Experience Nature’s Bounty in Fukushima: Go Fruit Picking, Cross a Ravine by Boat, Explore a Deserted Village, and Enjoy Winter Sports!

Fukushima Prefecture, the third largest prefecture in Japan, is blessed with bountiful natural landscapes made up of mountains, plateaus, lakes, and the sea. In search of the autumn and winter treasures of Fukushima, we enjoyed five outdoor activities with local tour guides, including fruit picking, crossing a ravine and walking through an abandoned village, riding in a drift taxi, snowshoeing, and driving a snowmobile. In this article, we'll showcase the fascinating nature of Fukushima through these activities to help you plan your own outdoor Japan journey!



*This article was written in collaboration with the Fukushima Prefecture Tourism & Local Products Association.

What Kind of Place Is Fukushima Prefecture?

The first thing that might pop into your mind when hearing "Fukushima" is the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. However, that was over 10 years ago, and the prefecture has now largely recovered and offers a variety of attractions, such as bountiful nature, beautiful landscapes, scrumptious cuisine, and unique traditions and culture.

Fukushima Prefecture is located in the south of the Tohoku region, around 200 kilometers north of Tokyo. It is the third largest prefecture after Hokkaido and Iwate, and is divided into three areas - Nakadori, Aizu, and Hamadori - by a mountain range running north to south. These three areas differ not only in topography, but also in numerous other features including climate, economy, culture, dialect, and scenery. The mild weather of Nakadori allows for a flourishing natural environment, perfect for growing fruits like peaches, grapes, and apples. Aizu, on the other hand, is home to many famous landmarks such as Lake Inawashiro, the Bandai Highlands, Ouchijuku, and Tsurugajo Castle. Finally, there's Hamadori, whose seaside location lends itself to fresh seafood cuisine.

The tour that we joined spanned four areas across the prefecture: Fukushima City and Nihonmatsu City in the Nakadori region, and Onuma District’s Mishima Town and the Bandai Highlands’ Urabandai in the Aizu region. They may all be situated in Fukushima but each of them is special in its own way and offers unique activities in nature. Led by seasoned local guides, we set out on an adventure that not only let us enjoy the beautiful landscapes and charms of Fukushima with our eyes, but also brought us closer to nature through all five senses as we moved through this lesser-known outdoor paradise.

How to Get to Fukushima

From Overseas:

Currently, there are no direct international flights to Fukushima Airport, so we recommend taking the train, bullet train, or renting a car from Sendai International Airport or Narita International Airport to get to Fukushima.

From Tokyo:

Take the shinkansen bullet train to Fukushima Station (1.5 hours), then transfer to whichever part of the prefecture you plan to visit. Alternatively, you can take Tobu Railway's Limited Express Revaty from Asakusa Station, which will take you to Aizu-Tajima Station in around 3 hours and 10 minutes. From there, take the Aizu Railway to your destination.

●FUKUSHIMA TRAVEL: https://fukushima.travel/

●FUKUSHIMA TRAVEL Tours: https://fukushima.travel/tours/

Get in Touch with Fukushima’s Beautiful Nature

Seasonal Fruit Picking at Marusei Orchard

Fukushima Prefecture is a vast region with diverse landscapes and climates, so it’s really no wonder that it offers a wide array of delicious food, from the bounty of the mountains to the fruits of the sea. When you visit Fukushima, there are certain things you really shouldn’t miss out on, like the prefecture’s juicy and sweet fruits! You can enjoy different fruits depending on the season, from strawberries available between winter and early spring, to cherries and peaches in the height of summer, and pears, grapes, and apples in fall, which in Fukushima is also known as “appetite autumn.” It’s easy to see why Fukushima has earned itself the nickname of “the Fruit Kingdom.”

It was a crisp autumn morning when we arrived at Marusei Orchard in Iizaka Onsen, Fukushima City. Occupying about 8 hectares, Marusei Orchard is also a farmers market where you can enjoy various seasonal produce such as cherries, peaches, pears, apples, grapes, and persimmons. It was apple season when we visited so, at the guide’s instructions, we participated in the all-you-can-eat apple-picking where you have 30 minutes to pick and eat as many apples as you want.

First, the staff at Marusei Orchard kindly explained how to correctly pick the apples, and then it was our turn. You have to gently grab the bottom of the apple with your palm and hold it firmly as you carefully twist it upwards, which makes it snap right off the branch. I had no idea it was that easy! The staff also taught us some secrets to harvesting delicious apples. It seems that apples that grow at the top of the tree are more nutritious and sweeter as they get exposed to more sunlight. You have to be careful to never touch the delicate apple buds, though. These buds will determine whether or not the tree will bear delicious apples again next year.

Marusei Orchard grows more than just one kind of apple. We followed the orchard staff and our guide to look at and taste the different apple varieties. That day, we got to sample the juicy Shinano Gold that has a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, the rather sour Kogyoku (Jonathan apple) that’s red down to its rose-colored flesh, the yellow-green and refreshing Orin, the Yoko that is very sweet, mildly tart, and very dense on the inside, and the crispy Mori no Kagayaki.

Each variety differed in size, appearance, color, and taste, and we enjoyed sharing our thoughts about the apples as we ate them. I liked the Shinano Gold the best as it had the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. After the apple picking experience, we went to Mori no Garden—a cafe directly managed by Marusei Orchard and located right next to the orchard—for some homemade fruit desserts that can be enjoyed with coffee or other beverages.

We ordered four types of parfaits: Shine Muscat grape, grape, persimmon, and special. The grape and persimmon desserts were absolutely packed with fruit and instantly caught our eye. It’s nearly impossible to find luxurious parfaits like that in the city, especially with such delicious and gorgeous fruit. We also ordered smoothies, French toast, and the Marusei fruit sandwich box. All of them were served with apples, grapes, and peaches, and were absolutely superb!

Mugenkyo Boat Ride and Exploring an Abandoned Village

There are still many unspoiled landscapes in Fukushima that remain untouched by the hand of man, like Mugenkyo, a ravine near Hayato Onsen in the interior of the prefecture. Its name, which means “mist phantasm ravine,” comes from the surrounding mountainscape and the light sparkling on the surface of the water, which together create an enchanting, dream-like scenery when the fog starts rolling in and envelops the area in the early summer mornings and evenings. You rarely see this phenomenon during crisp autumn days, but that doesn’t make Mugenkyo any less atmospheric and wonderful.

When we visited, the leaves on the trees had just started to turn red and there was a slight chill in the air. We didn’t get to experience the area’s famous blazing fall foliage, but since there were not a lot of visitors around, we took that moment to really take in the tranquility of Mugenkyo and admire its beautiful scenery while listening to birds burst into song from out of nowhere. We then got on a small boat rowed by a boatman with a few other people and slowly crossed the river while listening to the ferryman’s stories about the ravine.

We quickly reached the opposite shore and the boatman took us on a stroll through the abandoned Mifuke Village. 300 years ago, when it was still populated, the boat was the only way to reach the village, no matter how strong the rain or wind were. The name “Mifuke” (which literally means “three renewals”) is said to have come from the fact that the village was relocated three times after it was struck by natural disasters, including landslides. In 1964, the village was abandoned for the fourth time due to a mountain collapse. Today, only fragments of it remain, giving us little more than tiny glimpses into the lives of the people who once called this ghost town home.

According to our boatman, the village once prospered thanks to the large amounts of sulfur that had been mined in the area since 1953. However, as the demand for sulfur shrank and imports increased, the sulfur business began to decline until the local mines were shut down in 1960. One theory says that when the mines closed and were subsequently abandoned, large amounts of water accumulated inside the shafts, indirectly causing the landslides. And so, people had no choice but to leave Mifuke, which today is a tapestry of beauty and sadness.

Mifuke’s glory days may be long gone but with the resurgence of the ferry rides, people from all over have started coming here to learn about the village’s fascinating history. With the boatman serving as our guide, we crossed the mountain and visited the Koyasu Kannon Temple dedicated to the goddess Kannon, which was built around the same time as Mifuke Village. We also paid a visit to Oyama Shrine and Mugen Jizo, the statue of the Jizo Bodhisattva symbolizing Mugenkyo. It’s located at the center of the village, which gives you a panoramic, topside view of the ravine. As we walked around the area, we pondered how this village must have looked like in the past.

Before boarding the boat for the return trip, we took one last look at the opposite bank of the river from Mifuke Village and marveled at Mugenkyo from a different angle. Little did I know that there was such a tragic story behind this peaceful and beautiful scenery! There were also a lot of spots that we would have missed had it not been for our boatman guide. In the end, even though we did not get to see the mysterious foggy landscape of Mugenkyo, I will never forget the ravine or the deep impression that it left on me.

Drift Taxi Ride at Ebisu Circuit

If you like cars, you’ve probably heard of the famous Japanese anime “Initial D” about racing on mountain roads. Ebisu Circuit in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima, is one of the most famous drifting circuits in the world and like something straight out of the anime. Created by legendary drift car driver Nobushige Kumakubo, it has around 10 race tracks of different sizes, earning it the nickname of “the Mecca of Drifting.”

Drifting is an extremely difficult driving technique of making the rear wheels skid sideways while the car is moving at a high speed. Skilled drivers intentionally oversteer the car and step on the brakes to lock the tires and force-slide the car via centrifugal force. Ebisu Circuit allows visitors to experience the thrills of this highly complicated maneuver firsthand. Even those without a driver’s license can participate thanks to the circuit’s many professional instructors who’ll let you ride along in their cars as they drift all over the tracks. We couldn’t wait to try it out!

We were split into two groups and sat wearing helmets in the passenger and backseats of a taxi-like drifting car. The experienced drift school instructor first took us to the practice area to familiarize us with the speed of a drifting car. As soon as the instructor asked us if we were ready, I felt the tension in the air rise. Right after that, he stepped on the gas pedal and the car peeled out with a whistling sound. I sat in the back, but the centrifugal force was so strong that I felt like I was flying. I thought my internal organs were going to pop out at any moment.

We practiced for two to three laps. Once everyone got used to the sensation of drifting, the instructor finally took us to the actual course. Two of the courses, the North Course and the Toge Course, are full-fledged, diverse-terrain, circular tracks. The thrill we felt while driving through them was incomparable to what we felt at the practice area. One moment the road was straight, the next it was winding and twisting, forcing us to surrender our bodies to the force of the speeding car.

The instructor had total control of the angle and amplitude of the drift, which produced white smoke whenever the rear wheels skidded on the track. Mixed with the ear-splitting sound of the engine, being able to pull off these maneuvers was a true testament to the expert driving skills of the circuit’s instructors. It sure got our adrenaline pumping! If you’re a fellow thrill-seeker, you have to check out Ebisu Circuit!

Snowshoe Trekking at Urabandai's Mysterious Goshikinuma Ponds

When the golden colors of autumn gave way to the pure white snowscapes of winter, we embarked on a trip to Urabandai in the northern Aizu area of Fukushima while bundled up in thick coats to withstand the freezing temperatures. Urabandai is the nickname given to the Bandai Highlands area surrounded by several mountains, including Mt. Bandai, Mt. Adatara, and Mt. Azuma. Here, the landscape changes with each season, offering visitors cherry blossoms in spring, summer heat, colorful foliage in the fall, and beautiful snowy landscapes in winter, which is a great time to enjoy skiing and hot springs.

One of the can’t-miss highlights of Urabandai are the Goshikinuma Ponds, a cluster of volcanic lakes and ponds of various sizes that were created in 1888 after the eruption of Mt. Bandai. Some of the Goshikinuma include the Bishamonnuma pond, Akanuma pond, Tatsunuma pond, Bentennuma pond, Rurinuma pond, Aonuma pond, and the Yanaginuma pond. All of them are rich in different types of minerals, so their appearance changes depending on the season, weather, and the angle from which they’re observed. As a result, locals lovingly call them “Goshikinuma,” which literally means “five-colored marshes.” For this article, we toured the Goshikinuma Ponds while wearing snowshoes, with a local guide showing us the way.

The tour lasted for about 2.5 hours. The first thing we did was learn how to wear the snowshoes, how to use ski poles, and things to be mindful of. For instance, if you are walking on a snowy road, it is important to stand firmly on the ground on the soles of your feet before taking a step. It will apparently steady your stance and stop you from falling down. Led by our guide, we formed a line and began our adventure from the nearby Yanaginuma pond.

I was quite nervous about walking with snowshoes on at first, but I quickly got the hang of it. As we walked, I felt calm as I marveled at the snow-covered forest and the pond in the distance. The guide would quiz us occasionally, asking us questions like “Why do only some parts of marshes freeze in the winter?” The answer, by the way, is that one marsh can experience temperature differences caused by underground activity. So, if you spot a marsh or pond water that hasn’t frozen on the surface, it means that there is some geothermal activity going on under that area.

We quickly reached Aonuma (lit. “blue marsh”), which got its name from the bright blue colors of its waters. Our last stop was the Rurinuma pond, which unlike Aonuma, had a transparent and sort of mysterious blue color about it that apparently changes depending on the angle, time of day, and the weather. We definitely noticed that Rurinuma’s blueness seemed different when seen from the shore and from the observation deck.

From spring to autumn, people are only allowed to trek on the designated trails to protect the surrounding flora. In winter, however, the ground and trees are covered by a protective layer of snow, so guided tours are allowed to venture outside the designated paths. Thanks to our snowshoes, we not only enjoyed a snow-covered winter wonderland, but also managed to visit places that normally would be inaccessible to us. You can only have this kind of fun in winter!

The guide kept giving us pointers as we walked, so we were able to safely explore the area. He took care to explain the surrounding environment and entertained us with quizzes about what animal left whatever prints we found in the snow. We actually found claw marks on trees made by bears! When we had to go down steep hills, we followed our guide’s instructions and bent our knees, raised our feet, and descended as if we were going down a slide. I don’t think any of us will ever forget this experience.

Recommended Accommodation for Snowshoe Trekking: Urabandai Lake Resort

After strenuous physical activity, nothing is more soothing than a dip in a hot spring! So, following our snowshoe trekking adventure, we stayed the night at the Urabandai Lake Resort to wash away our fatigue in warm, nourishing natural hot spring water. Located within Bandai-Asahi National Park, Urabandai Lake Resort offers picturesque vistas encompassing the surrounding Mt. Bandai, Lake Hibara, Lake Onogawa, and more. There is also a cozy, stylish cafe with wooden tones that serves coffee, handmade cakes, pasta with seasonal ingredients, and other light meals, perfect for an energy boost before snowshoeing.

One of the major draws of Urabandai Lake Resort are the 100% natural reddish-brown waters of its hot springs, which are drawn directly from the source without any artificial temperature control. During the cold season, guests can soak in the open-air bath while gazing over the frozen Lake Hibara down below. Before leaving, make sure to stop by their souvenir shop to browse through local Fukushima sake, snacks, handicrafts, and more.

Dash Through the Heavy Fukushima Snow on a Snowmobile

Along with snowshoe trekking, the best way to have fun in winter in Fukushima is on a thrilling snowmobile adventure. Snowmobiling is surprisingly easy, and even children over a certain age can join (see below). For our experience, we visited Mt. Washikura in Fukushima’s Tsuchiyu Onsen, where we met a local guide who introduced us to the area. He told us about the region’s passionate snowsports culture, and showed us an old shoeless snowboard made from local wood that they use, which can only be ridden by those with perfect balance.

We changed into our rental winter clothes, put on our helmets and snow boots, and hopped on the 120cc and 200cc snowmobiles that were lined up and ready for us. According to our guide, the regular snowmobile course uses the spacious and open Washikura Plain, which sits 1,230 m above sea level, along with the nearby forest. However, it was relatively warm when we visited, and the snowfall was still low, so we instead headed up the mountain to a snowier patch of land.

Before moving out, our enthusiastic instructor showed us how to operate the snowmobile – simply push the right lever to speed up and the left to brake, and turn off the engine for safety if you want to stop.

Once everyone had taken their pick (I went with the 200cc), we giddily mounted our snowmobiles and followed the instructor to the top of the mountain. Being fast and easy to drive, it was actually a nice break for our tired legs after snowshoeing!

As none of us had any experience with snowmobiles, the instructor kept a sharp eye on us to make sure we were safe. Before long, we arrived at the open field, and were dashing freely through the snow. With the winter wind on our cheeks, we sped over small hills and bumps and enjoyed the exhilarating thrill.

Despite it being my first time on a snowmobile, I found it to be fun and rewarding. After finishing riding on my own, I also got to ride with our instructor on his souped-up snowmobile, and we raced up a steep hill together for one final adrenaline rush!

Adventure Through the Wilderness of Fukushima

Fukushima’s boundless beauty is a sight to behold, making it well worth spending a few days touring the prefecture. With a local guide at our side, we got to pick fruits, explore an abandoned village, and experience thrilling snow activities! All the scenery we encountered were interwoven with the fascinating local culture, enhancing their charms. If you’re looking for a more active and offbeat environment to explore Japan, definitely add some Fukushima activities to your itinerary!

More Fukushima Sightseeing Inspiration:

Tour Fukushima's Traditional Crafts and Specialties - Decorate Aizu Lacquerware and Akabeko, and Try Local Whisky!

●FUKUSHIMA TRAVEL Blog: https://fukushima.travel/blogs/

If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram!

Tohoku Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

About the author

Fuchi Pan
Tokyo based Taiwanese writer/ editor. Passionate about Japanese food culture, culinary traditions and local/seasonal quality ingredients.
  • tsunagu Japan Travel - Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas! CLICK Here!

Restaurant Search