October 09, 2015

Fukushima

Fukushima(福島)in southern Tohoku is the last prefecture I visited. Although there are some places that I wanted to go in Fukushima, postponed visiting plans due to the nuclear issue since the 2011 disaster.

As of autumn 2015 when I went, regardless of whether the situation has actually improved or not, the fear level of locals and tourists has somewhat toned down. Decided to go because I intended to re-visit Tohoku that trip and Fukushima was the only prefecture I had not been to yet. There is a castle town I wanted to visit for quite some time and it is at the west side of the prefecture (Fukushima is Japan's third largest prefecture), so it doesn't bother me to visit the town for just a few hours.


I know many people still feel that it is dangerous to visit Fukushima. Because nuclear is something that cannot be seen, some people choose to not visit Fukushima or Japan at all and avoid eating Japanese products, especially raw ones. No matter how much time had passed, no matter what positive news/statistics appear, they choose to stay safe from the unknown.

My stand? By all means. People believe what they want to believe. BUT, DON'T IMPOSE YOUR BELIEF ON OTHERS. Respect others' decision if you want others to respect yours.

The castle town that I yearned to visit is Aizu-Wakamatsu(会津若松), the town featured in 2013 NHK drama Yae no Sakura(八重の桜). It is 1 hour local train west from Koriyama(郡山)station along the shinkansen line.

One common way to travel around Aizu-Wakamatsu is by the loop bus that links all the places of interest. 1 day pass (unlimited rides) costs 500 yen, worth buying if you ride more than 2 times.

Tsuruga Castle(鶴ヶ城)is a rebuilt castle, but it is rather impressive. Its roof tiles are red, which is unique compared to most Japanese castles. There are many precious artefacts inside with detailed history of the castle and the area, in Japanese and good English. Personally feel it is comparable to Osaka Castle and Nagoya Castle. Actors' costumes of Yae no Sakura were also exhibited.


Other attractions in Aizu Wakamatsu include Aizu Bukeyashiki (samurai houses) and sake breweries such as Aizu Sake Museum, where visitors can enjoy tasting the local sake for free and purchase food products made of Aizu sake. There are also Japanese garden and museums.



I would recommend spending 2D1N in this atmospheric town rich in history. Spending the night in Higashiyama Onsen(東山温泉)which is also along the bus route would be great!

Other than Aizu-Wakamatsu, attractions in the prefecture include Ouchijuku(大内宿), a former post town, and Miharu Takizakura(三春滝桜) , a huge weeping cherry tree more than 1000 years old that attracts 300,000 visitors a year.

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