Heading back north for this week’s Exploring Japan, we look at Fukushima.
Fukushima is in the southeastern part of the Tohoku region of northern Japan. It has a population of 2,028,752 and is the 3rd largest prefecture in Japan. The capital is Fukushima. The 5 largest cities are:
- Iwaki (337,288)
- Koriyama (336,328)
- Fukushima (290,064)
- Aizuwakamatsu (125,341)
- Sukagawa (78,631)
Fukushima is the site of the nuclear disaster that happened as a result of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A 20km exclusion zone exists around the power plant that is restricted due to radiation. Other areas of Fukushima should be safe to visit.
Aizuwakamatsu Castle – This castle is in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, and it’s a concrete reconstruction of he original. However, it does look pretty impressive from the pictures I’ve seen.
Shirakawa Castle – This castle is in Shirakawa, and is a somewhat recent reconstruction of the original. It’s also known as Komine Castle.
Nihonmatsu Castle – This castle was in Nihonmatsu, and what remains are some buildings. There is no main tower.
Things to see and do
There are plenty of things in Fukushima I’d like to see. Outside of the cities, one of the biggest places is Mount Bandai and its Goshiki-numa (Five-Colored Ponds). There’s plenty of hiking, fishing and skiing there.
Fukushima is the capital, and there are some things to see. Iwaya-Kannon has 60 Buddhas carved into Mt. Shinobu, and it has a great view of the city. Hanamiyama Park is a famous place to see cherry blossoms. There are also a few museums and hot springs, though nothing particularly special.
In Iwaki, there’s a lot to see. First is Shiramizu Amidado, a very old temple that’s a national treasure. Aquamarine Fukushima is a pretty decent aquarium. Misaki Park has a nice view of the city. Shioyazaki Lighthouse is a landmark of Iwaki. Iwaki City Coal and Fossil Museum would be interesting to see. Spa Resort Hawaiians is a massive water amusement park that I’ve seen commercials on TV for. It has waterslides, the world’s largest outdoor hot spring, and waterpark. Iwaki City Old Style Village is a reproduction of an Edo period village. The Sedogaro and Shidokigawa Gorges are a couple of beautiful gorges in Iwaki. The city also has many beaches.
In Aizuwakamatsu, in addition to the castle, you can also visit Oyakuen Botanical Garden, which has many herb gardens. Also, Mt. Iimoriyama is the site of graves of the Byakkotai.
In Shirakawa, other than the castle, there’s Nanko Park, which has a traditional garden and teahouse. The city is host to the Daruma Ichi, a festival dedicated to daruma dolls. There’s also a Lantern Festival (Chochin Matsuri).
Sukagawa is well-known for the Sukagawa Peony Garden, which is one of the largest peony gardens in the world. It also has the Taimatsu Akashi, or the torch festival.
Tamura is a minor stop, but it’s famous for its Abukuma Limestone Caves. You can also see the Hoshi-no-mura Observatory.
Like other parts of Japan, Fukushima has its own ramen varieties. However, there’s also the Mama Doll, a sweet made with white anko (sweet bean paste) inside, like manju.
Have you been to Fukushima? What would you recommend?