Whenever Fukushima is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the March 11th disaster. The earthquake, resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster leaves a potent image in the minds of the locals and international tourists around the world. When a region undergoes tragedy, what allows that area to continue to sustain is the transformation that comes afterward.
Seven years later, Fukushima is pushing through that transformation. In this article, we’d like to bring you not only the activities and places you can experience, but more importantly, how the region is fighting to revamp its image and continue to share the beauty that lies beneath a worldwide tragedy.
Fukushima is the third largest prefecture in Japan, yet remains one of the least densely populated. Throughout all four seasons, there are a number of scenic spots that draw travelers from all over Japan and the world. Views from awe-inspiring spots like Bandai-Azuma Skyline, Bentenyama, and Hanamiyama, will have you question the loss of face Fukushima has suffered in recent years.
At a maximum elevation of 1622 meters, the Bandai-Azuma Skyline is affectionately referred to as “the road that runs across the sky” or “the road to the sky”. This sightseeing mountain road provides beautiful views of a landscape riddled with mountain ranges and ravines that many will never get to see. The “snow corridor” in the spring and the impressive colors of autumn draw the largest crowds, but keep in mind that the road is closed for the winter from mid-November to April.
Revitalization and restoration is top-of-mind for everyone local to the prefecture. A strong desire to not only repair the damage brought on by the devastation, but also pass on the rich nature that populates the region to future generations, fuels a government-led revitalization project that has made headway. Open spaces that help prevent flooding, embankments, emergency routes, stronger roads, and facilities are among some of the results brought on by the efforts of the prefecture.
The effects of the 3.11 disaster also trickle down into the food and drink. One major concern for locals is the amount of radiation in the water. And they do their best to ensure that the water used to make rice and sake is triple-checked for safety. The result is still award-winning sake from the likes of Suehiro Brewery and the cultural importance of Yamato Sake.
In fact, one of Japan’s best sake brands, Kinsuisho, hails from Fukushima. They’ve continued to win the gold medal in the national Sake awards for seven years straight. Priding themselves on their dedication only to the highest quality rice and water, they sum up the supreme efforts put forward by the prefecture.
But Fukushima is not only known for its sake. They also have the well-known flat and thick noodles of Kitakata ramen, yakitori (chicken skewers), ika-ninjin (dried squid and carrots), and disc gyoza. While there are a number of other delicacies beyond the scope of this article, we recommend you challenge yourself with tasting the specialities of the prefecture. You’ll thank yourself in the end.
To know Fukushima on an experiential level, there are a number of activities we recommend you give a go. Some of the natural activities include a year-round fruit picking in Iwaki City and cave exploring in Irimizu Cave in Tamura City (wear extra layers to ward off the cold!). Of course, you must join a tour of a sake brewery and taste the subtle differences most laypeople never come to notice.
While the effects of 3.11 will remain a part of Fukushima’s image for generations, don’t let this stop you from experiencing the beautiful nature, belly-filling food and knowledge-expanding activities of the prefecture. From the “road across the sky” to the ramen bowls of Kitakata, you’ll find a breadth of experience and spirit in Fukushima that continues to enrich the lives of locals and visitors throughout the years. Join in on the restoration with a visit of your own.
Fukushima Prefecture Overview
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR