Showing posts with label fukushima. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fukushima. Show all posts

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oze National Park

Map Location for one of quite a number of entry points into the park. There are many entrances.

Oze wetlands

One of the most famous natural areas near Tochigi is Oze National Park. This park spanning Tochigi, Fukushima, Gunma and Niigata prefectures features great wetlands, mountains, forests and a lake. Its quite crowded in Spring and Autumn. In fact it was fairly busy when we were there on a weekend in June. The park was originally part of the Nikko National Park, but was separated to form its own park to reduce visitor numbers to it fragile environment.

Oze Lake

There is quite a bit of walking that you could do in the park. I would think you could easily spend 3 or 4 days here. But most people walk in and spend the night at one of the huts at the lake or in the wetlands and then walk out the next day. You can walk in via the mountain peak but I imagine that would be a fairly hard day if you're not fit.

Oze accommodation with a view

On our trip we walked into the wetlands on the first day. We did not book in advance and were able to get a room at the second place we tried. It looked like there were plenty of vacancies. I don't recommend this method. Had we failed to get a room it would have been a long, long day walking out again. The room was 8,500 yen each for the two of us in a small room with shared bathroom and simple dinner and breakfast. The staff spoke pretty decent English and there was a Chinese lady working there who spoke Mandarin.

Lots of boardwalks in the park

The entire park was really lovely. In June it was very green. It was also much cleaner than most Japanese walking destinations. I didn't see a single piece of rubbish on the ground the entire trip. The park was not crowded but it was definitely busy. Especially the area around the lake. I think for our trip there in Autumn when its more popular, we will have to go on a weekday.

Just a word of advice. Wear long pants! There are huge quantities of biting insects in the wetlands. They don't fly more than 40 or 50 centimeters from the ground so your arms and face are safe, but if you are wearing shorts they will eat you alive.

Next time I'd also like to climb the mountain.

More photos from the park and the drive in from Tochigi.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Komine Castle - Shirakawa - Fukushima

Map Location

This is a tiny little castle. But its very worth visiting. We went in summer, but there are lots of cherry trees so its sure to be good in spring and the whole area must be lovely in autumn too. You can combine a trip here with a trip to Nanko Park which is only a very short distance from here.

You can take the train to Shirakawa and walk to the castle and then Nanko park would just be a short taxi trip. The drive north along highway 294 is quite beautiful though I'm sure the freeway is faster.

In June when were at the castle the rose garden was also in full swing. Nestled under a castle wall is a very attractive location for such a garden.

More Photos

Nanko Park - Shirakawa - Fukushima

Map Location

The park is in Fukushima, but its a short drive from Tochigi and well worth the effort. You can combine a trip to this park with a trip to Komine Castle (which also has an excellent rose garden).

There are two main parts to the park both of which are fairly quick visits. The gardens are a classic example of a Japanese garden complete with tea rooms. Entry to the gardens is 350 yen and for an extra 500 yen you can go to the tea rooms and have traditional tea (without the ceremony) in a pretty little tea house. The tea is well worth the price, especially if you are visiting Japan or haven't experienced ocha before.

The garden is small but quite beautiful with a big lake, lots of cedar trees and little streams running through it. Judging by the photos its a good place to visit in autumn too.

The lake is quite large and also surrounded by cedar trees. Its quite beautiful by afternoon light (and I imagine morning light). There are boats you can go out on the lake in (though nobody was using them when we were there). There is not a single swan shaped boat!! You can walk around the edge of the lake. We only went a short while, but it must take a hour to walk all the way around. There is a great place to shoot the sunset from the side of the lake.

There is also a small temple at the lake though the only thing I could see to recommend it is you there is sake sampling at the entrance for a donation :-)

We strongly recommend this trip. Combine it with Komine for a great day.

More Photos

Monday, January 7, 2008

Oouchijuku - Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima

Map Location

This is a historic Japanese village.

Its not far from Aizuwakamatsu. Some people arrived by taxi, I'm guessing from the nearby railway station.

It was just a little bit busy when we were there, but not overly crowded.

At least in winter the houses were mostly pretty closed up to keep the cold out. We'd recommend going into one of the restaurants to eat since they are nicely decorated inside aswell. Perhaps in summer you can see inside more easily.

There is a hill behind the town where you can go to get a view over the town.

To no Hetsuri, Fukushima

Map Location

This is a very pretty little river walk just south of Aizuwakamatsu. Its not far from the train line which looks like a very nice way to see the area.

Tatenoyu Minshuku, Fukushima

Map Location very roughly! Our car navigation system could find it when we entered the phone number 0241-68-2648, you can book at their website Tatenoyu.

This is a very nice little hotel in Fukushima about 2 hours from Nasushiobara. Its our first Minshuku so we cant compare too well. But in absolute terms it is very good.

I'm not totally sure what the difference between a Minshuku and a Ryokan is, but I think its the fact that Minshuku are family run. This one is run by an extended family.

We went in early January and there was quite a bit of snow, but it was never difficult driving.

The room was good, with a nice view of the snowy surroundings. The onsen was good. Pretty with nice views of the mountains. Dinner was fantastic! There was a little beef hotpot at our table sashimi, unagi custard, barbequed fish (cooked in the room), fish soup (serve yourself from the pot cooking over the fire), many excellent little vegetable dishes including a sensational mashed potato and seemingly never ending tempura coming one piece at a time. It was a lot of food and it was very good. (my suggestion, and I know what I'm talking about here, don't eat two bowls of rice early in the meal!). They grow all their own vegetables and it shows, they were excellent.

There was karaoke after dinner, but all the guests, including us disappeared quickly when it started leaving the host family to sing (for a short while).

This would be a great place to stay when visiting Aizuwakimatsu, which is just a short way north. Locally, you can visit the excellent Oouchijuku and To no Hetsuri. There are other attractions in the area that we did not get to.

And the best think of all about our night at this place? The whole thing cost 8000 yen each for a couple! This place is thoroughly recommended.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shiobara/Nikko in Autumn, Tochigi

The autumn colors are out in force in the mountains now. Mt. Nasu is very beautiful though we've had horrible luck with the weather on two visit. This article is about a driving trip to the Shiobara/Nikko area that starts in Nasushiobara. We did the trip in late October and the colors were beautiful but only in the higher altitudes.


We started out driving Northwest on route 400 up into the Shiobara area. We travelled through this area pretty quickly because we know it well, but if you haven't been here then there is lots to see and do. You might consult our map if you want some ideas.


We drove into Shiobara Town and then took route 19 southwest. We took a short side trip to Swamp Lake (there must be a better translation than this Japanese to Chinese to English one) to check out the autumn colors. That colors around the lake and nearby mountains were just magnificent. There are lots of nice onsens in this area if you want to stay longer, but we kept going.



Return to route 19 and short while later the toll road starts. The views were beautiful the whole way and some of the ski resorts have really beautiful grounds at this time of year. The traffic was heavier than usual weekend traffic but never got slow. The toll road empties out onto highway 121. We headed north through some really lovely country along the side of a river.


Then we joined up with route 400 again now heading Southeast back towards Nasushiobara.

The whole trip took the best part of a day of slow driving with lots of stops.

More Photos

Monday, October 1, 2007

Asahi Brewery - Fukushima

Map Location

Free beer! And only an hours drive from Nasushiobara. How did it take us a whole year to discover this?
At the brewery there is a barbeque restaurant with beer and you can do a factory tour. The barbeque area is nice. We just sat and had some snacks and a few beers. I'd like to go back there for a barbeque some time.

Its quite different to the Sapporo beer factory tour (in Sapporo, Hokkaido). For a start its guided. And its much more a tour of an operational beer factory (which was not in operation on the day we were there). It was a good tour with English signs along the way and an English brochure for us to read. At the end of the tour there is free beer! You get one 300ml (guessing there) glass of beer (the photo is a 700ml beer in the restaurant) and can have 3 (I think) refills. There are some nice little snacks too.
The beer hall and tour at Sapporo were much more beautiful and historic. But the Fukushima tour was very interesting. I think it would be fantastic when the brewery is actually operating. And the friendly staff made it very pleasant too. And its free beer an hours drive from Nasushiobara!!!!

No photos allowed on the tour and we were too busy drinking to take serious travel photos so sorry, no extra photos.

Sendai Hira - Fukushima

Map Location

Its just a short stop. But its right next to Abukuma Caves. There is a good panoramic view from the top of this hill.
Most notably, it looks like hang gliders take off from there sometimes. There was a windsock and a launch ramp. Nearby there is a camp ground, which I am sure is primarily used by hang gliders.

There is also a little temple on the way up the hill. We didn't stop there.

The camp ground has some nice looking little huts too.

More Photos

Abukuma Caves - Fukushima

Map Location

This is a fun cave visit. Its located next to an observatory that you could combine in the same trip. When we were there, there was a huge event on with a stage, bands, comedians and a lot of food stalls. But I am sure thats not the normal case.

Honestly, I don't think the caves are so good. At least the formations are fairly tame compared to what we have seen before. But it was fun because the pathway becomes very restricted in parts and you have to crawl and scramble to get past some bits. It might be a bit scary for even mildly claustrophobic people.

More photos

Monday, September 17, 2007

Goshikinuma Swamps, Bandai, Fukushima

Map Location


Also known as the Five Colored Swamps. I think they could up their marketing appeal by calling them the Five Colored Lakes.

Anyway, the swamps are a series of small lakes colored various shades of blue and green by mineral deposits. Some of the lakes are quite striking. There were lots of photographers on the walk with tripods and fancy cameras.


It takes about an hour to walk the length of them. We walked back along the same route but you could walk back along the road and stop for a meal or visit one of the other (rather kitch looking) attractions. I marked both ends of the walk on the map location. At the busy end there is a shopping area and you can rent boats and row about on the largest of the lakes. There are some huge carp in that lake.

We drove up a beautiful toll road to the onsen area but they were all booked out so we didn't stay there.


The other main interesting thing about this area is it looks to be a pretty busy ski area in the winter. There are lots of resorts and ski fields.

More Bandai area photos

Lake Inawashiro, Fukushima

Map Location

This is a beautiful, big lake near Aizuwakamatsu.


We didn't spend so long here, but its obviously a good place to have a relaxing time away from it all. I think we'll be back.

There are nice quiet camp grounds (even on the public holiday). There are sandy beaches that look good for swimming. There is a boating area where a lot of powerboats and jetskis are available.

There is also a migratory bird sanctuary which is visited by white swans in winter, but there were no birds there in September when we visited.

Tsurugajo Castle, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima

updated: May 12, 2008
Map Location

This is my favourite castle to visit so far in Japan.


The castle is beautiful and well maintained. There is a good display inside and the view from the top is excellent in every direction. The gardens are also very beautiful, especially the walk around the top of the moat. There is also a little teahouse in the grounds.


I guess the most famous thing about Tsurugajo is a samurai troop called "The White Tigers". They were made up of 16 and 17 year olds. As near as I can tell they were a division in training but were largely massacred in a brave defence of their castle. The most famous part was 20 of them who were on top of a hill looking down and thought they saw the castle overrun and on fire so they all committed suicide. It turns out they were wrong and the castle wasn't overrun or on fire. Their suicide success rate was 95%!

Next door there is a museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of the area going right back to early human development. There is a good printed guide in English.

More Aizuwakamatsu Photos

update: this is also a very good place to visit in winter and especially spring for cherry blossom. In 2008 the blossom was at its best on the weekend of Apr 19th, 1 week after Nasushiobara and 3 weeks after Tokyo.

More Photos
photo location to be cleaned up soon. Sorry for the mess!

Hotel Fushimiso, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima

Map Location

As usual we set off on our trip without having booked any accommodation. Since this was a long weekend, I felt sure we'd be sleeping in the car.

Not so! We found this hotel pretty easily.


The people were very friendly. Though I feel pretty sure 50% of the banter of the old ladies from the hotel were bawdy gaijin jokes. But I feel equally sure they were being genuinely nice and friendly too.

The hotel was only 8,000 yen per night. That is 16,000 yen for the two of us with dinner and breakfast included.


Our room as small, neat, clean and slightly run down. It had a great view of a small river that ran behind the hotel but it was mostly only visible through glass.


The onsen was quite nice. It was fully enclosed and Cassandra and I are developing a real interest in outside onsens with great views. But no complaints about the onsen in this hotel.

Dinner was great. It was 9 little course. Each one of them very good. We requested the meal in our room, but I suspect we were supposed to go to a little dining room to eat. They asked us to eat our breakfast there. Breakfast was also very good.

Overall, great little hotel.