The Bandai highland (磐梯高原, Bandai Kōgen) is a wide area in the northern part of Fukushima prefecture. Located at more than 800 meters above the sea level it’s also known as Urabandai which translates as Behind Bandai. It’s a very popular outdoor destination for nature lovers, and offers various hiking trails, countless amazing lakes and also skiing opportunities in winter.
The history of this territory is surprisingly recent. With the July 15th, 1888 last eruption of Mount Bandai, a massive debris flood ended up blocking the majority of the below Nagase river. As a result more than hundred lakes were formed. Right south of Hibara Lake, the biggest of them, you can find a pond-dotted area called Goshikinuma, literally the "Five Colored Ponds". Famous for their intense color, ranging from emerald green to deep cobalt blue, their sight will surely leave you astonished.
The best way to explore the site is walking along the namesake trail. It cuts through the whole place passing by the most scenic spots and it’s about four km long. The path is well-maintained and the walk is mostly flat.
Around the first and biggest of the five ponds, Bishamon-numa, you will find a restaurant, a small kiosk and the usual souvenir shop. Along the shore there are various benches and places where you can stop and contemplate this wonder of nature. If you like ice cream, don't miss the opportunity to try what they call the "Goshinikinuma special", a salty weird taste that is actually very refreshing. You can also rent a small boat and cruise on the lake for 700 yen every 30 minutes.
The hike is mainly under the shade of the surrounding forest leading you to the other ponds. Let yourself enjoy the relaxing feeling of being surrounded by the green forest. Deeply breathe the fresh air and listen to the birds chirping. Take your time to look around you and watch for the vast diversity of plants and flowers. All the lakes have a different shade of green and blue and, if you look closely near the bank, you can even spot fishes and old submerged trees covered in green algae. Near the end of the trail you will pass by the Bentenganuma pond. In a sunny day the blue of the water is so intense that looks almost surreal. The contrast with the shiny green of the surrounding trees is truly impressive and creates an amazing landscape that you won’t easily forget.
From Inawashiro station, get a bus to Urabandai and stop at Goshikinuma. Timetables in Japanese are here.