourists to Aizuwakamatsu City decreased for a while. Sales were lower, and he began to worry for his business and the preservation of Aizu Lacquerware. Despite this, Mr. Nakamura remained positive and explored new options     He thought that he could increase the awareness of maki-e and show others the value of lacquer-ware by teaching the techniques directly to the general public. So today if you visit Suzuzen, you can learn maki-e directly from a master craftsman! This is one way that the culture and traditions of Aizu are being carried into the future. Maki Painting Lacquerware Experience at Suzuzen https://fukushima.travel/destination/makie-painting-lacquerware-experience-at-suzuzen/283   These are just a few stories The Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster caused enormous damage in many ways, in many areas. In the coastal areas, many lost their loved ones, their homes, and their livelihood. Despite these circumstances, the people of Fukushima Prefecture have proven to be stronger than their challenge. By working together, people have rebuilt their communities and stepped forward into a brighter future. I want people to know about the real Fukushima Prefecture. I want people to learn about the real Fukushima Prefecture from the stories of those who live here. Each of us have our own small stories, and we will continue to create new stories together in Fukushima Prefecture. Of course, there are still some areas where people can't go home, but thanks to the support and understanding from people all over the world, each one of us has hope for the future. Thank you for supporting us, and cheering us on. If you are interested in learning more or supporting the people of Fukushima, please add Fukushima to your bucket list, come and experience this unique and often misunderstood Japanese Prefecture!  

    People of Fukushima
  24. Useful Information

    Experience Rice Planting in Fukushima, Japan!

    A land of mirrors... Driving around Fukushima in the springtime, you might think you’ve wandered into a world of mirrors. Vast rice paddies flooded with water reflect the mountains, sky, and any cars that travel by creating a beautiful scenery. Due to the hills and valleys, its common to see tiered rice paddies, something I never experienced in America!    What is rice farming REALLY like in Fukushima? Curious about the state of rice farming in Fukushima, I decided to visit a small rice farm run by Masakazu Suda in Iino-machi in Fukushima city to learn a bit more! Upon arrival Mr. Suda, Suda-san, took us into his conference room to talk a bit about his farm. He showed us several bags of rice that his farm had produced the previous year and told us a bit about his rice paddies.    Japanese style vs. American style Most of his rice paddies grow rice the ‘Japanese way’ by first growing the rice to a certain size, then removing and replanting that rice into neat, symmetric rows. This is a practice that takes some extra time and effort, but it allows rice farmers to produce large quantities of rice in smaller rice paddies. Apparently, rice farms in larger countries, like America, that have more space don’t bother with the removing and replanting step, but with this style the quantity of rice produced in only 60% of the quantity produced the Japanese way, but it takes a lot less time and effort for farmers.   I found it really interesting that despite the typically lower yield of American-style rice planting, Suda-san had one of his paddies set aside to experiment with American-style rice planting! He said his neighbors thought he was crazy, but he respects the easy-going style of America and wanted to give it a try.  Safety first! It felt really nice to meet a rice farmer who was so passionate and interested in trying various styles of farming. Suda-san is a really dedicated farmer who strives to produce safe and high quality rice! Following the nuclear disaster, he spent years taking care of the soil and farm, and it was several years before he could continue rice farming, but he never gave up!   Suda-san was one of the first rice farmers in Fukushima to return their fields to safety levels that qualified his farm to earn a FGAP safety certification. The FGAP is a strict certification that is awarded to farms in Fukushima that meet their high standards for safety and Good Agricultural Practices! If you would like to read more about this check out their website (available in English): https://gap-fukushima.jp/en/  Planting rice the old-fashioned way! After our chat, Suda-san handed me and my boss each a pair of crocs and said it was time to plant some rice! Most of his farm is planted using a special tractor-type of machine, but he left some space for us to plant rice the old-fashioned way. Showing us how to take little rice plants and replant them into the flooded, rice paddy soil in a way that it won’t sink too deep or float away. Slipping, barefoot, into the water and soft mud of the rice paddies was a shock at first. Then, it was a comfort. The soft soil was well taken care of and monitored, no sharp stones or surprises, very high quality soil. The music of the frogs filled the air even at mid-day, Suda-san said that when the sun sets their chorus will be even more impressive. Setting into the rhythmic pattern of replanting the small rice plants was therapeutic. The most difficult part was achieving straight lines and adequate spacing, but we tried our best for nearly an hour! The lines and spacing was far from even or straight, but Suda-san encouraged us anyways.  More than rice!  Rice may be most commonly eaten during meals, but rice can also be used to create many other things, my favorites being sake and mochi (a chewy dessert rice cake) sweets.   Suda-san grows a variety of rice types, including mochi rice! After a hard day of rice planting we relaxed a bit and enjoyed some locally made mochi sweets at Suda-san’s farm. It was so good! Hearing Suda-san describe the various types of rice that he grows had me really excited for harvest season, it would be so interesting to try the different varieties that he produces here. Aliens? Yeah that's right.   After bidding farewell to Suda-san, we headed up the hill in town to have lunch at the UFO restaurant. The mountain here is thought by locals to be shaped like a UFO landing pad, and many locals have their fair share of stories about UFO sightings and even encounters with visitors from the stars. There is even a UFO museum where visitors can take a look at photographs, stories, and records of the town’s history with UFOs. The townspeople here were very kind and welcoming to all kinds of people, even aliens! So, it’s definitely a unique place that I would recommend visiting. Next time we visit Suda-san we will ask him if he has seen any UFOs visit his rice paddies!  Interested in a rice planting experience? There are several options for farm stays in Fukushima, you may get to try out rice planting if you visit in the spring! Read more here or contact us about farm stays and experiences in Fukushima.    Visiting Iino-machi? You can catch a UFO, I mean... bus, outside of Fukushima station and it’s about a 40-minute ride to Iino-machi!     

    Experience Rice Planting in Fukushima, Japan!
  25. Useful Information

    Exploring the Kasumigajo Castle Park!

    When we arrived at the Kasumigajo Castle Park (Nihonmatsu Castle) I immediately felt drawn in by the sweet smell of the blooming sakura trees. The whole park is full of sakura trees, making this a great place for cherry blossom viewing (Hanami, in Japanese)!  Before you walk in through the front entrance you will notice some bronze statues that depict the samurai warriors who once defended the castle. If you look closely you will notice that these warriors seem to be a bit young. These statues honor the Nihonmatsu Youth Corps, also known as the Shonentai, who were boys between the ages of 13 to 17 who lost their lives during the Boshin War in order to protect their hometown. The youngest Shonentai warrior may have been 12 years old, although he sustained injuries, it is thought that he survived the war. Typically such young boys would not fight in wars, however, as the war waged on and troops were diminished, many young boys and elderly men volunteered themselves to join the fight.  The tragedy of the loss of such young lives is honored by these statues. Behind them the statue of a woman mourns the boys as a representation of the boys' mothers and families who were left behind.  With this history in mind, I walked toward the entrance and passed under the castle gate, intrigued to see what kind of a place these soldiers were defending.  Inside the walls there is a large clearing where cherry blossoms spread out. Around the trees hang paper lanterns that illuminate the cherry blossoms at the night. There is a small waterfall in the corner of the main square and a pond, adding to the atmosphere with the sound of flowing water and the chirping of little frogs. In the spring time there are some food vendors set up so you can enjoy something to eat under the cherry blossoms. There are lots of benches and picnic tables so this is a great place to come and relax and have something to eat outside. I didn't have time to eat anything this time, but the mochi (sweet rice cakes) drew my attention, so I will have to go back and try it next time I visit. After exploring this area and photographing the cherry blossoms, when I realized I hadn't even been up to where the castle was! The park grounds are dotted with with castle ruins, some dating back to the 1500s! Unfortunately much of the castle was burned down at the end of the Boshin War, officially, the castle fell on July 29, 1868.  The castle ruins at the top of the hill are worth checking out and offer a great view of the area. The climb is a bit of a work out, so I kept thinking about how great the defense was as it would be quite the challenge for invaders to climb up the hill in their heavy samurai armor!   It would have been nice to visit here before the war, during a time of peace to see how beautiful this castle parks and the surrounding town must have been! If you are interested in Japanese history, and especially Samurai history, I definitely recommend visiting. Even if you aren't a history buff, this is a great place to visit and enjoy some nature in Japan.  Thankyou for reading, if you enjoyed this article please be sure to check out more of our articles and blogs. Click here for information on visiting the Kasumigajo Castle Park (Nihonmatsu Castle)!

    Exploring the Kasumigajo Castle Park!
  26. Useful Information

    The Sake Brewing Process at Niida Honke

    Niida Honke Sake BreweryFounded in 1711, Niida Honke has seen eighteen generations of master brewers, each bringing their own personality and subtle changes to the company and its sake. The current head brewer is Yasuhiko Niida, an incredibly nice person with an awe-inspiring passion for making Sake.Under Mr. Niida’s supervision, Niida Honke has seen many changes. In 2011 the brewery celebrated its 300th anniversary and the achievement of using 100% natural rice in its brewing process. Unfortunately, this was the same year as the Great East Japan Earthquake and the following nuclear disaster. Despite the difficulties, Niida Honke worked hard to return the health of the rice fields.After the fields were cleaned and returned to their healthy status, a decision was made to move the company into a more sustainable and natural direction with the goal of creating its sake with 100% natural and organic ingredients. They currently grow much of the rice used to create their sake in the fields that surround the brewery. Working with local farmers to create healthy, high-quality rice that is grown without the use of pesticides or harmful chemicals.In the future, Niida Honke aims to brew all of its sake in natural wooden tanks, switch entirely to solar power, and grow 100% of its own rice. For each bottle that you buy, Niida Honke takes one step closer to these goals.

    The Sake Brewing Process at Niida Honke
  27. Destination Spotlight

    Salvador Dali Art Museum in Stunning Japanese National Park

    When I’ve spoken to friends from around the world who have visited Fukushima about their favorite places in the prefecture, this museum’s name has been brought up time and time again. So what is so special about this museum? SALVADOR DALI GALOREThe founder of Morohashi Museum of Modern Art donated his personal art collection upon the opening of the museum in 1999, and now the museum contains almost 400 pieces of art, 332 of which are works by Salvador Dali!

    Salvador Dali Art Museum in Stunning Japanese National Park
  28. 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.

    Hanami & Hope in Tomioka
  29. Destination Spotlight

    10 things to do at Abukuma Cave

    Formed over 80 million years by underground streams and covered with stalactites and stalagmites is the Abukuma Cave. This 3 km-long limestone cave network was discovered in 1969, and 600m of it has been opened to the public to date.Abukuma Cave is said to hold the biggest variety and number of stalactites in Asia. Each area of the cave network has a different name depending on the shape of the rock formations it contains. Many individual rocks also have their own name.

    10 things to do at Abukuma Cave
  30. Destination Spotlight

    Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossom

    Yesterday I ticked one place off of my Fukushima bucket-list: the cherry blossom along the Nicchu Line in Kitakata City. It definitely did not disappoint, and I am so glad I got to go. The Nicchu Line is an old railway line that used to run between Kitakata City & Atsushio Onsen town. The railway line was over 13 km long, and 3 km of this has been changed into a cycling & walk path, which looks absolutely fantastic in cherry blossom season.

    Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossom
  31. Destination Spotlight

    Yunokami Onsen In Spring

    I visited Yunokami Onsen during the cherry blossom season! We visited the station in late April – which just so happened to be perfect timing! We were greeted with blue skies and sakura in full bloom. YUNOKAMI ONSEN STATION Yunokami Onsen Station is a very picturesque local station on the Aizu Railway Line that connects Aizu-Wakamatsu City with Aizu-Tajima, and further on to Asakusa Station in Tokyo. This beautiful thatched-roof station must be one of my favourite stations in the prefecture – it’s got a public foot bath just outside so you can treat your feet to natural hot spring water before catching your train, there’s a traditional Japanese stove to warm yourself up with in winter, there’s a range of souvenirs on sale, and it’s extremely photogenic – what’s not to love?! There are many cherry blossom trees surrounding the station, which had caught the attention of quite a few tourists, who were busy snapping photos with the blossoms. If you look directly at the front of the station, turn right and walk down the hill, you’ll reach the bus stop for Ouchi-juku. It’s the dark green bus in the photos below. We took photos outside of the station while we waited for the prime time to take a photo of the moment when the local train passes in front of Yunokami Onsen Station. (You can check when the train will pass in front of the station by checking the timetable listed inside the station.) In order to take the best photo, you have to pass through the barriers in the station. It’s necessary to buy a ticket that will let you access the train platform. Once we passed through the barriers, we walked onto the platform, then crossed over onto the other side of the tracks, where there were a number of reporters and photographers waiting. Taking a photo of the train passing in front of the station was harder than I was expecting! After I got home, I looked back at the first photo and realised that the angle I had taken my photos from wasn’t quite right for including as much sakura in one shot as possible. It’s good to know this for next time! At the tourist information desk at Yunokami Onsen Station, the staff let me know that the cherry blossom at Nakayama Fuketsu were also in full bloom, so we decided to go check it out. This viewpoint is 2.5 km away from the station and much of this is up a steep hill with no footpath, so you may be difficult to reach if you aren’t travelling by car. We were travelling by car so it wasn’t a problem for us. NAKAYAMA FUKETSU VIEWPOINT I had never been to this view point before. It was a bit of an adventure getting to the viewpoint, because it involved driving up quite a narrow mountain road. But it was worth it for the beautiful views, especially ones of the snow-topped mountains behind pale pink cherry blossom. LUNCH AT MOTHER LIP After we had explored the cherry blossom spots, we went to Mother Lip Café for lunch. I’ve wanted to go to this café for ages! Mostly because of its intriguing name. The coffee was delicious and the spaghetti was really nice. I chose “Napolitan”, which is actually a Japanese spaghetti recipe originating from Yokohama. We had to head back to work after our trip to Minamiaizu, but there is plenty to do near Yunokami Onsen – both the To-no-Hetsuri rock formations and the Edo post-town of Ouchi-juku are very close. I really recommend you visit this area in late April when you get the chance. It’s really beautiful and makes for a very pleasant drive. I’ve included Ouchi-juku, To-no-Hetsuri, as well as the places mentioned in this post, in the Google Map below.

    Yunokami Onsen In Spring
  32. Destination Spotlight

    Azuma-Kofuji’s Short & Scenic Hiking Route

    Home to a wealth of stunning views and scenic roads that can be enjoyed by car or bike, the eastern side of the Azuma mountain range that borders the prefectures of Fukushima and Yamagata is particularly popular for those who enjoy hiking and walking. Mt. Azuma-Kofuji (which translates as ‘little Mt Fuji’), is a popular place to follow a short hiking course, since it takes less than 1.5 hours to complete, and is not far from central Fukushima City. Mt. Azuma-Kofuji – which has a shape likened to the famous Mt. Fuji – has a distinctive crater at its center, which was formed after a volcanic eruption. Although the peak of Mt. Azuma-Kofuji is around 1700 m, the base of the crater is around 70 m lower! Along with its status as being seated on Bandai Azuma Skyline – a famous motorbiking, cycling and driving route – Mt. Azuma-Kofuji is also well-known for its role in producing the mascot of Fukushima City, Momorin, a cute little rabbit. Every year, when the snow begins to melt from the top of the mountains in springtime, a space is cleared on the side of Mt. Azuma-Kofuji that melts into the shape of a rabbit! Depending on how fast the snow melts, and how much rain falls, the exact form of the rabbit does change from year to year, but it always there to some extent, looking down on the citizens of the city. Jododaira Plateau, from where Mt. Azuma-Kofuji , Kamanuma Pond, and Mt. Issaikyo can be accessed, can only be reached between early-April and mid-November every year, as the heavy snow fall of winter has lead to the scenic road that passes through the area to be closed during this time. Even though it is not possible to come right to the top of Bandai Azuma Skyline during this winter season, the two onsen towns that bookend it – Tsuchiyu Onsen and Takayu Onsen – can still be visited in the winter. The Mt. Azuma-Kofuji hike begins at Jododaira Plateau, which is home to visitor center and rest house where visitors can have a snack and buy souvenirs. There are Japanese language pamphlets at the rest house which display the various hiking routes around the Jododaira area, such as those to Kassanuma Ponds and Issaikyo Peak. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, there are lots of pictures and maps, so you can understand where you are in relation to the rest of the hiking trails. The start of the walk (little squiggly red line) – a winding trail of stairs – is visible from outside of the rest house (the P close to the squiggly red line!). The ascent to the top of the crater takes around 10 minutes, and visitors are recommended to allow 1 hour to walk around the crater. It’s also said that this walk should be enjoyed by walking clockwise round the crater’s edge. I really like walking around Mt. Azuma-Kofuji because once you reach the top of the steps, you’re greeted with amazing, otherworldly views. It seems like every angle of this walk supplies completely different scenery. If you look one way, you can see the beautiful snowy mountains in the distance… …But if you look another way, it feels like you have been transported to a desert, or even to the moon! The faces of rocks and stones that surround the crater have changed colour over time due to the different volcanic gases and substances present in the area. It was interesting to take a close look at the unusually bright red and purple colouring of the stones. This short hike really does make you feel like you’re walking on top of the world. Circling the edge of the crater was not too physically challenging, although I did lose my balance a couple of times when I place my weight on groups loose stones. I would advice not trying to complete this walk in heeled shoes! I did find that climbing up the relatively steep staircase made me quite out of breath. However, I did finish the route in less than an hour though, so it’s possible that I was just rushing! One other word of warning is that it can sometimes get extremely windy at the top of the crater. When I visited most recently in April, it was my first time to attempt making it the whole way around the crater, as during previous visits, the wind had been too heavy to attempt it. This time, the wind was even calm enough for me to place my camera on a rock for long enough to take a selfie without fear of it being swept off into the distance! If you find yourself in Fukushima City on a sunny day, with a few hours to spare, I would wholeheartedly recommend a hiking trip to Jododaira. The views are honestly spectacular. Coupled with a trip to either (or both!) of the onsen towns nearby, a visit to Jododaira can easily become part of a really fun day out! See here for more information on visiting Mt. Azuma-Kofuji

    Azuma-Kofuji’s Short & Scenic Hiking Route
  33. Useful Information

    Reaching Miharu Takizakura

    KEY INFORMATIONVISITING HOURSVisiting hours are usually between 6:00-18:00, but they are extended until 20:30 during the light-up period.HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT?Miharu Town asks for visitors to pay 300 yen to visit the tree. This money goes towards the continued conservation efforts towards Miharu Takizakura.REACHING MIHARU TAKIZAKURALOCAL BUSThe number of local buses in service is typically increased during cherry blossom season. These buses leave from outside Miharu Station. The dates of increased service differ from year to year. For 2018, service was increased between April 7th and April 15th. For 2019, service was increased between April 6th and April 21st. A 1-Day pass can be bought for use on the public bus costs 1,000 yen per adult.FREE SHUTTLE BUSA free shuttle bus runs regularly between Miharu Town Exercise Park (三春町運動公園)(map here) & the Miharu Takizakura during the cherry blossom season. The dates that the shuttle bus run differ from year to year. For 2018, shuttle bus service ran between April 7th and April 15th. For 2019, the shuttle bus service ran between April 12th and April 21st. Be aware that the last shuttle bus from Takizakura might leave at 17:00 despite the Light Up events that occur during cherry blossom season that run until later in the evening.GETTING TO MIHARU STATIONThe local buses mentioned above depart from Miharu Station. You can get to Miharu Station via the JR Ban-etsu East Line from Koriyama Station. The train from Koriyama Station – a major station – only takes 12 minutes. For information on reaching Koriyama Station.Here are some terms in English and Japanese to help you decipher bus timetables! ・滝桜 Miharu Takizakura ・三春駅 Miharu Station ・滝桜方面 Heading to Miharu Takizakura ・三春駅方面 Heading to Miharu Station TAXITaxis from Miharu Station must be booked in advance. It is likely to be difficult to get a taxi on the day of your visit without ringing up in advance. Bookings via phone in Japanese only.CARThe closest I.C. (interchange) to Takizakura is Funehiki Miharu, but this I.C. gets very busy during hanami season, so it’s recommended to exit the Ban-etsu Expressway at Koriyama Higashi I.C. From this I.C., the tree is a 30 min drive (12.6 km).During cherry blossom season, visitors coming by car are likely to have to queue for quite a bit. When I drove to Miharu Takizakura in 2019 on a weekday, I had to queue for about 40 minutes to get into the car park from 1 km away. On the plus side, I didn’t have to queue to get out of the car park. If you’re using a GPS system in your car, you can enter the map code: 300 840 492*42WALKING FROM THE BUS STOP AND CAR PARKThe buses stop in the large car park. From the car park, you pass through an underpass, reach an office where you can buy a ticket to view the tree, then follow the path to the main tree. The tree is about a 5 min walk from the car park.

    Reaching Miharu Takizakura
  34. Useful Information

    Fukushima's Top Cherry Blossom Spots

    Fukushima Prefecture is blessed with lush nature and dramatic scenery. As the third-largest prefecture in Japan, the climate, seasons and landscapes differ vastly by area. However, there is one season that is spectacular no matter where you may be in Fukushima – spring! Blossoms start to bloom from the south-east of Fukushima, where the temperature is warmest, and flower the latest in the west. This means that if visitors come to Fukushima during April and May, it is very likely that cherry blossom will be in full bloom somewhere in the prefecture! OGAWASUWA SHRINEThe beautiful weeping cherry blossom tree at Ogawasuwa Shrine has been standing strong in Iwaki City for over 500 years. The branches gracefully stretch across the main area of the shrine, providing a stunning foreground against the red torii gates. The blossom is illuminated by traditional Japanese campfires every night of the cherry blossom season. 

    Fukushima's Top Cherry Blossom Spots
  35. Destination Spotlight

    Springtime Koriyama Day Trip

    For this itinerary, I would recommend renting a car at Koriyama station, or elsewhere. All of the spots included in the itinerary above are at least a 10-15 minute drive from each other, so renting a car would be the easiest way to make the most of your day out in Koriyama! 1. MIHARU TAKIZAKURA Start your day trip with a visit to Miharu’s Takizakura tree. 'Takizakura' can be translated as 'Waterful Cherry Blossoms'. Over 1000 years old, its trunk’s circumference 11 m in width, the Takizakura tree is one of the three biggest cherry trees in Japan, and has been designated a national treasure. The view of the tree, and the flowers that surround it, differ from year to year. However, Takizakura is always stunning during its peak season, no matter the year. (More information on Miharu Takizakura here) 2. TAKASHIBA DEKOYASHIKI 'Takashiba Dekoyashiki' is the name given to a number of craft workshops that have been making dolls and decorative items for centuries. As well as being able to watch how traditional dolls are made, you can try out painting your own dolls. Walk around the arts and crafts studios and soak in the atmosphere of traditional Japan. This area is a 20-minute drive from Miharu Takizakura. (More about Takashiba Dekoyashiki here) 3. KAISEIZAN PARK One of Japan’s first parks in Japan to be opened for public use. Despite the general photograph posted above, the park is beautiful and fun to explore by foot, especially in the springtime, when the cherry blossom line the pathways. Kaiseizan Park is a 30-minute drive from Takashiba Dekoyashiki. (More about Kaiseizan Park here) 4. KORIYAMA STATION Koriyama Station is a 15-minute drive from Kaiseizan Park. Train stations in Japan are usually filled with cafes, restaurants, and shops, making them great – and convenient – places to buy omiyage (souvenirs) for friends and family. One of Koriyama’s most well-known omiyage is called yubeshi (pictured above). It is a sort of sweet rice cake, filled with red bean paste. It has quite a honey-like taste as well! Why not give them a try, and see what other fun gifts you can find as well? Finish your day trip here! Perhaps you could stay overnight in Koriyama, or in the nearby Atami Onsen spa town. Or you could hop on the shinkansen and head to Tokyo! MAP OF ROUTE

    Springtime Koriyama Day Trip
  36. Destination Spotlight

    Tadami Line: 5 Sights You Shouldn't Miss

    The Tadami Line is an incredibly scenic railway that runs across Aizu.Connecting the bustling samurai city of Aizu-Wakamatsu with the serene, gorgeous countryside of Oku-Aizu, this route is definitely one to try out if you want a chance to see rural Japan at its best.The Tadami Line is great because it provides a way for visitors to see areas of this beautiful prefecture basically undiscovered by tourists. Riding the train is a fun experience in itself, as is the fact you can hop off and on at any stations you’re interested in visiting.While being a passenger on the train means you’ll be provided with fantastic, panoramic views of the historic towns which lie on the Tadami Line, getting off at Aizu Miyashita Station, and catching the bus to Mishima Town’s observation points means you can see the train in action, passing over the stunning No. 1 Tadami River Bridge.No matter what the season, the views along the Tadami Line are absolutely breathtaking. TOP SIGHTSEEING SPOTS ON THE TADAMI LINE1. AIZU WAKAMATSU: TSURUGAJO CASTLE

    Tadami Line: 5 Sights You Shouldn't Miss
  37. Destination Spotlight

    Feel the Samurai Spirit at Nisshinkan & Aizu Bukeyashiki

    Experience for yourself what the training of real samurai was like in Fukushima.During 1868, the Aizu region of Fukushima was the site of the final prolonged battle of the Boshin Civil War, which was held between the supporters of the shogunate, and the newly formed government forces. Aizu was home to the Bushido spirit of loyalty to one’s lord without fear of death despite assured defeat. For this reason, the culture and spirit of the samurai still deeply color the region to this day.Visit the study halls where samurai gathered and the homes where they lived, and become a modern-day samurai yourself.Aizu NisshinkanFrom the age of ten, boys of Aizu’s samurai families would attend Nisshinkan, a school for cultivating their minds and bodies through academic and martial studies. Countless Nisshinkan graduates became important figures in Japan.You can visit the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan, a faithful recreation of the original facility, which is still used as a place for educational activities, including martial arts. Entering through the impressive gate, you will be greeted by a magnificent example of Edo period architecture which recreates scenes of students carrying out their studies. Take a tour around Nisshinkan to learn about the training required to become a samurai and try your hand at archery and Zen meditation too – both of which were practiced by samurai-in-the-making.Aizu BukeyashikiAs you learn about the samurai lifestyle, be sure not to miss the Aizu Bukeyashiki (Samurai Residence) collection of historical buildings. This is an outdoor museum lined with structures of great importance in describing the history of the region. At the center is the residence of Saigo Tanomo, chief senior councilor of the Aizu clan during the Edo period, which features 38 rooms. Mannequins are used to recreate scenes from the lives of the family members. You will also find exhibits of actual weapons, kimonos, and other items used by the samurai in their daily lives, giving you an even more direct sense of their lives.Experiences at Nisshinkan and BukeyashikiThe Japanese archery which you can try at Nisshinkan is a martial art requiring concentration and willpower. While similar in appearance to Western archery, it uses a unique style in which a large bow is held to the right of the body. The arrows are small, making it possible for even children to try. There are instructors standing by at each location, so you can try even if it is your first time. If you release the arrow with controlled breath and the correct posture, you will enjoy a sense of having taken a step closer to becoming a samurai yourself. If booking as part of a group day tour, you may also experience Zen meditation at Nisshinkan. Here, you can hear lectures on basic methods and even how to live one’s life from the standpoint of Zen meditation. Try to grasp a sense of the state of mind valued by the Samurai. Please bear in mind that this activity is conducted in Japanese, so you need to book as part of a tour to ensure English support.After immersing yourself in the samurai spirit through Japanese archery and Zen meditation, why not try dressing up like a samurai too? Change into period garb at Aizu Bukeyashiki’s photo corner and have your picture taken. Pick out the costume you like and remember to strike a samurai pose for your photograph! Participatory samurai activities tend to be popular, so it is recommended that you contact the facilities in advance with the size of your group and your arrival time. Aizu Bukeyashiki (Samurai Residence) also features a restaurant where you can dine on local cuisine. Tasting the local cuisine which samurai likely enjoyed will perfectly complete the experience.Read more about the samurai spirit on our blog here.

    Feel the Samurai Spirit at Nisshinkan & Aizu Bukeyashiki
  38. Destination Spotlight

    Ebisu Circuit: A Drift Paradise

    The popularity of drifting has grown around the world thanks to the Fast and the Furious movie series, the manga ‘Initial D’, and other such works.The Ebisu Circuit in the northern area of central Fukushima Prefecture, is referred to as a paradise in the world of drifting. The vast grounds boast nine different courses of a variety of types and difficulty levels from racing courses to drifting courses. Attracting drifting fans from around the world, Ebisu Circuit provides thrilling and unique one-off experiences.©JNTONobushige Kumakubo: A Legend of DriftingThe owner of Ebisu Circuit, Nobushige Kumakubo, was the 2006 champion of the D1 Grand Prix International Drift Championship (‘D1GP’), and was also hand-picked to carry out driving stunts for the movie ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.’ He has also put on drifting shows around the world, in places such as Las Vegas. Kumakubo has helped popularize drifting techniques and drifting culture in 30 countries and regions across Europe, South Africa, and Asia. Kumakubo’s international students and fans began visiting him at the Ebisu Circuit, and this soon led to it becoming considered a drift paradise.Drifting Culture at Ebisu CircuitDrifting culture is characterized by the strong sense of comradery that exists between drivers. When someone’s car breaks down, one often sees other drivers bringing spare parts and tools and helping out with repairs. The culture of drivers supporting one another and helping each other to polish their skills is alive and well at the Ebisu Circuit.Drivers of different nationalities and different linguistic and cultural backgrounds flock here from around the world to socialize and admire each other’s driving. It could be said that one of the things that make Ebisu Circuit so special is the fact that drivers can engage in communication that transcends language barriers.©JNTOVisiting the Ebisu CircuitEbisu Circuit can be enjoyed in three ways: As a passenger, driver, or spectator.Those who want to experience drifting but are unable to do it themselves can take a ride in a ‘Drift Taxi’ driven by a professional driver. The sense of speed and sideways gravitational force as you rocket up and down the steep slopes of the mountain course is truly thrilling. The opportunity to witness first-hand some of the world’s best driving skills is another reason for the popularity of these Drift Taxi rides. More information and booking here.There is also a school at the circuit where people can learn to drift themselves. There are lessons for everyone from beginners to advanced drivers, covering the basics of drifting and how to set up cars for drifting. Some of the students who visit from abroad stay at Ebisu Circuit for as long as two weeks to give themselves enough time to study drifting techniques more thoroughly.Events at the Ebisu CircuitThe D1GP, which is held every August at the Ebisu Circuit, attracts drivers from around the world as well as approximately 5,000 spectators from around Japan and beyond.In addition to drifting competitions, Ebisu Circuit also crams in a wide variety of other kinds of competitions and events such as motorcycle races between April and November each year, and a Drift Festival three times a year (in spring, summer and autumn). The circuit is closed over winter from December through March.The sounds of the engines, the sheer manic speed of the cars as they race along, the screeching of tires, and the resulting billowing clouds of smoke, all help to make the circuit a thoroughly entertaining place that is enthralling for spectators, drivers, and passengers alike. How about visiting Ebisu Circuit to savor the magic for yourself?AccessEbisu Circuit is located in Nihonmatsu City, in the Central Area of Fukushima prefecture. The circuit itself is located next to the Tohoku Safari Park.Address: Sawamatsukura, Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Pref. 964-0088Getting to Ebisu Circuit from TokyoBy Public Transportation: Tohoku, Yamagata or Akita Shinkansen (from Tokyo Sta. or Ueno Sta.) to Koriyama Sta [郡山駅] (~1 hour 20 minutes). From there, take a JR Tohoku Line train to Nihonmatsu Sta. [二本松駅] (~25 minutes). At Nihonmatsu Station, take a rental car, a taxi or go by bus* (read below) to Ebisu Circuit (we recommend checking Google Maps to see the most convenient connections depending on your time of arrival and preferred medium of transportation). It takes between 3 to 3.5 hours to get to Ebisu Circuit from Tokyo using this route.*If you are planning to visit by bus, please confirm this with the Ebisu Circuit staff in advance. The bus stops at the entrance gate of the circuit, so an Ebisu Circuit staff member will pick you up and take you to the main circuit/courses. Because there is a limited number of staff members available, and the number of guests, participants, and visitors varies per day, this pick-up service can become unavailable on some days, so we recommend going by taxi or car instead if possible.By Car: Approximately 3.5 hours from Tokyo Station (275 km) via the Tohoku Expressway, or 3.5 hours from Narita Airport (285 km) via the Joban Expressway and the Iwaki Niigata Route/Trans-Tohoku Expressway/Ban-Etsu Expressway (please note that roads may have tolls).

    Ebisu Circuit: A Drift Paradise
  39. Destination Spotlight

    Japan's Oldest Waterfall Sakura

    Cherry blossoms in Fukushima Prefecture can be enjoyed over a long span of time from late March through early May because of the variation in climate across the wide distances between the East and West. One area particularly famous for cherry blossoms that features a number of famous trees is Miharu, which boasts more than 10,000 cherry trees. Take a trip to Miharu, the town of cherry blossoms, to experience springtime in Japan.Miharu's Most Famous Cherry Blossom TreeCountless tourists visit Miharu every year from mid to late April to view just one single cherry tree. The tree that draws these crowds here is known as Miharu Takizakura, a tree over 1,000 years old and one of the three most famous cherry trees in Japan. Designated a National Monument, this massive Shidare Zakura (Cerasus spachiana f. spachiana) that reaches 13.5 m in height and 11.3 m in girth was given its name 'Takizakura' ('cherry blossom waterfall') because the cherry blossoms that bloom from its long, hanging branches seem to flow like a waterfall.Unlike many other popular cherry blossom spots where one views entire groves of cherry trees, visitors come here to stand in awe at the singular beauty of this one great tree. This vision of countless cherry blossoms wrapping the hanging branches that spread in all directions is simply beyond words. The tree continues to awe innumerable visitors from both inside and outside Japan.The name 'Miharu' is comprised of the Chinese characters for the phrase 'three springtimes.' The origin of the name stems from the fact that here, the Japanese plum, peach, and cherry trees, which normally bloom one after the other, instead bloom all at once, causing three different periods in springtime to happen at the same time. The town of Miharu fully embraces springtime when the cherry blossoms bloom on top of the already blooming plum and peach trees.Takizakura lives on as a symbol of the town as an elder statesman who has watched over the land for over 1,000 years. The unfurling of its blossoms augers the arrival of spring and the coming to an end of the severe cold of winter. Visitors celebrate the coming of spring and share their joy together.Once Takizakura blooms, the night view of this spectacular tree becomes bathed in lights. Thus both the sight of the tree in the daytime soaking up spring sunlight and the sight of its bewitching beauty that seemingly floats against the sky in the evening, are worth seeing. Another great thing about Miharu is that one can view numerous famous cherry blossom locations and trees in a single trip if traveling by car. Takizakura is located closeby to other famous ancient trees, such as the 400-year-old Jizozakura, said to be Takizakura’s daughter, and the 350-year-old Fudozakura, said to also be a descendant.Come to Miharu Town to enjoy the grandeur of these cherry trees, and make sure to prepare your camera. Cherry trees only display the beauty of their blossoms for but a fleeting moment each year. The blossoms bloom at once for a brief time, and before long the petals fall to the ground. Make sure to check online for the latest information on the timing of the cherry blossoms before making your trip to Miharu. Also check out this page for information on reaching Miharu Takizakura.Useful LinksMiharu TakizakuraReaching Miharu TakizakuraFukushima's Top Cherry Blossom Spots

    Japan's Oldest Waterfall Sakura
  40. Destination Spotlight

    Sakura Bliss Hike at Hanamiyama

    Vistas of indescribable beauty will greet you at Hanamiyama, an area in Fukushima City, in springtime between March and April. The abundant flowers, including cherry and peach blossoms, magnolia, forsythia, and Japanese quince, weave their colors together to create a gradation of nature with pinks and yellows and greens. Released from the severity of winter, this vista announces the arrival of spring with fanfare, and is loved by visitors from not only within Fukushima but from throughout Japan, and abroad as well. Come enjoy a walk through Hanamiyama Park, located in the central Hanamiyama area, as you are embraced by the soft, warm sunlight of springtime. One of the most fantastic things about Hanamiyama Park is that the hill upon which the park is located is home to uncountable wildflowers. Originally a private garden used to cultivate flowers, it was ultimately opened to the general public in 1959 as its beauty gained renown. Since then, countless visitors have come to Hanamiyama Park each year, making it one of the best known tourist destinations in Tohoku. The popularity is such that it gave rise to the phrase, “The Peach Blossom Spring is found in Fukushima,” referring to the ancient Chinese fable describing an isolated utopia inhabited by a hermit where beautiful flowers bloom, pure water flows, and birds sing. It is said that the Peach Blossom Spring cannot be found if you seek it, but that it in fact exists within your own heart. Yet Hanamiyama Park in the springtime will present you with a fantastical vista as if the Peach Blossom Spring has been made real and materialized before your very eyes. The specific aspects of that vista will change depending on the precise timing of your visit. Unlike the traditional Japanese 'Hanami' practice of flower viewing which focuses exclusively on cherry blossoms, Hanamiyama Park features a procession of different blooming flowers covering the entire hill that lasts from March all the way through May. The view transforms from pale flowers in March, such as various shades of plum blossom, through pink flowers in April including yoshino and weeping cherry blossoms, to deep pink and red flowers in May, including double cherry blossoms and azaleas. Thus, the color of the flowers steadily deepens with the progression of the season weaving a beautiful gradation of hues. While the view appears more like an impressionist painting from afar, you will find yourself surrounded by a veritable explosion of flowers the moment you step into the park. Take in the ever-changing vista and the procession of flowers as you enjoy conversation with friends or a relaxing walk. There are a number of walking courses that take visitors around Hanamiyama Park. You will find everything from gently graded walking courses that can be enjoyed by wheelchair users to more challenging trekking courses for those with energy to burn. Let your heart dance and you will quickly find yourself at the end of a long walk much sooner than you expected. That will be a perfect time to enjoy a break of green tea and rice cakes at the nearby shops and stalls as you take in the outside views. Don’t forget to visit the local shops and stalls before you leave. Shops and stalls sell an array of farm produce such as apples, green onions, and spinach in addition to popular sweets and locally processed foods. Hanamiyama Park can become quite crowded during the peak season, but the mornings are relatively less crowded than other parts of the day. We recommend you come to enjoy the fresh morning air of the park and take some photographs of the beautiful scenery while you’re at it. You might also enjoy the luxury of eating a delicious breakfast here after building up your appetite by walking.

    Sakura Bliss Hike at Hanamiyama
  41. Useful Information

    Hanami: Picnic Under the Sakura

    Cherry blossoms are a symbol of springtime throughout Japan. From late March through May, the hearts of the people of Japan are filled with joy at the coming of spring as the pink cherry blossoms begin to bloom. If you visit during this period, you will see countless people in many different locations in Japan enjoying picnics under the blossoming cherry trees, in a practice called “Hanami.” Hanami is the practice of eating and drinking to welcome the arrival of spring and enjoy the warm spring weather anywhere the gently falling cherry blossoms can be found, such as parks or by the river side. Why not experience this traditional Japanese Hanami yourself surrounded in the indescribably beautiful spring scenery? The culture of Hanami is specific to Japan with its four seasons, and has a history of over 1,000 years. The aristocracy of the middle ages gave rise to a culture of creating Japanese waka poems based on the theme of cherry blossoms, and this practice was gradually adopted by the general public over the passing of time, resulting in the practice today of picnicking under the cherry trees. Cherry blossoms bloom but for a brief moment out of the year, and the purpose of Hanami is thus to enjoy this short time as much as possible to welcome the arrival of spring. Further, the cherry blossoms bloom at a time when the air grows warmer and there is little rain, making it pleasant to spend time outdoors. There are even food stalls at popular Hanami locations where celebrants can purchase sweets, drinks, and snacks. This adds to the appeal of the activity, allowing you to take in the blossoms after purchasing your favorite food and drink. The word Hanami-zake, a portmanteau of Hanami and Japanese sake, demonstrates the inseparable relationship between Hanami and the favored Japanese rice wine. Sipping sake while enjoying the gentle spring sunlight and the ephemeral beauty of the rows of cherry trees puts one in an otherworldly state of mind. Even if you prefer not to try the sake, you can still enjoy that sense as you eat a delicious boxed lunch under the cherry blossoms as they dance in the wind. Incidentally, daytime picnics are not the only way to enjoy Hanami. After sunset, the cherry trees are typically lit up, creating a more fantastical atmosphere different again from the daytime mood. Hanami Tips & Manners Temperatures still fall sharply at night even though spring has arrived, so don't forget to prepare for the cold. While some Hanami locations feature chairs and tables, we recommend that you bring everything you need for a picnic instead. It is also important to adhere to certain manners in order to properly enjoy Hanami. Specifically, cherry trees have a very short lifespan. Though the flowers are beautiful, snapping off branches to take home with you is strictly forbidden. Also, show your gratitude to the cherry trees and their beautiful blossoms by taking your trash home with you or disposing of it in designated locations.

    Hanami: Picnic Under the Sakura
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