Japanese Prefectures – Fukushima (福島)

Fukushima – Hawaiian resorts, nature in its purest form and amazing castles

Welcome to the prefecture of Fukushima. A prefecture that suffered greatly during the 2011 Tōhoku Disaster but has since found hope and is simply beautiful. Take a look around and discover lush marhslands, amazing castles, a little bit of Hawaii and volcanic sceneries.

Lake Inawashiro, one of the biggest lakes in Japan.

Lake Inawashiro, one of the biggest lakes in Japan.

Geography and history

The Fukushima prefecture is the southernmost and last prefecture of the Tōhoku region. It is the third largest prefecture in Japan and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the east, the prefectures of Miyagi and Yamagata in the north, the prefecture of Niigata in the west and the prefectures of Gunma, Tochigi and Ibaraki in the south. Fukushima is divided in three regions: Aizu, Nakadōri and Hamadōri. the Aizu region is in the west and contains a lot of mountains, lakes and lush nature. Nakadōri is the heart of the prefecture and is known for its agricultural strength. Hamadōri is the region in the East that borders the Pacific Ocean. This coastal region was hit the most by the 2011 Tōhoku Disaster. The capital of the Fukushima prefecture is Fukushima City and it is located in the Nakadōri region of the prefecture. The prefecture is mostly known for its sake, lacquerware and an assortment of fruits like pears, peaches and cherries.

Fukushima

A map of the regions in Fukushima

As most prefectures in the vicinity, Fukushima was also part of the Mutsu Province until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Two barriers were made to defend ‘civilised Japan’ from the barbarians in the north. Sadly, there are no remains left of these barriers and you will only find stone monuments where the barriers used to stand. In 1882, the so-called ‘Fukushima Incident’ happened after the appointment of Mishima Michitsune as governor. This appointment was opposed by two groups of activists who came together and formed their own party called the ‘Fukushima Jiyūtō’ or the Liberal Party. They thought Mishima had a secret mission and were afraid that he would try to get rid of them. After a lot of political dancing, activists of the Jiyūtō were attacked during their sleep by agents of the government and their opposition was weakened strongly.

A stone monument where the Shirakawa Barrier used to be.

A stone monument where the Shirakawa Barrier used to be.

Of course we cannot talk about the history of Fukushima without mentioning the 2011 Tōhoku Disaster that happened on the 11th of March in 2011. On this day a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 occurred off the coast of the Miyagi prefecture. The tsunami that followed hit the Hamadōri region in Fukushima with an unopposable strength and destroyed lives and buildings. In total, 1,817 residents of the Fukushima Prefecture are confirmed dead or missing. In 2015, a report confirmed that the entire disaster was the cause of 15,894 deaths, 6,152 injured and 2,562 people missing. After the disaster, it was clear that the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was damaged. The outer housing of two of the six reactors exploded and partially melted down. This is seen as the biggest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster and is the second disaster that received the level 7 event classification of the International Nuclear Event Scale. Level 7 is the highest level on this scale. To this day, a safe zone with a radial of 20 kilometres around the area still exists.

Explosion of one of the reactors at the Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Explosion of one of the reactors at the Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Must-see locations

The first location we recommend is Aizuwakamatsu. This castle town is located 100 kilometres west of the nuclear powerplants and the area around it didn’t have a higher radiation level than before the accident. Aizuwakamatsu is surrounded by lovely natural scenes, mountains and rivers. This town is very old and has a lot of cultural attractions that are simply amazing. You can visit the burial mounds or kofun that were made in the fourth century CE, take a look at the fascinating Aizuwakamatsu Castle, which is a replica sadly, or take a stroll between the old samurai houses that are still maintained. Do you want to relax? Visit some of the old onsen that are spread out over the town. People who like Japanese gardens should visit the Aizu Matsudaira’s Royal Garden, a garden that was designed in the 1380’s and has a more than 400 different kinds of medicinal herbs. The garden pond called Shinji no ike, is shaped like the kanji for heart (心) and will provide you with peace and harmony. This old town is definitely worth a visit for those among us who want to see some cultural and natural beauty.

The lovely Aizuwakamatsu Castle.

The lovely Aizuwakamatsu Castle.

Do you want to see some more untamed nature? Go visit the Bandai Region in the Fukushima prefecture. This region is located in the western part of the prefecture and houses a great amount of hiking and walking trails and places to ski at. The entire region is actively volcanic and because of that, the views you’ll get while hiking are breathtaking and raw. In the centre of the region stands Mount Bandai, a volcano that erupted for the last time in 1886, giving it a very iconic appearance. Due to the eruption, the landscape became dotted with ponds and highlands with lovely scenery and amazing trails were created. These highlands are called the Urabandai which literally means ‘behind Bandai’. To the south of Mount Bandai, you can find one of the biggest lakes in Japan, Lake Inawashiro, and north of Mount Bandai is Mount Azuma, a unique volcanic mountain range that towers above the horizon.

Mount Bandai dwarfing the countryside.

Mount Bandai dwarfing the countryside.

Iwaki used to be a coal mining town that lost its shine when oil started to be used even more in Japan. As a way to fix this, Iwaki built the Spa Resorts Hawaiians to draw in tourists and save the town. This resort is without a doubt unique and if you are passing by, make sure to take a look inside the first themepark ever built in Japan. The mascots of this themepark are the dancing Hula Girls and they are a popular sight in the prefecture. After the 2011 disaster, they toured the prefecture and kept hope up for the inhabitants of Fukushima. Beside watching the dancing performance, the themepark has a lot more entertainment to offer. Spa Resorts Hawaiians is divided in different parts. The Water Park is filled with different pools and slides. You can also visit two different onsen, one unisex indoor onsen in the Spring Park and another gender separated one outside that is said to be the biggest outdoor onsen in Japan. The last park, Vir Park, is mostly used for dancing lessons, massages and much, much more.

One of the many indoor pools at Iwaki's Spa Resorts Hawaiians.

One of the many indoor pools at Iwaki’s Spa Resorts Hawaiians.

Finally, we want to show you the Oze National Park. It’s a natural paradise. This National Park only 100 kilometres north from Tokyo, is known for its Ozegahara Marshlands and the Onezuma Pond. By using perfectly maintained walking trails, you can discover this beautiful park yourself and be amazed by its pure atmosphere and lovely colours. The Ozegahara Marshlands are six kilometres by one kilometre in size and are guarded by Mount Shibutsu and Mount Hiuchigatake. Because the walking trail isn’t that long, it is one of the most popular walking trails in the park. In late May and early June, white skunk cabbages sprout out of the ground delivering a stunning sight of the Marshlands. The walking trails pass through, around and over the park, making it easy to enter and leave the park where you want. You can even stay the night in one of the cosy mountain huts. It’s a place that is on Inari’s bucketlist, that’s for sure.

Mount Shibutsu towering over the Marshlands.

Mount Shibutsu towering over the Marshlands.

How to get there?

Being close to Tokyo, Fukushima is very easy to reach. You can get there by plane, by Shinkansen, by train or by bus. If you rather want to go by car and be free, you can easily reach everything in the prefecture. There are simply no reasons not to take a look at this hidden pearl. Just make sure not to enter the safe zone around the Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

A map including the safe zone and the levels of radiation.

A map including the safe zone and the levels of radiation.

So do you want to visit Fukushima now? We hope that we have showed you the different reasons to visit this lovely place. If you want to know more about travelling to Fukushima, leave a comment, send us a mail or please visit this page.

We will be back with another Japanese prefecture in October when we will tell you more about Ibaraki.