By Amanda Lynn Marcroft
Well, if you’ve made it this far there’s hope yet. Stick with me! Say what you will, but Fukushima’s probably the one place in Tohoku that people outside Japan can actually name (my family still refers to Aomori as “Icecube”). As a Tohoku insider, I’m gonna give you the scoop on why you should take a trip down south—hazmat suit optional.
Fukushima may have pinged on our radars only recently, but people throughout Japan have known about it for ages. Possibly because the “Lucky Island” has kept on trudging through some of the worst luck possible and emerged with some of the most badass lemonade you’ve ever seen.
About a century ago, Mt. Bandai erupted (remember, kiddies, it’s called “Ring of Fire” for a reason). Along with all the death and destruction, the eruption deposited minerals in local lakes, giving them a truly unique property: five distinct colours that fluctuate with time and weather.
Nowadays these unique lakes are a huge tourist destination, and an hour’s hike will take you around all five. These range from reddish green to clear blue, with benches set up at strategic points so you can leisurely appreciate each one. As a bonus, between lake-viewings you can appreciate hiking in Mt. Bandai’s beautiful forest and make a pitstop at the ice cream stand for some Goshiki-numa (“Five Color Lake”) soft serve. What does a lake taste like? You’ll have to find out for yourself. I’ll say this though: it’s unique. And good.
When you’re done at the lakes, try hiking further around the beautiful Mt. Bandai or head into town for some more urban recreation. Nearby Koriyama is Fukushima’s biggest city, teeming with restaurants, shopping, live music, a castle and some glorious ways to while away the time.
As you might expect, there’s still plenty of evidence of Fukushima’s recent disaster, and you might find yourself driving through a ghost town as you head somewhere beautiful. There’s just as much sign of recovery, though, and the luckiest thing about this place might be the indomitable spirit of its people. No one seems to exemplify better how beauty can be dug out of pain.
Check out Japan Guide’s article on Bandai and Goshiki-Numa
Driving is a great option. Get a couple of friends to pitch in and you can have all the freedom of your own wheels while saving on train fare
Don’t fret if you can’t drive; public transport is always an option in Japan. Take the Hayabusa Shinkansen from Aomori to Sendai, then transfer to the Yamabiko Shinkansen to Koriyama Station. Once there, try the Ban-Etsu-Zai line towards Bandai or catch a bus to Goshiki-Numa.
- Nearby Koriyama is a great urban getaway when you’re done with the bugs and has the added benefit of numerous places to stay.
Be aware of trespassing. It’s easy to wander into areas you shouldn’t be when you’re in a new place. Though people are generally understanding, you should try to avoid it. Sometimes you get a befuddled guard chasing after you; sometimes you get radiation poisoning. Either way you’re probably gonna feature in someone’s Stupid Tourist Stories, so be responsible for your own safety and reconsider ducking through that hole in the fence that may or may not be a shortcut.
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