Thatched roofs, alpine adventures and abundant nature
With a surface area similar to Connecticut and the Bahamas, Fukushima is the third largest prefecture. The three metropolitan areas of Iwaki, Koriyama, and the capital Fukushima City contain half its population of 2 million. Geographically, Fukushima is divided into three regions; Hamadori, Nakadori, and Aizu. The prefecture marks the beginning of the Tohoku (North East) region and is blessed by its little known natural beauty. The cultural center of Aizu also rivals the more famous cities of Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura.
The horrific events of March 11, 2011 and the ensuing nuclear accident turned the world’s attention to Fukushima. The people of Fukushima have shown resilience in the face of tragedy and are focusing their efforts to cleaning up after the disasters. Life is back to normal for most of the population while the area directly around the disabled power stations in the coastal area of Hamadori remains evacuated.
Nakadori, a central strip running from south to north, contains most of the population within the towns of Shirakawa, Sukagawa, Koriyama, and Fukushima City. As both the Tohoku Expressway and Tohoku Shinkansen run through the region it may explain why the population became concentrated in this area. Koriyama is the commercial center of the prefecture with a slightly larger population of 330,000 compared to 290,000 for Fukushima which is the capital.
The Aizu region, comprising of Aizu Wakamatsu City, lies on the western side of the prefecture and is famous for remaining loyal to the Tokugawa Shogunate even after the Meiji restoration of 1868. The rebuilt Turugajo Castle, Iimoriyama where 19 young soldiers aged 14 to 16 committed suicide, and the samurai mansion Bukeyashiki are popular tourist attractions not to be missed when visiting the region.
Lake Inawashiro, which can be seen when traveling between either Koriyama or Fukushima to Aizu is Japan’s 4th largest lake and offers many picturesque views. The majestic Mount Bandai offers the best views of the lake and can be easily climbed during the summer months. The alpine plateau behind Mount Bandai known as Urabandai is a popular retreat for city dwellers looking for a week-end getaway away from the crowds. A popular walking trail waves itself around five colored ponds called Goshikinuma. These ponds were formed after Mount Bandai’s violent eruption of 1888 blew off a third of the mountain and blocked the flow of a river.
Fukushima prefecture can be easily accessed from Tokyo by car by using either the Tohoku or Joban expressways. By shinkansen, Koriyama and Fukushima City are less than 2 hours away. Local trains to the Aizu region leave from Koriyama.