You may have reservations about Fukushima, but it is truly a beautiful place worth visiting
By Cheryl Chia
Everyone’s been making jokes since I’ve come back from Fukushima, but I’m happy to say that I’m healthy and I haven’t been physically altered either.
Take the Shinkansen – bullet train – to Aizu Wakamatsu City in Fukushima and you’ll notice the transition from bustling city to tranquil mountain scenery. From the train, you would be able to see Mount Bandai with its snowy caps.
The quiet city has many farms visible, as well as a beautiful Oyakuen – landscaped garden. Feudal lords used to encourage the common people to plant medicinal plants, which still can be seen today, along with a beautifully expansive pond filled with black and gold koi fish, and with the occasional duck floating serenely.
A short bus ride would take you to the nearby Tsuruga-jo Castle, where the Aizu clan of the Shogun (i.e. samurai lord) fought to the end to preserve the ways of the samurai during the Meiji Restoration.
Tsuruga-jo Castle, meaning “crane” castle, is one of the famous landmarks in the Aizu area. The five-storey castle is now a history museum and observation platform. The dragon statues on the roof have eyes made of two-carat diamonds, and have a vantage point overlooking the castle grounds and the dormant volcano, Mount Bandai.
If you’re a sake fan, be sure to pop by the Aizu Sake Historical Museum and watch as the owner and guide takes you through to explain the process and the intricacies of sake and shochu-making. Be warned that not all the guides can speak English.
For a perfect view of Mount Bandai, and if you are an avid skier, try staying at the Bandaisan Onsen Hotel. With a hot spring in the basement and snowy mountain scenery out back, you’d be in for a treat. The neighbouring Alts and Nekoma Mountain Resort has over 200 hectares covered in ‘powder snow’.
The ski season runs from December to mid-May. Lessons are provided with a money-back guarantee in case you do not learn to ski in five lessons or less. The Internet connection is also free at the hotel.
Warm up in the traditional Japanese onsen filled with geothermally-heated spring water. Its minerals are said to have healing and recharging properties. Everyone is in their birthday suits in the bath, and the genders are separated. Don’t feel shy. The Japanese are so nonchalant, they walk around as if you aren’t even there.
Samantha Tan, Singaporean winner of the Wow! Japan Photo Contest, had won an exclusive trip to Fukushima and said she intended to extend her trip. A wedding photographer by profession, she submitted a 38-photo pictorial on Japan to win. Other winners came from Vietnam, Taiwan, South Africa, Korea, Canada and China.
The contest was held to help funnel tourism back to Japan after the devastating earthquake.
This trip was made possible by the Japan Tourism Authority.
By Cheryl Chia