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Fukushima Complete Guide: Sightseeing Spots, Food, And Safety

Fukushima Complete Guide: Sightseeing Spots, Food, And Safety

Fukushima 2019.06.15 Bookmark

Fukushima is filled with wonderful spots for travel, like Aizu Wakamatsu, Ouchijuku, Lake Inawashiro, and the Tadami Line. Read to learn about where to visit, activities, and local food. This article also introduces tips, from transportation to the latest safety information.

Translated by Jasmine Nishino

Written by Kousuke DEKI

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Fukushima Prefecture - Visit More than Once

Fukushima

Ouchijuku in Fukushima

Fukushima is a prefecture located in the northern Tohoku region of Japan. With its great outdoors, delicious cuisine, and seasonal views, it is an ideal spot you can go to again and again.

In this article, we introduce the latest information on Fukushima, along with must-visit spots, cultural events, and delicious food.

Where Is Fukushima?

Fukushima is part of Japan's Tohoku area. It is the third largest prefecture in Japan and contains three major areas.

Hamadori is the coastal region, the Nakadori is the central region, and Aizu is the western region. Despite being in the same prefecture, each area is very unique, with distinct culture and natural landscape.

Conditions in Fukushima Today

When people hear "Fukushima," many may recall the earthquake of 2011 and the nuclear power plant disaster.

So, how is Fukushima in 2019? Is it safe for travelers to visit?

Compared to directly after the incidents in 2011, it is considered safe for visitors to travel in nearly all parts of Fukushima Prefecture. For the latest information on radiation and conditions since the incident, see the detailed information at the end of this article.

Getting to Fukushima

Sendai International Airport

Sendai International Airport

If you are going from Sendai International Airport, there is a bus (Aizu bus) (Japanese) that goes directly to the Fukushima area (prior reservations not needed). It takes around two to three and a half hours, and costs 1,500-3,200 yen, depending on where you get off. The bus will make stops at Fukushima Station (Nakadori area), Aizu Wakamatsu Station (Aizu area), and other stations.

There is a direct bus (Japanese) leaving from Narita Airport that goes to Fukushima as well. It stops at locations including Koriyama Station and Fukushima Station. It takes around five hours and costs around 5,100-5,800 yen, depending on where you alight.

From Tokyo, there is the Tohoku Shinkansen that departs from Tokyo Station and Ueno Station. Shinkansen stops include Koriyama Station and Fukushima Station. This area is included in the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku Area).

Three Recommended Scenic Destinations

Read to learn three suggested spots in Fukushima with breathaking beauty.

Tadami Line

Fukushima

Daiichi Tadamigawa Bridge Photo by Eri Miura. Picture from Why We Live In Fukushima: Interviews With International Residents

The JR Tadami Line is considered to be the most romantic railroad in the world. It is a local train line that runs between Aizu Wakamatsu and Niigata Prefecture.

In particular, the Daiichi Tadamigawa Bridge (shown above) is said to be the most beautiful spot to see the line. It is located between Aizu Hinohara Station and Aizu Nishikata Station, and is a great spot to see the train crossing over the Tadami River, surrounded by stunning nature.

Fukushima

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

You can enjoy the area year-round, with vivid greenery in summer, yellow and red foliage in fall, and snow in the winter.

Those who wish to see the lush outdoors should head to the observatory near the Station Stop, Oze Kaido Mishima Inn. A limited number of trains run on the Tadami Line, so be sure to check the time table (Japanese) to capture the shot you want. There is also a bus (Japanese) that goes from Aizu Miyashita Station to the Station Stop Oze Kaido Mishima Inn. The bus leaves once a day at 8:00 from Aizu Miyashita Station.

Daiichi Tadamigawa Bridge Observatory
Address: Fukushima, Onuma, Mishima, Kawai Google Map
Official Website (Time Table): Timetable for the JR Tadami Line (Japanese)

Lake Inawashiro

Lake Inawashiro

Mt. Bandai and Lake Inawashiro. Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Another must-experience is seeing the magnificent view of Mt. Bandai reflecting against the shimmering surface of Lake Inawashiro. This lake is one the most iconic destinations in Fukushima.

There is a sightseeing boat on the lake, which sails around for around thirty-five minutes. Ride it to cruise across the calm waters, while taking in the refreshing breeze and scenery.

Lake Inawashiro

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Lake Inawashiro is the fourth biggest lake in Japan. In order to go see it, you will need to board a bus from JR Inawashiro Station and head to the northside of the lake. Other sightseeing spots nearby include Tenkyokaku, a villa once used by the imperial family that is a nationally-designated Important Cultural Property.

Lake Inawashiro (Bandai Sightseeing Boat Boarding Dock)
Address: Fukushima, Yama, Inawashiro, Okinasawa, Nagahama 870 Google Map
Website: https://www.aizubandai.com/

Goshikinuma - Five-Colored Lakes

Fukushima

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Goshikinuma in Japanese means a marsh of five colors. Like its name, you can see an array of different hues at this marsh.

The twenty to thirty marshes in the area are collectively referred to as Goshikinuma. The bodies of water here show varying colors depending on the weather, season, surrounding scenery, or volcanic substances contained in the water.

It takes around one hour and ten minutes, to an hour and thirty minutes to see all the marshes. The course isn't too intense, so it is an ideal hiking route. At Bishamon Marsh, a relatively larger marsh, you can rent a boat and enjoy a scenic ride.

Goshikinuma Marsh Entrance
Address: Fukushima, Yama, Kitashiobara, Hibara Kengamine Google Map
Website: Goshikinuma Marsh (Japanese)

Four Retro Areas

Ouchijuku

Fukushima

Photo by Eri Miura. Picture from All The Charms Of Japan In One Place! 10 Things To Enjoy In Fukushima

Slip back in time in Japan at Ouchijuku.

Ouchijiku, located between Aizu and Nikko, functioned as a rest stop, or shukubamachi (*1) in the past. Here, you can see the remnants of a historic Japanese town with thatched roof houses from the Edo Period. Currently, these type of houses can only be seen in a few areas Japan, such as Shirakawago.

Locals still live in these houses that are also used as souvenir shops, soba restaurants, and cafes.

*1 Shukubamachi: A town where people took a break during their journey between cities during the Edo Period.

Fukushima

Photo by Eri Miura. Picture from All The Charms Of Japan In One Place! 10 Things To Enjoy In Fukushima

When in Ouchijuku, be sure to try Takato soba (buckwheat noodles), or negi soba (green onion soba.) It is a soba dish that comes with a whole stalk of green onion.

You can try this dish at several restaurants at Ouchijuku, but Ouchijuku Misawaya (shown above) was the first place to offer it. To eat it, use the green onion instead of chopsticks to scoop up the fragrant noodles in the chilled dashi broth. The green onion is fresh, so you can eat it if you wish, but it can be a little spicy.

On a sunny day, you can sit outside and enjoy a refreshing bowl under the warm sun.

Ouchijuku
Address: Fukushima, Minamiaizu, Shimogo, Ouchi Yamamoto Google Map
Website:Ouchijuku (Japanese)

Aizu Wakamatsu - Tsurugajo Castle

Tsurugajo Castle

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Tsurugajo Castle is an iconic castle in Fukushima. This is the only castle in Japan that has red roof tiles.

This castle is where the Boshin War took place at the end of the Edo Period in 1868. The Boshin War was a series of civil battles between people for and opposing the Edo Shogunate (*2).

*2 Edo Shogunate: The government during the Edo Period was ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Ieyasu Tokugawa was the first leader. Yoshinobu Tokugawa handed the government to the Meiji Emperor after fifteen generations.

Fukushima

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

The area receives snow from January to March annually, making this one of the few castles in Japan you can see covered in snow.

Tsurugajo Castle

Photo by Eri Miura. Picture from All The Charms Of Japan In One Place! 10 Things To Enjoy In Fukushima

Tsurugajo Castle is located in Aizu Wakamatsu. The town is filled with antique-style buildings and fun shops, like Aizu Ichibankan, a historical house renovated into a cafe, and Suehiro Shuzo, where you can enjoy a sake brewery tour. The traditional structures can be seen around Nanokamachi Street and Noguchi Hideyo Seishun-dori Street.

Tsurugajo Castle
Google Map
Website: Tsurugajo Castle

Kitakata

Kitakata

Photo by Eri Miura. Picture from All The Charms Of Japan In One Place! 10 Things To Enjoy In Fukushima

You will find many sturdy-looking stuctures and building in Kitakata in northwestern Fukushima. These structures are called kura, and were originally built to protect valuables from fires and disasters.

There are many places that still use the kura for storage, while some kura have been renovated into souvenir shops and cafe open to the public. You can find many kura around Kitakata Station near Fureai-dori street and Otazuki kura-dori street. Make sure to check out the unique ramen shrine if you drop by Fureai-dori street!

Kitakata
Fureai-dori street: Google Map
Website: Kitakata (Japanese)

Hot Springs Area of Fukushima: Higashiyama and Iizaka Onsen

Higashiyama Onsen

Photo by Eri Miura. Picture from All The Charms Of Japan In One Place! 10 Things To Enjoy In Fukushima

Fukushima has the fifth highest number of natural hot springs in Japan. There are over 130 hot springs in the prefecture.

Located only fifteen minutes by bus from Aizu Wakamatsu Station, Higashiyama Onsen is a hot spring district with over fifteen ryokan. The iconic view of the hot springs is shown in the picture above, with the bridge extending across toward Ryokan Mukaitaki.

Mukaitaki is a historic building that has been designated as a cultural property of Japan. You can see the meticulous construction techniques throughout the buildings. All twenty-four rooms have a different thematic design. Prime ministers, writers, and many celebrities have stayed in the area, and it has also been used as a filming spot for movies.

Higashiyama Onsen
Address: Fukushima, Aizu Wakamatsu, Higashiyamamachi Oaza Yumoto Google Map
Website: Higashiyama Hot Springs

Iizaka Onsen

Pictured above is Iizaka Onsen, located twenty-five minutes by train from Fukushima Station. There are nine public bathing spots at this hot spring area.

Nakamuraya Ryokan is not a public bath, but an inn where you can use the hot springs without an overnight reservation. You can also use a private bath here. The building is also a designated Important Cultural Property of Japan.

Other sightseeing spots around Iizaka Onsen include the Kyu Horikiri-tei, which was a former house of a prestigious family.

Iizaka Onsen
Address: Fukushima, Iizaka, Yuzawa Google Map
Website: Iizaka Onsen

Family-Friendly Spots

Aquamarine Fukushima

Aquamarine Fuksuhima

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Be stunned by the huge tanks at Aquamarine Fukushima. The large tank shows the collision between the warm and cold currents and contains 2,050 tons of water, with over 120,000 creatures in the aquarium. There's also a touch pool that replicates the ocean floor, providing entertainment for all ages.

Ten minutes from the aquarium is Aeon Mall Iwaki Onahama, a large shopping complex with around 130 shops. Located slightly further away but in the same area is MEGA Don Quijote (located at La Park Iwaki), a large branch of the nationwide discount store, Don Quijtote.

Aquamarine Fukushima
Address: Fukushima Iwaki, Onahama, Tatsumicho 50 Google Map
Website: Aquamarine Fukushima (Japanese)

Two Seasonal Events

Soma Nomaoi

Soma Nomaoi

Picture courtesy of Soma Nomaoi Executive Committee

This stunning image is from a festival called Soma Nomaoi.

It is said that this festival began over 1,000 years ago during the Heian Period by the warlord, Taira no Masakado. The main purpose of this festival was to capture horses that were released to the fields and to offer them to the gods.

Soma Nomaoi

The procession down the city streets. Picture courtesy of Soma Nomaoi Executive Committee

Soma Nomaoi is held for three days at the end of July every year.

The festival highlight falls on the second day, where you can see the procession through the city streets. Participants will be dressed in kacchu (*3), carrying flags passed down from their ancestors.

You can also see the Kacchu Keiba event, where ten men on horses storm through the fields. There's also the Shinki Sodatsusen match, in which people fight to catch the flags that fall from the sky.

Soma Nomaoi is held on the last weekend and Monday of July every year. For details, please check the official website. On the second day of the festival, there is a free shuttle bus to the festival from JR Haranomachi Station.

*3 Kacchu: Armor worn by the samurai.

Soma Nomaoi
Hibarigaoka Festival Spot (the venue for Soma Nomaoi):
Address: Fukushima, Minamisoma, Haramachiku, Hashimotocho 4-13-27 Google Map
Website: Soma Nomaoi (Japanese)

Miharu Takizakura

Miharu Takizakura

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima is one of the three largest cherry blossom trees in Japan. The word "taki" means waterfall, and like its name, the cherry blossoms cascade down like a waterfall.

This astonishing beni shidarezakura cherry blossom tree is over 1,000 years old, extending 25 meters wide and 20 meters in height.

Miharu Takizakura

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

During the cherry blossom season in mid-April, the tree is lit up beautifully at night. There is also a temporary bus that runs from JR Miharu Station and the Miharu Takizakura.

Miharu Takizakura
Address: Fukushima, Tamura, Miharu, Taki, Sakurakubo Google Map
Website: Miharu Takizakura (Japanese)

5 Must-Eat Dishes in Fukushima

Kitakata Ramen

Kitakata Ramen

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

A dish to try in Kitakata is Kitakata ramen, known for its light, soy sauce based soup. There is also a custom of eating ramen in the morning, so there are some shops that are open as early as 7:00 in Kitakata.

Shokudo Namae, Bannai Shokudo, Makoto Shokudo are recommended ramen shops that are within walking distance of Kitakata Station.

Japanese Sake

Japanese Sake

Picture from Try Award-Winning Sake In Fukushima! Visit The Kingdom Of Quality Sake

Fukushima is one of the top sake producing locations in Japan. In 2019, they were awarded with the gold medal for the seventh straight year at the Excellent New Brew of Sake Awards Ceremony in Japan.

The flavor of Japanese sake changes drastically depending on the production area and the brewery. Try a cup at an izakaya in Fukushima, or sample some at a souvenir shop to taste the difference.

Peach-Flavored Sweets

Fukushima

Many types of fruit are grown in Fukushima.

Peaches, in particular, are a specialty of Fukushima, produced in the prefecture's northern region. Summers are hot in this valley area, and the heat brings out the sweetness from the peaches. The juicy, mouthwatering peaches made with clean water and rich minerals are a treat from Mother Nature.

Fukushima Gyoza Dumplings

Fukushima

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Fukushima gyoza is a specialty dish from the Fukushima City area, where dumplings are laid out in a circular form. Filled with Napa cabbage and other vegetables, the dumplings are crispy and fried. They make a perfect side dish for beer.

Sauce Katsudon

Fukushima

Picture courtesy of Fukushima Sightseeing and Product Exchange Association

Katsudon is a donburi dish where a pork cutlet is coated in egg and put over rice. However, in the Aizu area in Fukushima, you will get sauce katsudon, where the pork cutlet is soaked in sauce. A layer of cabbage is laid over rice and is topped with a cutlet dipped in sauce.

The picture above shows a sauce katsudon from a town called Yanaizu. Fluffy egg is sandwiched between the cabbage and sauce-dipped cutlet in this dish. There are many different variations of sauce katsudon depending on the shop you go!

Latest Conditions in Fukushima

Many people are likely concerned about the nuclear power plant disaster (*4) that occurred in 2011.

*4 On March 11, 2011, the Pacific coast of Japan was hit with the Tohoku earthquake. Due to this, releases of radioactivity occurred from the damages on the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that was located on the coast of Fukushima.

What Were the Effects of the Nuclear Disaster?

Fukushima

Map of Fukushima Prefecture. The red pin shows the location of Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The disaster of Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant occured on the coast of Fukushima. In 2019, this area is still considered to have high radiation, and evacuation orders are still in order.

However, as mentioned earlier, Fukushima is the third largest prefecture in Japan. It has many mountains and considerable land mass, which means the effects from the radiation are not nearly as serious as they are at the plant site. In fact, evacuation orders have been reversed in many areas. In April 2019, an area of Okuma City, where Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located, had its evacuation orders revoked.

As of 2019, 2.5% of Fukushima is considered as an evacuation designated area. (*5)

*5: The entire area of Fukushima is 13,783 square kilometers. The evacuation designated area is approximately 340 square kilometers in total. (Current as of June 2019.)

How Much Radiation is in Fukushima Now?

Fukushima

The area highlighted in green is the evacuation designated area. The center of the 20-kilometer circle is the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The numbers in the map shown above show the amount of radiation in the area around major cities of Fukushima. (*6)

The area near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant measures high levels of radiation. However, compared to the radiation amount in other cities of the world, there isn't a large difference. Tokyo has 0.04, Beijing has 0.07, New York has 0.05, Singapore has 0.10, and Paris has 0.04 (*7).

In 2019, the MATCHA editorial staff went to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the surrounding areas. For more details, please read this article.

*6 The data shown are calculated according to Microsievert/time (the amount of radiation in the space measuring one meter from the ground). Areas of measurement include A: Aizu Wakamatsu (the park in front of the train station), B: Minami Aizu Town Hall, C: Fukushima Station (Corasse Square), D: Koriyama Station (the area outside the west exit), E: Shin-Shirakawa Station (near the west exit), F: Minami Soma City Hall, G: Okuma Town Hall, H: Iwaki Station (the area in front of the train station). Numbers are from the Fukushima Radioactivity Map. Numbers are from May 20, 2019 (E was measured May 9.)
*7 All numbers are shown in Microsievert/time. The numbers of the world are from the Japan's Reconstruction Agency

Is it Safe to Eat the Food?

Area Average Number of Radioactive Cesium Detected in Standard Foods
European Union 1,250 becquerels/kg
United States of America 1,200 becquerels/kg
Japan 100 becquerels/kg
Fukushima (Seafood) 50 becquerels/kg
Fukushima (Japanese sake) 10 becquerels/kg

As of 2019, the safety measure of cesium detected in Japan is under 100 becquerels per kilogram in standard foods. This is more strict than Europe (1,250 becquerels per kilogram) or America (1,200 becquerels per kilogram).

With that in consideration, seafood that has a high risk of radiation undergoes a strict check and must be under 50 becquerels per kilogram (*8). Inspection results show that more than 99% of seafood in Fukushima contains signs of radioactive cesium. If the limit it surpassed, seafood exports will stop immediately.

The limit for Japanese sake produced in Fukushima is set to an even lower limit, at just 10 becquerels per kilogram. This is one-tenth of the required numbers from Japan. Since the 2011 disaster, the number detected has never gone over this set amount.

*8 50 becquerels per kilogram is the standard set by the Fukushima Fishery Cooperation (Japanese). On their website, you can see the test results from the seafood caught off the shores of Fukushima from 2012 until today.

Experience the Best of Japan in Fukushima

Fukushima receives many international visitors each year, reaching 100,000 or more travelers staying in the prefecture, drawn by its nature-rich regions, culture, and delicious food.

Put Fukushima on your to-visit list and experience all this prefecture has to offer for an unforgettable trip.

Main image by Eri Miura

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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