If you’ve ever visited Fukushima in the fall, then surely you were overwhelmed with the beauty of its changing colours. In this article, I hope to show you about yet another side of the mysterious beauty and charm Fukushima – this time under a cloak of snow.
My story began with an ideological struggle about how I should best spend my weekend. I could sit at home , sleep in late, wake up with a cup of hot cocoa and surf facebook, becoming increasingly jealous of my friend’s trips…or I could pack up my backpack and go outside, facing the cold weather head-on to write my own story.
No surprises for which option I chose!
I started the first day of my trip by getting up early to catch the first shinkansen of the day.
At 8 AM, I caught the train from Sendai station and took it about two hours to Koriyama, where I changed to a local train to Inawashiro and a bus to Lake Hibara. It was quite the journey!
Lake Hibara with many tents ready for ice fishing
Lake Hibara is the largest lake in the Ura-Bandai region of Fukushima. It was formed following a volcanic eruption of Mt. Bandai in 1888 when explosion and debris avalanche created a natural dam which then filled with water, submerging what was once Hibara Village. These days, the lake is very popular for outdoor activities. Not only can you enjoy kayaking and sailing in summer, but in winter the lake is a very popular destination for ice fishing. Are you surprised? I was, too! Before seeing it with my own eyes, I had thought that I would have to go to Alaska to do this, but you can have this amazing experience right here in Fukushima in a warm wooden tent – straight out of the pages of National Geographic or the Discovery channel!
Sadly, it wasn’t quite as easy as it looks!! To be honest with you, most of the fish pictured above were a kind donation from the tent of experts next door! There is some technique, lightening-fast reflexes and a whole lot of patience required to be a successful ice-fisherman and apparently our group were all lacking in all of the above. It WAS a lot of fun trying though! And a great sense of achievement when we got a bite. Don’t worry – even if you don’t manage to catch enough for lunch, there are other options available…
When you are finished fishing, you can send whatever fish you did catch to the resort restaurant to make fresh tempura fish. For me, I chose to eat inside the cozy restaurant to enjoy the crispy fried fish along with a bowl of miso, some tea and a huge bowl of fragrant pork-cutlet (sauce-katsu, a local delicacy of Fukushima).
Fragrant pork cutlet and Tempura fish
After fully charging up with a delicious lunch, I headed straight to Hotel Listel Inawashiro.
“Hotel Listel Inawashiro is a large resort facility in a beautiful location near Bandai Mountain and Lake Inawashiro, and we are also one of Inawashiro “Onsen”, or hot springs, in Aizu-Wakamatsu Bandai Kogen (Highland). We are only 10 minutes away from Bandai Kogen Exit on Bandai Highway, and it is also easy to make excursions to beautiful green Ura-Bandai and castle town Aizu-Wakamatsu, both of which are popular tourist sites located less than 40 minutes away.
At the elevation of 600m, our vast property is covered with seasonal flowers from spring to autumn, such as rape blossoms, camomile flowers, lavender, and cosmos. We are a great destination for enjoying sports, with a number of outdoor sports facilities including tennis, futsal, and park golf, as well as an affiliated golf course.
In winter, Hotel Listel Inawashiro is a lively winter resort where guests enjoy skiing and snowboarding at our ski slope where we host FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cups Mogul.” (Hotel Listel Iwanashiro website)
Here, I had an afternoon immersed in the snow. It would be a huge shame if you came here without trying skiing or snowboarding! Despite falling down countless number of times, finally, I could stand on my feet well enough to slide (slowly) down the enchanting slopes. It was a thrilling experience and filled me with a sense of adventure – I didn’t want to stop!
Following an afternoon full of activities, I was ready for tasty dinner and I was not disappointed. We enjoyed a buffet meal with lots of delicious food such as sushi, sashimi, steak, crab…enough to make you wish you had a bigger belly to enjoy as much as you can!
And what’s the perfect way to end a perfect day of exploration? There’s nothing better than relaxing in the onsen to recover your weary body! Yes, please.
Lake Inwanashiro with swans
My second day began by watching the beautiful sunrise at Lake Iwanashiro and watching the swans swimming around in the blue water, bathing in sunlight. It was a simply spectacular view almost too beautiful to capture in pictures. I think these swans chose Iwanashiro lake on their migratory journey not only to avoid the extremely cold weather in Siberia but also because they wanted to take pictures with tourists from all over the world!
Not only is Fukushima blessed with dreamily beautiful natural scenery, it also has ancient historical beauty in the form of castles and old mountain villages, hiding in the snow.
For just 410 yen, you can explore the ancient castle, Tsuruga-jo. Inside the castle you can see the typical architecture of wood and a lot of pictures and artifacts about the history of the castle and the Boshin war. However, the most amazing thing is the view from the top floor – all around you is the white, snowy landscape of Aizu-wakamatsu City.
My final destination on my journey was Ouchijuku village – the village hiding under many layers of snow, oozing with rustic beauty, simplicity and a mysterious atmosphere!
Ouchijiku village – ancient village
Imagine rows of wooden shops and houses with artifully constructed thatched roofs covered under a think layer of snow. To explore further the architecture of the houses I chose a traditional restaurant to visit and enjoy a hot bowl of the local specialty ‘Negi-soba’.
Negi-soba is a very popular dish, special to Ouchi-juku. It’s special because you have to use a raw onion instead of chopsticks to eat the noodles!! It was a very exciting challenge for me – I had no trouble dealing with the unconventional cutlery – I was so hungry!!
Next time you are debating about how to spend your weekend in Japan, consider creating your own adventure in Fukushima! In any season, it is one place full of the best raw material to write a perfect story for yourself.
How to get there:
- Lake Hibara
*Tokyo Station (shinkansen)—Koriyama Station (JR)—Inawashiro Station(bus)—urabandai (3 hrs, 8950 yen) *Sendai Station (shinkansen)—Koriyama Station (JR)—Inawashiro Station(bus)—urabandai (2 hrs, 6130 yen)
- Listel Iwanashiro Hotel resort
*Narita Airport (express bus)—Hotel Listel (5 hrs, 6000 yen)2 Tokyo Station (shinkansen)—Koriyama Station (JR)—Inawashiro Station( free shuttle bus)—Hotel Listel (3 hrs, 8950 yen)
*Tokyo Station (shinkansen)—Koriyama Station (JR)—Inawashiro Station( free shuttle bus)—Hotel Listel (3 hrs, 8950 yen)
*Sendai Station (shinkansen)—Koriyama Station (JR)—Inawashiro Station (free shuttle bus)—Hotel Listel (3hrs, 8950 yen)
- Lake Iwanashiro
JR from Inawashiro station to Aizuwakamatsu station
*Tokyo Station(Shinkansen)—Koriyama Station(bus)—Tsurugajo Bus Station (9300 yen, 3 hrs)
*Sendai Station(Shinkansen)—Koriyama Station(bus)—Tsurugajo Bus Station (6480yen, 2 hrs 10 minutes)
*Sendai Station East Exit (Express bus)— Tsurugajo Bus Station (2900yen, 2 hrs)
- Ouchijiku village
*From Nanukamachi Station – take JR Tadami Line/aizu tetsudo line to Yunokamionsen Station – walk 3min to Yunoueonsen Ekimae Bus Stop – take bus to Ouchika Bus Stop – walk 4 min to Ouchijuku Village
For more unique discoveries in Tohoku, visit our main homepage: gogotohoku.jp
Pham Van Manh – Vietnam