?> Winter - Fukushima Travel

Winter in Fukushima

Fukushima’s position in southern Tohoku sees that it gets a good amount of snowfall each winter, transforming many sightseeing locations into glistening winterscapes. Recommended spots like Ouchi-juku look extra picturesque with its snow-capped thatched-roof houses, while outdoor hot springs take on extra appeal as they promise views of wintry landscapes. Fukushima Prefecture is also home to world-class ski resorts thanks to its rich, powdery snowfall—popular with skiers and snowboarders.

Average temperature

  • Dec 8° / 0°
  • Jan 5° / -2°
  • Feb 7° / -2°

Winter Illuminations

Abukuma Cave
Nature & Scenery

Abukuma Cave

A world of mystical beauty created over millions of years, Abukuma Cave is said to have the greatest variety and the largest number of stalactites in the whole of Asia. It takes about an hour to explore the inner world of the cave and the terrain is easy to navigate on foot. Abukuma Cave is a limestone cave that was discovered in 1969. Inside, visitors can walk the 600-meter-long path to explore and view the beautiful cave formations. Visitors can’t help but be impressed by the beauty of these natural creations formed over the course of 80 million years. The largest hall in the cave, called Takine Goten (Takine Hall), and Tsuki no Sekai (The Moon World), is illuminated with dramatic stage lighting and is particularly impressive. Also not to be missed are the rare cave formations called boxwork, you can identify them by their unique shape; thin blades of minerals coming off the walls and ceilings forming a honeycomb or box-like pattern. Abukuma Cave is the only cave in Japan with boxwork that is open to the public. Another notable stop along the cave path is the Christmas Tree and Silver Frost; both are impressive stalagmites that resemble festive holiday trees. The Christmas Tree is over two meters tall and said to be the largest example in all of Asia. There is an additional thrilling adventure course; experience crawling through narrow passages and climbing a ladder to spectacular views over the cave! This 120-meter-long course runs parallel to the main passage, but please note that visitors may have to crawl on their hands and knees at times. When you have finished exploring the mysterious depths and come back to the surface you can find plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops. Visit in mid-June to July to see the neighbouring hillside covered in 50,000 lavender plants.

Aizu Painted Candle Festival
Event

Aizu Painted Candle Festival

Aizu Painted Candles are one of Aizu’s most well-loved traditional crafts. Aizu Painted Candle Festival was started in order to let people all over Japan (and all over the world) know about this traditional craft, and to give people an appreciation for the work that is needed to make every single candle. Take in the picturesque snowy scenery in Aizu-Wakamatsu City by candlelight this winter. Aizu Painted Candle Festival takes place at Tsurugajo Castle and Oyakuen Garden on the second Friday and Saturday of February.

Itineraries in Autumn

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.  

Related posts

  1. Useful Information

    Ideas for Winter Trips in Fukushima

    I decided to write a bucket list of things to try out in Fukushima during the winter months! 1) TAKE IN THE VIEWS OF BEAUTIFUL OKU-AIZU The Tadami Line train connects Aizu-Wakamatsu City with Niigata Prefecture via some of Fukushima’s most beautiful rural towns and villages. The route of this train ride is breath-taking throughout the year, and winter is no exception. [photo id="KUpJkulOhyLhzMZEg7nWykcQWAD4Jk7lR7Mxu7F8.jpeg" size="original"] I especially want to check out the view of Oshi Shuraku Hamlet (大志集落) in Kaneyama Town, which you can see in the photo below. This view spot is located at Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba (かねやまふれあい広場 – Map), which is a 10-minute walk from Kaneyama Station on the Tadami Line. [photo id="S71458cRVBn1RgOr7HGlDSAGRyallsysTfGQxzQe.jpeg" size="original"] 2) ATTEND SNOW FESTIVALS (AIZU, MINAMIAIZU) Most of the snow festivals held in Fukushima take place on the same weekend of the year, meaning that it’s pretty difficult to visit more than one per year! I have attended both Ouchi-juku and Tadami Snow Festivals (mentioned below) in the same day, but I would recommend taking your time at each festival instead of rushing between them. AIZU PAINTED CANDLE FESTIVAL Aizu Painted Candle Festival is when Oyakuen Garden really comes into its element, as the garden becomes 1 of 2 main stages during the 2 day festival period. The other stage is at Tsuruagajo Castle. Oyakuen Garden often hosts live performances of traditional Japanese music during the evening during the festival. Tens of thousands of candles illuminate the castle and the garden over the 2 day festival period, creating absolutely stunning scenes as the sun sets. [photo id="VG0mpBvkn9Ke4Iz0oNqR5thOjqAEeSaxcKVKKXYm.jpeg" size="original"] This festival is held to celebrate the traditional craft of Aizu’s painted candles, which have been produced in the region for 500 years. [photo id="LJvcOH8erag2BqnERMIkUMO40pQY2bat5AmJVQdB.jpeg" size="original"] DATE: Second Friday and Saturday of February LOCATION: Tsuruga-jo Castle Venue (Map) & Oyakuen Venue (Map) HIGASHIYAMA ONSEN CANDLE FESTIVAL Every evening from Christmas until around the end of February (depending on the amount of snow), Higashiyama Onsen town is filled with the lights of candles. [photo id="7T3ENTvJtzU2qL5wC3zPFwNs2YfVzcoiYuJDGr3P.jpeg" size="original"] The lighting of these candles usually occurs between 16:00 to 18:00, so if you are staying in this onsen town during the winter, be sure to check it out. [photo id="BRJhlwBPkyJrG4rBG0ZvnxPJdN2lPPEpSHjZIQth.jpeg" size="original"] DATE: Late December – Late February LOCATION: Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu-Wakamatsu City (Map) OUCHI-JUKU SNOW FESTIVAL Ouchi-juku’s Snow Festival features traditional Japanese performances, an incredible firework show, and a town that feels like it still exists in the Edo Period, illuminated solely by the light of lanterns made of snow. There are plenty of nearby onsen ryokan where you can warm up & stay overnight at the end of the evening. Not much beats that for a snow festival, does it? [photo id="beDz39Lno38qSEEqJB9k1nS9aKX058lnvEOWQHOR.jpeg" size="original"] DATE: Second weekend of February LOCATION: Ouchi-juku, Shimogo Town TADAMI SNOW FESTIVAL This snow festival is the largest in Fukushima Prefecture. Often welcoming special guests (such as Kumamon) this snow festival features snow sculptures, igloos, places for kids to play, and lots of traditional crafts and tasty food to check out. Oh, and also a fantastic fireworks show. [photo id="urVmTFIMxX5PIAnTJTJ49nWxU1IMJ0A4NzIcGOGr.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="647OQqWvFYUDqIznzgUpebQG4ObC9kzhtIZ24B1S.jpeg" size="original"] DATE: Second Saturday and Sunday of February LOCATION:Tadami Eki Mae Hiroba (JR只見駅前広場) (Map) 3) PICK-YOUR-OWN STRAWBERRIES IN SOMA (SOMA CITY) Soma area is well known for its bright-coloured, juicy strawberries. I’ve been lucky enough to try some in my office when visitors have brought them as gifts for my colleagues, but I really want to go to Soma and pick some strawberries of my own! [photo id="fxlvCqY5SFAJTl1efb0JvW8AoxXad2L4S8MBQIix.jpeg" size="original"] 4) ATTEND CRAFT FESTIVALS (SHIRAKAWA CITY, IWAKI CITY) SHIRAKAWA DARUMA MARKET Daruma are good luck charms originating from Buddhism. It is a common new year’s traditional in Japan to buy a daruma soon after the start of the new year. After purchasing a daruma, you should think carefully and decide on 1 wish or goal that you want to achieve during the year. Then, draw in the daruma’s left eye (or right eye if you are facing it), and then draw in the other eye when your wish or goal is completed. [photo id="cmW8yjvLSIjICuYD3caciWRnaiRRSyZzNerViIuB.jpeg" size="original"] 700 stalls selling daruma standing along a 1.5km long street in central Shirakawa City during the Shirakawa Daruma Market. There are 18 different varieties of daruma to choose from, all looking for a loving home and an owner to give them a goal or wish to look after! DATE: Held annually on February 11 LOCATION: The main street in front of Shirakawa Station that runs parallel to the train line. IWAKI TSURUSHI BINA FESTIVAL This festival was started in recent years as a way of celebrating the Nakanosaku district of Iwaki City, and rejuvenating the area. During the festival, hundreds of decorative items hand-made by local people from chirimen fabric – the fabric used to create kimonos – are displayed and sold over a period of 2days. These Tsurushi Bina decorations are traditionally given to young girls on Girls’ Day, in March. They come in all shapes and sizes, but in Fukushima I have seen lots of decorations shaped like animals and vegetables. [photo id="Vbyz3vGiiGSwk7wQJfsBzGG03ED441toFolJoW1w.jpeg" size="original"] This festival represents a rare opportunity to see so many of these beautiful, painstakingly handmade decorations in one place, so I really want to go check it out next year. [photo id="lFvdUi8axcaA7goCVZZNsi7ev4Mb9UcX1Axug2FF.jpeg" size="original"] DATE: Early February LOCATION:清航館, Nakanosaku, Iwaki City (Map) ENTRANCE FEE:100 yen 5) HIT THE SKI SLOPES This year I really hope I get to try out skiing in Fukushima Prefecture. [photo id="oZadUyyzjzyMdLIdVwMgNRFaqzn32rPctADhvaxw.jpeg" size="original"] There are so many different ski areas spread all over the huge prefecture, from the relatively temperate slopes in Inawashiro, where skiiers are blessed with a view of Lake Inawashiro as they descend down the slopes, to the deep snow country of Hinoemata. Aizu Ski Japan is a really good English-language website to use as a resource for getting to grips with the type of ski areas available in the prefecture. [photo id="9SJhrYZW5a2pNgAYHEQ7uaDciKEXtzWMaimisi9m.jpeg" size="original"] 6) GO WAKASAGI (SMELT) FISHING Rent out a tent at the centre of Lake Hibara in Urabandai, make a hole in the ice in front of you, and try out smelt fishing this winter! [photo id="lkd2PIoZKT8QUnCZxqPmnvhOUid1WBO0xOUehvFN.jpeg" size="original"] There are a number of different companies that take visitors out onto the lake during the winter months, when smelt fishing is allowed to take place, but it may be a little difficult to try this out if you don’t speak Japanese. Rental costs all depend on the individual company or organisation. [photo id="mMgU7gjYQ0IHZJbhcX9zqlZSwYwxXZ32St4VUuFg.jpeg" size="original"] LOCATION: Lake Hibara (Map) 7) WATCH THE SUN RISE ON NEW YEAR’S DAY This beautiful spot on the coast of Iwaki City is a very special place for local people, especially fisherman, who visit Hattachi Coast on New Year’s Day to show their faith to the Buddha of Hattachi Yakushi. The Hattachi Coast is one of many places on the coast of Fukushima that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami, and is therefore a very bittersweet place for many locals. It has not lost its spiritual hold over visitors though, or its breathtaking scenery. [photo id="Veek4Yd8IrTyn2KlQkNtFDhfEB4s8yOMYRziMcvS.jpeg" size="original"] A seriously beautiful spot for those who like photography, and those who would like to make connections with local folk from Iwaki during the early hours of the new year. LOCATION: Hattachi Coast, Iwaki City (Map)

    Ideas for Winter Trips in Fukushima
  2. Destination Spotlight

    Ouchi-juku Snow Festival

    Ouchi-juku, Minamiaizu, is a town with a rich history, and is well known having been used as a ‘post-town’ for travellers during the Edo period. The area includes 33 buildings which have been painstakingly preserved as they were hundreds of years ago. Ouchi-juku’s breathtaking snow festival is held on the 2nd weekend of February every year. [photo id="a2Dk5jLqMVazQMFOBQDbpi9veE0TrT5BSpmwdqJq.jpeg" size="original"] Most of the buildings that make up the main street of Ouchi-juku now operate as gift shops, but visitors can still stay the night in 3 traditional minshuku in the town. These houses have access to electricity and the internet, but Ouchi-juku still manages to feel like it exists in a whole world of its own. [photo id="bKBg6Gu6776QNaRvD3jlmSP7VbJr1AonOLS2BFVF.jpeg" size="original"] One of the best parts of visiting Ouchi-juku is taking a trip up to the view point that overlooks the beautiful thatched houses. I headed there early upon arrival, in the hope of getting a good photograph, but the snow was so strong that I ended up getting more snow in my lens than anything else! [photo id="bH2QC3Owb7mAvBYeMdhoeIKdWms6QZYXcJRjc0Kz.jpeg" size="original"] I have seen photographs of Ouchi-juku in the snow on the internet before, so I was really happy to have the chance to go and see this view for myself, and take my own photographs. It definitely didn’t disappoint. [photo id="qprQU4Ujs3rBBzcGsUGHR9PVdLMYcKkeg67nEZg5.jpeg" size="original"] Ouchi-juku Snow Festival takes places over the space of a weekend. There are a number of events over the two days that visitors of all ages can enjoy. One of the events that took place on the Saturday was a “mochi pick-up” event. This event is where mochi (glutinous rice balls enjoyed as a sweet treat) are thrown from the roofs of buildings. Visitors can compete with each other to see how many they can collect! Even if you miss the mochi pick-up event like me, visitors can appreciate the hand-made mochi as a beautiful decoration displayed on the trees around the area. The bright and bold colours of the mochi were really beautiful against the snow. [photo id="LIRHwovTEucOext9ituWRoNZVqCqToDrZIW6iXdJ.jpeg" size="original"] Another event during the weekend is call Maruta Kiri Competition (丸太切り競争). This involves trying to saw through a small section of tree trunk faster than the other competitors. I was invited to take part in this competition! It was so much more difficult than it looked and I think that it took me about 3 minutes to cut through the wood, which was a bit embarrassing! However, it was also really fun, because the men in charge of the competition kept teasing me about how bad I was and insisted on showing me how to do it properly. I got to take back my bit of wood as a souvenir. I asked the volunteer what I should use it for. Despite it being twice the diameter of a map, he suggested that I use it as a coaster. I took it around with me for the rest of the event! [photo id="sFdWnY7BqQrLuHPY0hiVMbYL2OjSZL7lNVaClzFU.jpeg" size="original"] If you don’t feel like performing yourself, visitors can watch performances of traditional performing arts. The photo below is from the Sanshi Kagura performance that took place on Sunday. These performances were very important hundreds of years ago, when they were most often performed around the start of the new year, as a way of warding off bad luck and evil throughout the year. [photo id="WObnYundOB1N8XpJBc7glCe1fqB4pZtoU9ix8ctj.jpeg" size="original"] Other events included a soba noodle eating competition, a dance performance by the area’s local yokasoi dance team, and a group effort to try and make Japan’s longest dango mochi (Mochi skewered on a stick). Between events, it was nice to check out the local cuisine. The food stalls aren’t only for the festival, but are open to visitors throughout the year. Traditional grilling techniques are used to make well-known local delicacies like senbei (rice crackers). [photo id="5FJv1H6MiwQjo3U4At7fZ8Byz3DMXD155p6n2nGs.jpeg" size="original"] There are also many other things to explore with your friends and family, such as a number of different igloos, some of which actually function as makeshift shrines, whereas others make good rest spaces. [photo id="2Aerz66EdLSWTnwUza7ctRjnwbRR51kVkAOCeGOk.jpeg" size="original"] As the sun went down, I decided to go back to the viewpoint and see what Ouchi-juku looked like at night. It was absolutely amazing, especially because the lighting of the lanterns – which are also made of snow – had already started to take place. [photo id="Xjr3sTZHmLbshsyCFxoNBcSAm85xLMpv93illB0o.jpeg" size="original"] Certain parts of the staircase and path to the viewpoint became slippery as the temperature dropped, so I would advise visitors to take care. I have never seen so many people slipping over during just one day. When I reached the bottom, I decided to have a look at some of the local shops before the firework display of the evening started. I fell in love with these cute hand-made ornaments – each of which has their own meaning and importance. I bought some of the chillies, which were used centuries ago to ward off spirits. [photo id="8TArz4tobKx229qfxKZyidNCRoOhiCThbLimDPEc.jpeg" size="original"] Another highlight of the Ouchi-juku Snow Festival was the firework show. The heavy snowy, strong wind made a really beautiful foreground for the 100 fireworks set off on Saturday evening. This is the most stunning location that I have ever seen a firework display. [photo id="H2lIRUrX3Vrab4nd42OquAYzxRgY7V3oXgpdn14z.jpeg" size="original"] I loved watching the faces of the locals as they enjoyed the views of the night sky. [photo id="gV1flW1vq8tsxUdVSaDM5znr6WsJHqUhJMy4UYYb.jpeg" size="original"] I had an absolutely amazing trip to Ouchi-juku Snow Festival, and I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in traditional Japanese culture and local festivals. I would be very interested in coming back next year ACCESS Ouchi-juku can be accessed by taxi or bus from Yunokami Onsen station, which is on the Aizu Railway line. It can become very crowded during festival time, so if coming by taxi, I would suggest booking both journeys of your taxi in advance, and preparing for congestion upon entering the area. If coming by rental car, make sure to prepare yourself for long queues to get into and out of the car parks.

    Ouchi-juku Snow Festival
  3. Useful Information

    6 Reasons To Go Skiing In Fukushima (& Where To Go)

    I’m going to jump right into it: 6 Reasons to Go Skiing in Fukushima this winter! 1) ACCESS FROM TOKYO Some of Fukushima main ski resorts can be reached in just 2.5 hours by train (shinkansen and local) & bus 2) LONG SKI SEASON Being the third largest prefecture in Japan makes for a varied climate across Fukushima Prefecture – this means Fukushima Prefecture’s ski season is comparitively long, lasting up to the end of April in some regions! 3) POWDER SNOW Sheltered by mountains, Aizu region’s inland location blesses its ski slopes with low humidity and a high snow quality that is fine and dry, which is comparable to that of the top-class snow in Hokkaido. 4) HAVE THE SLOPES TO YOURSELF Fukushima’s ski resorts are yet to be widely discovered by international tourists. You can enjoy skiing in Aizu without feelings like you’re at just another international tourist resort. 5) CLOSE TO SIGHTSEEING DESTINATIONS Many ski resorts are located in or near Bandai, Inawashiro, Oku-Aizu and Minamiaizu Areas, which are close to some of Fukushima’s most impressive sightseeing spots including Tsurugajo Castle and Tadami River No.1 Bridge Viewpoint. 6) GOOD DEALS FOR INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS Great deals (such as cheap ski passes and car rentals) are often available to international tourists. See Aizu Ski Japan's website for more information. FUKUSHIMA’S SKI RESORTS Hoshino Resorts’ Alts Bandai, Hoshino Resorts’ Nekoma, and Grandeco Resort are 3 of Fukushima’s most popular ski resorts amongst international tourists. They each have their own English websites, but here’s a little summary: HOSHINO RESORTS’ ALTS BANDAI [photo id="amWAWbC8v6LGK3wEQ5g0JeSwMYYk0b5GGrUVUkGV.jpeg" size="original"] English Homepage:  https://www.alts.co.jp/en/ Fukushima.Travel Page: Here No. of Ski Courses: 29 Level: Suitable for all levels Getting There: 1.5 hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo to Koriyama Station. Then a 50 minute train to Bandaimachi Station on the Ban-etsu West Line. 20 minute shuttle bus from Bandaimachi Station to Alts Bandai. This shuttle bus needs to be booked in advance There are also buses from Koriyama Station to the resort. Hoshino Resorts’ Alts Bandai is the biggest resort in Fukushima Prefecture’s Aizu region, boasting 29 ski courses which provide great skiing and snowboarding for all ages and abilities. Alts Bandai is located on the slopes of Mt. Bandai, and is split into two main skiing areas. The northern area is known as Nekoma Bowl and home to the more advanced ski courses; the lack of sunlight the area is exposed to meaning that the snow is not compacted and therefore offers a challenging ride to more experienced skiers. Another interesting feature of Alts Bandai is the chance to ride a snowmobile to the top of a slope closed off during the week. If you take the snowmobile to the top, you’ll be able to ski down over one week’s worth of soft, untouched snow! (You have to book in advance). HOSHINO RESORTS’ NEKOMA [photo id="hBVODdAugUkTzFUbzyIOBH1G5XypullqkWApz7IR.jpeg" size="original"] English Homepage: https://www.nekoma.co.jp/en/ Fukushima.Travel Page: Here No. of Ski Courses: 10 Level: Beginner to Advanced Getting There: 1.5 by Shinkasnsen from Tokyo to Koriyama Station. Then a 50 minute train to Inawashiro Station on the Ban-etsu West Line. There's a shuttle bus service from Inawashiro Station to Nekoma Resort. (Need to book in advance) Nekoma Resort, located close to Alts Bandai, is known for the incredibly micro-fine, powdery quality of its snow. The micro-fine powder snow is made possible because of  how cold the area gets; often reaching -15 degrees in winter. Nekoma Resort’s northern slope is shaped liked a funnel, which helps stop the snow from becoming icy. Nekoma Resort, like Alts Bandai, is operated by Hoshino Resorts, so visitors holding a ski pass for Alts Bandai will also be able to utilize the slopes and gondolas at Nekoma Resort. There is also a free shuttle bus between these two ski slopes which are perfect for skiers who want a bit of variety. GRANDECO RESORT [photo id="LDruZaVFX269XkS1WutVWYTGLK4cJhT1UfYbmGsp.jpeg" size="original"] English Website: https://www.grandeco.com/english/snow.html Fukushima.Travel Page: Here No. of Ski Courses: 7 Level: More aimed at beginners Getting There: 1.5 hours by shinkansen from Tokyo to Koriyama Station. Transfer to the Ban-etsu West Line. Shuttle buses run from Inawashiro Station (45 min train ride from Koriyama Station on the Ban-etsu West Line). Unlike the 2 Hoshino Resorts’ ski resorts, Grandeco has lengthy, uninterrupted ski runs rather than having a number of gondolas split ski runs into many ski courses. There are a few routes aimed at experienced skiers, but most of the slopes at Grandeco are gentle, making it perfect for families, those just starting skiing and those, like myself, that have totally forgotten how to ski at all. Grandeco is also one of the ski resorts in Fukushima Prefecture where it is not unheard of for slopes to remain open until Golden Week at the end of April. Alts Bandai, Nekoma Resort and Grandeco Resort are all located close to one another, and are neighbours to many more of Aizu area’s ski resorts. Fukushima is full of amazing winter scenery and there are many spectacular views to be seen from Fukushima Prefecture’s many ski resorts. The number of slopes, difficultly level, and range of non-skiing snow activities (i.e. tobogganing, snowmobiling etc.) depends on the resort, so make sure to check out the Snow Japan website for information to help you compare resorts. To give you an idea of the feeling of a few of these ski resorts, I’ve gathered some photos of a variety of Fuksuhima’s ski resorts, which I’ll list below along with the name of the ski resort. Check out their location on the map below too! AIZU AREA This area is near Lake Inawashiro & Tsurugajo Castle. URABANDAI SKI [photo id="ZHabHBh2Q0J2RYcUNA9ShrrCjCTW3EYrfSqICf9X.jpeg" size="original"] INAWASHIRO SKI RESORT Fukushima.Travel Page: Here [photo id="gHu8joLongGL9sMPkIkIG4oa1XGYdkSQkU5QSpCD.jpeg" size="original" ] LISTEL SKI FANTASIA Fukushima.Travel Page: Here [photo id="TeivQYGaPZy7igqqCpAXzZC0FeIZLlX7WJLfCr7T.jpeg" size="original" ] MINOWA RESORT Fukushima.Travel Page: Here [photo id="GoFYMM3ZsrJh2KoUZ16yavEgCwTygaSlS19sLYbo.jpeg" size="original"] OKU-AIZU AREA Near Enzoji Temple & Tadami River No. 1 Bridge Viewpoint. FAIRYLAND KANEYAMA RESORT [photo id="9Hdrao0fROmcAuE04ISieI0hHDR2TwgV9hXSi6Vy.jpeg" size="original"] TADAMI SKI [photo id="ntLkW94SYqxl9sOATrro8qtoOlvPRx8xAgofMdRt.jpeg" size="original"] SANNOKURA RESORT [photo id="L8lRMKRvtXiV3c2KS8XRFjNT3J5PTovzqkkMNXJo.jpeg" size="original"] MINAMIAIZU AREA Near Hinoemata Onsen & Ouchi-juku. AIZU KOGEN NANGO SKI [photo id="6POkmpnQMGzMTbjr0wOJSw7sXMDKPuzPROXIBTmo.jpeg" size="original"] AIZU KOGEN TAKATSUE SKI Fukushima.Travel Page: Here [photo id="UCBzthjnGBJHsGC4nl4Czjf1Wni0kUP7aPO0Vm00.jpeg" size="original"] For up-to-date information on all the ski resorts in Fukushima, including information on how to reach them and on prices etc, please see Snow Japan’s website and Aizu Ski Japan. See more ski resorts here

    6 Reasons To Go Skiing In Fukushima (& Where To Go)
  4. Destination Spotlight

    5 Reasons To Visit Tadami Line’s Yanaizu Town

    Yanaizu Town lies west of the historic city of Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. It’s a perfect destination to include in a day trip from Aizu-Wakamatsu City, or as part of the journey to Kaneyama or Miyashita, where you can stay the night before venturing out to see the No. 1 Tadami River Bridge View Spot in the morning! The best part? The scenic JR Tadami Line local railway line connects all of these places! Here are some of my favourite things about visiting Yanaizu during the winter months. 1) ENZOJI TEMPLE Originally constructed in the year 807, Enzoji Temple is a remarkable and historic temple in Yanaizu Town. Although damaged heavily and repaired in the 17th century, the temple still feels extremely old, and bears the scars of historic events such as damage to the wood caused by the fighting that took place during the Meiji Restoration. This temple looks absolutely magical in winter time, as there is heavy snowfall in Aizu area each year. The temple is just a 9 minute walk from Aizu Yanaizu Station on the JR Tadami Line, or you can drive here easily from Aizu-Wakamatsu City. Enzoji Temple is most famous for being the birthplace of the legend of the lucky red cow of Fukushima known as the ‘Akabeko’. This cow supposedly played a vital role in the construction of the temple nearly a millennium ago. [photo id="OXQ4mmGSEdhFXMet7Y4ySLUL3QDzDVtMKrqCIHgi.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="gVUhCDjbktDNVhADRVmXSYuNH8DFte4ntr27pQkc.jpeg" size="original"] 2) THIS VIEW I never get over how beautiful the view from the steps leading up to Enzoji Temple is. Every time I drive past here, no matter the season, I can’t help but park my car and snap a photo or two. [photo id="Dsn6hHAVzVXVNpqpSNnquMbAiTvnDAkAjLqr6S92.jpeg" size="original"] 3) STEAMED BUNS Yanaizu Town is known within Fukushima Prefecture for its really tasty sweet steamed buns known as ‘Awa Manju’, which are filled with a variety of flavours. Made from millet and pounded mochi rice, and filled with red bean paste, these buns have been loved in this town for almost 200 years. They’re especially delicious enjoyed with hot green tea! There are a number of shops that sell them along the quaint roads that surround Enzoji, so please take a walk around and choose your favourite! I’ve included the main manju shops in the map to the top of this post. [photo id="nJKtMDFzIC8r1ynEqE1TCs6CDZbWhzZewqrOdSWM.jpeg" size="original"] 4) KIYOSHI SAITO MUSEUM OF ART, YANAIZU Just a 12 minute (1 km) walk from Enzoji Temple, this museum of art displays the work of Kiyoshi Saito, an internationally famous artist who was born in nearby Aizu-Bange Town. Inspired by traditional woodblock print, Saito produced many beautiful block prints during his life which have been exhibited in countries including the US, Australia, India and Czechoslovakia. Over the decades, the subject of Saito’s prints developed and changed, and range from animals and vegetable motifs to landscapes and portraits. For the town of Yanaizu, arguably the most important prints produced by Saito were his Aizu Series, made in 1940. Saito left Aizu in 1911 when he was 4-years-old to move to Hokkaido due to his father’s job transfer. He returned to Aizu for the first time in 1937 to visit his Aunt in Yanaizu Town. He was really moved by the beautiful scenery and created prints to capture the atmosphere and magic of rural life. He became a honorary citizen of Yanaizu Town years later and retired there at the age of 80. The museum has a great English website so please check it out here. The museum is located close to Michi-no-Eki Yanaizu (Roadside Station) and Hot in Yanaizu, where you can buy souvenirs and local food (and even a steamed bun or two if you get there before they all run out!) so be sure to check these shops out too. [photo id="XwBdmGOkKEHDL1PKZ1x78XmvIhJRBg4HZqSXZeJR.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="Idq0HMDh8XcnYUKqb8KaEn36moak4eVASvRwd4qT.jpeg" size="original"] Images ©Hisako Watanabe 5) NAKED MAN FESTIVAL This festival is officially known as ‘Nanokado Hadaka Mairi‘, which translates as ‘Naked Temple Visit’. On the evening of January 7th every year, crowds of men dressed in fundoshi loincloths (which you read about last week!), get ready for this festival, which takes place in Enzoji Temple. Participants cleanse their bodies, and march through the streets of Yanaizu to Enzoji Temple, almost completely exposed to the elements. [photo id="pNUBkVSZNeyTv9hKteW7UlFntgUoP67C0wRPGxCa.jpeg" size="original"]

    5 Reasons To Visit Tadami Line’s Yanaizu Town
  5. Destination Spotlight

    Snowy Drive Along Bandai-Azuma Skyline

    Bandai-Azuma Skyline, the stunning sightseeing road that runs through the Azuma mountain range, is closed for almost 5 months of every year, from mid-November to early-April. I took a drive in early April to celebrate the reopening of the road, and got to take in my first views from Skyline of the year. It was kind of amazing to compare central Fukushima City – where spring flowers are beginning to blossom – with the snowy scenes of Bandai-Azuma Skyline, despite the fact that the two are only around a 40-minute drive from each other. Popular as a sightseeing spot among drivers, motorcyclists, and cyclists with strong thighs alike, the winding mountain road Bandai-Azuma Skyline offers spectacular views regardless of the season. When spring arrives, visitors can take a short hike to the top of Mt. Azuma-Kofuji (“little Mt Fuji”) to see a huge, striking crater, climb Mt. Issaikyo, or take a walk around the various marshes reaching off of the central area, known as Jododaira. [photo id="1GWPOPs3vwSTejOpMzglmM72juzpHKlWuhifn7Qa.jpeg" size="original"] There is also a ‘Rest House’, where visitors can have a drink and a snack. [photo id="Um6f65fWMaSbbBwOzQ5dAkNLqHDODBGYuZEO0wHs.jpeg" size="original"] I love Skyline, and have visited during the summer and autumn, so I was very excited to see the surrounding mountains covered in snow for the first time, and I wasn’t disappointed. [photo id="JfZ9T76Inlf8BKXQjOvSsWFS5vyAGNC00mzWvYxK.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="Hh4xngSdUEal5k1zRy9UsDA28fbx1JHfsktUERAN.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="leZeT7oUjwz8UNBRVAyM2G6NSepXahGlI9g7Nfem.jpeg" size="original"] There was such a huge amount of snow at the top, I was having flashbacks to the Ouchi-juku Snow Festival in February! [photo id="Dc8zIYwg0fo30AbA2YU7hFNKTulAJDs30eVFtNc7.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="JCgLDYu0TZ5WWFqqdnK2CGVfOOeYWG8ZkJ3b7Shv.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="SdGHRyJiOA0ASSlPxVhmVY5ZCUExwuncCoGLPxZO.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="775NY3aad3ipeVKnmwwl45Ub0vrvX7wLtuhgJx0E.jpeg" size="original"] I arrived at the Jododaira peak from the direction of central Fukushima City, and we descended the mountain in the direction of Tsuchiyu Onsen, a nearby onsen town. On the way to Tsuchiyu Onsen, I couldn’t help but notice that the snow that lined either side of the road was gradually stretching higher and higher until our car was completely surrounded on both sides by huge walls of snow. [photo id="jXoYbFpzGGin55Vtw4gipzhpTZu9OL2GbG74gGlQ.jpeg" size="original"] Apparently these walls can reach up to 4m high, but the year I visited (2017) they were a little shorter than that. Even so, it was fun to visit! [photo id="1ygGhl3IEodRrnyFsp8t9vCdRcqnL6Rqtvnstl3i.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="L0Lo8V488sUAtUMOp3JPspb3rJNT7rmQGAT85fhC.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="3txL6EvbH4fcBwN1VPi6hKeOgxlDxZ7c3eYiHHTi.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="HRrYjgURF8AP2Xw8HUdJTrdwz6FTIYhdgOCAKywK.jpeg" size="original"]

    Snowy Drive Along Bandai-Azuma Skyline
  6. Useful Information

    Fun in the Powder Snow

    INTRODUCTION The silvery world of snow-covered ski slopes and mountains sparkling in reflected light is a typical sight in Fukushima Prefecture during winter. The altitude is high in the western part of Fukushima, which includes the areas of Inawashiro, Aizu, and Adatara Kogen, and the snow is deep during winter months from December through March. The many ski resorts in these areas are recommended for first time visitors experiencing snow for the first time because, in addition to winter sports such as skiing, these resorts are great places for sledding, making snowmen, and snowball fights. Reaching Fukushima Ease of access and the unstinting hospitality unique to Japan are among the many reasons why Fukushima Prefecture’s ski resorts are so popular. These features make these resorts of particular interest to families with children. Koriyama, which serves as the main transportation hub for Fukushima Prefecture, is only 90 minutes from Tokyo on the Tohoku Shinkansen. Travelers will arrive in Koriyama before they know it, entertained en route by the views of mountains adorned in snow juxtaposed with the speed of the shinkansen itself that particularly fascinates children. Numerous shuttle buses operate between the ski slopes and stations including Koriyama. There are also shuttle buses that run between ski resorts and other facilities. This means driving the unfamiliar snowy roads won’t be necessary. Gear & Clothing While the temperature here is typically near freezing in winter, it’s possible to rent all manner of cold weather clothing and gear, from jackets and pants, to accessory items such as gloves, all available in sizes from child to adult. Staff will pick out the right outfit for your planned snow activities. Perhaps one of the greatest appeals of Fukushima is that it’s possible to come to our snow-covered mountains on a whim any time you feel the urge play in the snow during winter time in Japan. Let’s hit the ski slopes! Go ahead and dive right into the snow. The soft snow will take you in and wrap you in its gently chilly sensation. Fukushima is known for its powder snow, which is low in water content. Powder snow does not melt right away when you touch it, but rather falls away like a dry powder. The sensation of this dry powdery snow that can only be enjoyed in the winter mountains is itself more than enough reason to visit. The various ski resorts each provide open areas where it is safe for children to play in the snow, and where there is no need to be concerned about being crashed into by skiers. First, why not try sledding across the surface of the snow? The sleds are ridden in a seated position, and the sense of acceleration is very exciting. You can even experience a sensation of floating as you zip across the surface of the powder snow. Next, try making snow balls. Here, snowball fights are never painful due to the fluffy nature of the powder snow. The photos you take of your family covered in snow after everyone has had their fill will likely provide fond memories for years to come. Finally, don’t miss the chance to make a snowman. Starting with a small ball of snow, you can create a surprisingly large ball simply by rolling it around to collect more snow. For a Japanese style snowman, you need only make two large balls of snow, one for the body and one for the head, to complete the snowman. You can then try decorating it with small branches and other objects. Perhaps you can make a face that looks just like someone in your family. Tips 1) Don’t overdo it if you get cold If you start to feel tired, why not head back indoors and lazily enjoy the snowy vistas from a comfy warm room? Another way you can enjoy the Fukushima with your family is to warm up at one of the many hot springs after playing in the snow together. 2) Always watch your feet as you move about Powder snow is ideal for winter sports, but it also makes the ground very slippery. Make sure to wear waterproof shoes with non-slip soles. 3) Bring appropriate clothing. We also recommend bringing ample changes of undergarments for your children. The temperature is typically below freezing, so you will become cold quickly when you sweat. Ski resorts are located in high altitude mountainous areas, and there are times even in April as the cold weather begins to thaw when the sudden arrival of a blizzard can quickly drop the temperature and change the climate at short notice. Thus it is important to be ready for the cold weather even at the end of the season.

    Fun in the Powder Snow
  7. Useful Information

    Yuki-Matsuri: Fukushima’s Snow Festivals

    In the Aizu region located in the mountainous part of Fukushima, many festivals are held weaving together the beautiful contrasts of fire and snow during the coldest part of the winter season. The snow serves as a pure white molding material that projects the feelings of the people of Aizu, themselves shaped by the beauty and severity of winter. The shimmering flames that decorate the tranquil frozen towns gently warm hearts and bodies while bringing a deep sense of mystery to the wintery night. Together with the crisp winter air, this otherworldly scene of wonder will form an indelible memory for couples for many years to come. The people of the Aizu region spend much of the winter in a deep layer of snow. While they are snowed in, they wait for the distant arrival of spring engaged in crafts such as basket and textile weaving and candle making. The simplicity of the diverse handiwork speaks of the overflowing vitality of the people. That spirit is very much alive today and deeply colors the mood of the festivals that continue to be celebrated in the towns of Aizu. Through these festivals that pray for good health and abundant harvests, you will experience a sense of the spirit of Japanese culture that has long respected the power of nature and given thanks for the changes of the seasons. [photo id="mhwEpmkwEHDSp8qE6tudnWUqr9u1LaU2jAkGUT1x.jpeg"] Ouchi-juku Snow Festival In the second week of February every year, a magical snow festival is held in the town of Ouchi-juku which once prospered as a post station on the road to Edo (Tokyo), and where one can still see traditional thatched roofs lining the streets. Men of the village, adorned in white wraps sanctified at the Shinto shrine, wield torches that burn with flames lit by the chief priest of the shrine as they run through the main street of Ouchi-juku. The village becomes embraced in a gentle light as each of the snow lanterns that line the streets are lit with that same flame. Great fireworks are set off when the last snow lantern is lit, creating an impressive climax as the colorful light of the fireworks is reflected off the snow. [photo id="GYImWjVTFY6zZFOh7NXmUHGSMSxy9DvATzBYoSZG.jpeg"] Mishima no Sainokami Festival In Mishima, a town that often experiences over two meters of snow, a sacred tree is stood in the snow as dwellings for the gods, and then burned as a bonfire, along with the Shinto New Year’s decorations, in the Mishima no Sainokami Festival held on January 15. Trees are prepared especially for the festival. The flames that reach up to great heights serve to light up the charcoal black skies of winter. Tips Another thing you will encounter in the snow festivals of this snow-bound country is the many snow huts. The snow huts serve as camping tents constructed by piling up snow thickly and then digging out the interior. While they may look cold, in fact they stop the wind blowing in and can be quite comfortable. The light of the candles within reflects off the snowy walls, filling the interior space with soft luminance. If you discover a snow hut on your journey, please join the other people within. Share a cup of sake or amazake (sweet sake) made at one of the many breweries in this snow country, and enjoy your time together with your family, friends, or partner. The Oku Aizu region, where many of the snow festivals take place, is an area with limited access. While additional shuttle buses and special trains are operated during the period, make sure to research your journey there and back before leaving. Further, temperatures drop to the freezing point at night in the Aizu region. Make sure to adequately prepare for the cold. It is a good idea to purchase hokkairo (disposable heating pads) in advance and not only put them in your pockets but in the bottom of your shoes as well. Fukushima's Other Snow Festivals Aizu Painted Candle Festival (Second Friday & Saturday of February) Tadami Snow Festival (Second Saturday & Sunday of February) Nakayama Setsugekka Snow Festival (Third Saturday of February)

    Yuki-Matsuri: Fukushima’s Snow Festivals
  8. Useful Information

    Japan's Lesser-Known Ski Resorts

    The number one reason why the ski resorts of Fukushima are popular with skiers throughout the world is, without a doubt, the quality of the snow itself. The ski resorts featuring Fukushima’s quality powder snow, which is silky and dry due to the low water content, are magnets for the snow connoisseur. Just as an example, the snow quality in Australia during the peak ski season is only at about the level of Fukushima’s snow at the very end of the season. The sense of floating one gets while skiing on powder snow can become addictive to any skier visiting Fukushima for the first time. The winter sports season in Fukushima Prefecture lasts from December through the following April. There are numerous ski resorts in the western part of the prefecture in areas such as Urabandai and Minamiaizu, and each resort has unique characteristics to enjoy. The diversity of slopes with access to the ultimate quality snow is another feature of Fukushima’s ski resorts. The heights can often be reached easily via chair lifts and roofed gondolas, making it easy to access the numerous courses available. Fukushima's ski resorts feature long courses for beginners with gentle grade slopes, mogul courses featuring well-groomed (compacted) snow, and natural courses for advanced skiers with obstacles such as rocks and trees. Furthermore, the Minamiaizu area has a long history of being open to snowboarders from early in the season, so many resorts include halfpipes, rails, and kickers to satisfy the most active snowboarders. Night time skiing is also possible at a number of them, allowing you to keep skiing long after the sun goes down. In order to enjoy the Fukushima ski resorts, there is no need to prepare equipment to deal with winter mountains at a 2,000 meter altitude, or to rent a car to travel over long distances. Instead, shuttle buses run between the ski resorts and train stations including Koriyama Station, the transportation hub of the prefecture. This means visitors from Tokyo can be skiing down the slopes before noon if you take an early shinkansen. There are also numerous options available depending on schedule and group size for those travelers wishing to enjoy skiing for several days. Ski resorts have on-site hotels for those wishing to focus their time on skiing and snowboarding, while large groups or those looking to stay for longer periods can try a cottage or private inn. The hot springs located nearby the resorts are recommended for those wishing to experience a taste of Japan. When it comes to local cuisine we recommend ramen, a soul food that warms both body and mind, and the sake of Fukushima that is ranked high in quality nationally, for a fully satisfying and relaxing winter experience. Things to keep in mind In recent years, so-called back country skiing, or skiing on new snow outside established courses and in untouched forests, is growing in popularity, and many from inside and outside Japan also come to Fukushima for this reason. However, due to the high frequency of accidents, such as collisions with trees or getting lost, the number of places in Fukushima where this is allowed is very limited. In order to enjoy back country skiing, it is absolutely essential for you to take precautions for safety by employing a guide, bringing the right equipment, and keeping aware of the weather. While western culture typically places responsibility for behavior on the individual, in Japan, facility managers and communities are typically held responsible for any accidents that happen nearby. Therefore, skiers are asked to adhere to the local manners and rules so that they can continue to come back and enjoy Fukushima’s world class quality powder snow in the future. For more information, check out our page on ski resorts, or the Aizu Ski Japan website.

    Japan's Lesser-Known Ski Resorts
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