At 1,800 meters in height, Mount Bandai is familiar as the symbol of Fukushima. With the mountain in the center, the area to the south is called Omotebandai, while the area to the north is called Urabandai, which together are designated as Bandai Asahi National Park. Urabandai is particularly blessed with diverse natural vistas, including mountains, forests, hot springs, plateaus, and wetlands, making it popular with both tourists and locals alike.
From ancient times, Mount Bandai was a subject of worship for the people living in the region. A major volcanic eruption occurred on this mountain in the year 1888, as reported in such newspapers as The Times and The New York Times. The land ravaged by the eruption was replanted with trees by the local people, returning the scenery to the verdant state seen today.
The eruption caused the nearby river to be dammed, which resulted in a collection of over 300 lakes and swamps of various sizes. Leading among those are Akimoto Lake and Goshiki-numa. Akimoto Lake is particularly popular with photography aficionados because of the high likelihood of being able to see a beautiful sunrise, called the “morning sunset” because of the way the light of the rising sun turns the eastern sky and lake surface red. This scene rapidly transforms before your eyes over the course of about ten minutes from flaming red to orange.
Meanwhile, the nearby Goshiki-numa is actually a collection of about 20 different swamps. The name “Goshiki” means five colors, referring to the way the surface of the water changes between colors such as emerald green and cobalt blue according to the passage of time and changing climate. It is believed this phenomenon is caused by particles in the water dispersing the light. The location features many beautiful scenes observable nowhere else, such as Midoro-numa, with three different colors on the water surface, Ao-numa that shines with a blue tint, and Ruri-numa, which appears to be a different color depending on where you see it from.
HOW TO PLAY
At Akimoto Lake, which features camp sites and other leisure facilities, we recommend spending the night for a chance to see the “morning sunset.” When viewing the morning sunset from the west, you will be able to observe an otherworldly mirage in which the tree dotted islands in the lake will appear to float over the fog on the lake’s surface. In the fall months of October and November, when the leaves in the forests surrounding Akimoto Lake change color, you can enjoy both the vibrant colors of the mountain slopes along with the lake itself. From late January through early March, you can try ice fishing on the frozen lake for the local lake fish, wakasagi, if you bring your fishing pole and purchase a fishing ticket.
Trekking is recommended if you wish to enjoy the views around Goshiki-numa. The recommended hiking course is called the “Goshiki-numa Shizen Tanshoro,” or Goshiki-numa natural scenic road. Approximately 3.6 km in length, it takes about 70 minutes for a leisurely hike around the swamps. In October and November, the leaves on the various varieties of maple trees begin to change, allowing you to enjoy the contrast between the clear water surface and the vibrant reds and yellows of the leaves. A wide variety of high altitude vegetation is observable throughout the Urabandai plateau, and you can enjoy viewing different types of flowers and trees in each season. The Urabandai Site Station facility located near Lake Hibara has information on the 19 different trekking courses through the Urabandai area, so a recommended plan is to explore those courses as you take in the seasonal scenery.
There are bus stops at the start and end of the Goshiki-numa Shizen Tanshoro hiking trail. The Goshiki-numa Iriguchi stop at the trail head connects with both Inawashiro and Kitakata stations, while the Urabandai Kogen Eki stop at the end connects with Kitakata Station. After your hike, take the bus to Kitakata Station and get off at the “Michi-no-eki Urabandai” bus stop where you can enjoy local cuisine such as Kitakata Ramen. As the gentle but charming flavor revives your limbs fatigued from the hike, you will be filled with a comfortable languor and unforgettable memories.