Top Outdoor Winter Activities in Fukushima – Enjoy Some Fun in the Snow!
Fukushima Prefecture in the Tohoku region of Japan gets a lot of snow in the winter, making it a place where you can see beautiful silvery white scenery. The prefecture is known for its nature-rich destinations such as the Bandai Highlands and Oze National Park, attracting many tourists from Tokyo and elsewhere who see Fukushima as a mecca for winter activities. This not only involve taking in the magnificent winter scenery, but also fat biking, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and snow rafting on banana boats. If you like the snow and want to experience winter sports in Japan, be sure to read to the end so that you can start planning your Japan winter trip!
Feb 08 2022
About Fukushima Prefecture
The Characteristics of Fukushima Prefecture
Fukushima is the southernmost prefecture of the Tohoku region and the country's third largest prefecture by size. It is divided into three areas - Nakadori, Aizu, and Hamadori - by mountain ranges running north to south. These three areas differ not only in topography, but also in a wealth of other features including climate, economy, culture, dialect, and scenery. The Aizu area, which includes Lake Inawashiro, the Bandai Highlands, Ouchi-juku, and Tsuruga-jo Castle, is one of the prefecture’s most famous tourist destinations.
Fukushima is a part of the temperate climate zone, with average temperatures ranging from about -4°C to 35°C. It is a relatively rainy area with rainfall concentrated mostly in the summer. The climate varies by area: the Aizu area is on the Sea of Japan side and therefore has a similar climate to it, with heavy snowfall in the mountains; Hamadori, which is on the Pacific Ocean side, is temperate all year round; and Nakadori, sandwiched between the two areas, shares characteristics with both.
Winters in Fukushima
Winters in Fukushima usually start in December and last till about the middle of March, with January being the coldest month. It is not as cold as Hokkaido or Iwate Prefecture in the Tohoku region.
The Aizu area has the heaviest snowfall in the prefecture and can have more than 1 meter of snow in some places. If you are going to Fukushima in the winter, Aizu is the best place to see a snowy landscape.
There are numerous winter events and snow festivals held all throughout Fukushima. The popular Ouchijuku Snow Festival takes place annually during the second weekend of February. During this festival, the old post town of Ouchi-juku is decorated with snow lanterns and a variety of events are held. For the Aizu Painted Candle Festival, held at the beginning of February each year, Tsuruga-jo Castle, Oyakuen Garden, and the city of Wakamatsu are lit up beautifully with painted candles, which is a craft that Aizuwakamatsu is famous for.
Winter gear, such as a warm coat, sweater, thermal innerwear, scarf, gloves, hat, and hand warmers are indispensable for travel in Fukushima during the winter. There will be many opportunities to walk on snow, so long waterproof boots are also recommended to protect you from catching cold!
How to Get to Fukushima Prefecture
From Overseas: There are currently no direct international flights to Fukushima Airport, so visitors from abroad must travel by train, shinkansen (bullet train), or rental car from Sendai International Airport or Narita International Airport.
From Tokyo: Travelers can take a shinkansen from Tokyo to Fukushima Station (approx. 1 hour 20 minutes), then travel on to other locations. Alternately, they can take the Tobu Railway Limited Express Revaty from Asakusa Station to Aizu-Tajima Station (about 3.5 hours), then change to Aizu Railway lines to get to their destinations.
Best Outdoor Winter Activities in Fukushima Prefecture
Cycle Over Snow with Fat Tire Snow Bikes
Fat bikes are a type of bicycle popular in mountainous and snowy regions. They have wide tires with deep grooves on the surface, allowing them to grip the ground well and be safe to ride even in snowy conditions. Even riders with no experience can safely participate in fat biking. First-timers are always surprised at how easily they can ride on snowy, challenging roads and are often hooked after their first ride.
Why not try riding over snow on a fat bike to take in the snowy scenery of Fukushima? Fat biking can be experienced at “cafe&activity nowhere,” an activity center next to Numajiri Ski at the foot of Mt. Adatara. Participants ride safely in a course within the activity center with fantastic views of the surrounding Fukushima snowscape. Fat bikes not only have wide tires but are larger and heavier than standard bicycles, so this activity should not be done by children under elementary school age.
Nearby is the famous Numajiri Onsen, a hot spring area between the foot of Mt. Adatara and Mt. Bandai. The waters here are the sulfur type, with a high acidity, milky white color, and smooth texture. They have long attracted visitors for their healing properties. Be sure to stop by after a day of enjoying the snow and outdoors!
Experience the Freedom of Snow Surfing
Snow surfing is becoming a popular winter sport in Japan. It looks like snowboarding, but unlike snowboards which have bindings, snow surfers glide over snow while balancing themselves on the boards. The boards are made of wood and have strings to help with balance and to change directions.
The appeal of this sport is the sense of freedom that comes from gliding over the snow. It’ll feel as if you are floating! We’re sure that snow surfing will feel like a new and unique activity even for experienced snowboarders. The courses are separated by level, with ones for beginners and for experienced surfers, so people of all skill levels can have fun safely.
After surfing on snow, go to the nearby Nakanozawa/Numajiri Onsen to warm up your body and relax. The hot springs here were discovered about 380 years ago, during the Bunroku Period. The source is Numajiri Motoyu, which springs up near the volcanic crater of Mt. Adatara and in the valleys. It is the most abundant hot spring source in Japan in terms of water quantity.
Experience the Speed and Exhilaration of Snowmobiles
For those looking for an even more exciting experience, Fukushima offers opportunities to ride snowmobiles. Snowmobiles are the perfect activity for anyone who wants to feel the speed and thrill. No experience is necessary as they will thoroughly instruct you on how to ride a snowmobile.
The snowmobile experience tour by CHANNEL JOURNEY is held on Mt. Washikura near Tsuchiyu Onsen and is a great way to experience the wonderful sense of exhilaration that snowmobiling has to offer. A landscape of frost-covered trees awaits you at an altitude of 1,230 m near the summit of Bandai-Asahi National Park, where you can really feel the harsh winter temperatures. The tour is held near Washikura Onsen, so you can treat yourself to a relaxing soak in the hot springs after an active day out in the cold. There are rooms available for overnight stays, perfect to unwind and rest in after a full day of outdoor activities.
It is likely your clothes will get wet from the snow when participating in this activity, so be sure to come prepared with snow gear and warm, quick-drying clothes. You can bring your own clothes or rent them for 1,000 yen each. The snowmobiles are usually ridden by one person but can accommodate up to two. Children under six may participate but must ride with adults for their safety.
Relax and Enjoy Views of the Snowy Mountains on a Snow Trekking Tour
If speedy thrill rides are not your thing, there is the option to don snowshoes and go on a snow trekking tour to revel in Fukushima’s beautiful, snowy landscape. Snow trekking tours will take you up snowy mountains and into the woods. They require snowshoes, and trekking poles that help with balance can also be useful. Compared to skiing and snowboarding, snow trekking is a fun and easy activity that almost anyone can enjoy.
Mt. Adatara is an iconic 1,700-meter-tall mountain in Fukushima that is listed as one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. In the winter, the Washikura area at its foothills is covered in snow and becomes an ideal location for snow activities—one of which is snow trekking wearing snowshoes. Unlike other highly developed ski resorts, this area still retains untouched nature to immerse yourself in. The tours are guided, so you can throw all your worries aside while trekking and enjoy having particularly beautiful spots pointed out to you. For those who have never experienced snow before, it is a great opportunity to observe the snow falling and feel just how cold the snow on the ground is. Trekking is a wonderful activity for relaxation and to improve your mental health.
In addition to snowshoeing, this tour offers the opportunity to try extreme sledding. Participants can get on a sled and guide them with their bodies to avoid bumps. It is a particularly popular activity among children.
Fun for the Family: Banana Snow Boats
Ashinomaki Snow Park is located near Ashinomaki-Onsen Station, which is a 20-minute ride on the Aizu Railway from Aizuwakamatsu City. There is a variety of activities available at this snow park in the winter, the most popular of which is riding on banana snow boats. The banana-shaped rubber boats can carry up to four people at a time and are perfect for families and groups. All you need to do is to get on the boat and hold on so that you don’t fall out. The boats are pulled by snowmobiles. Speeding over the snow, you’ll quickly forget the winter cold and thoroughly enjoy yourself. Small children can participate if they are with adults.
There are also regular snow boats for those who are concerned about holding on to the banana boats. (The fee is the same as the banana snow boats.) With regular snow boats, there is no danger of being thrown out. After this fun activity, you can go to the hot springs at the nearby Ashinomaki Onsen to relax and thoroughly warm up. We dare say this could be the perfect place to spend some time with family!
Warm Up in a Kamakura Igloo
Kamakura are snow domes that areas in Japan with heavy snowfall, such as Akita and Niigata, are famous for. It is said that kamakura were initially built during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) during the first full moon of the year (January 15 – January 20) to pray to the water gods for a bountiful harvest. Large kamakura can accommodate 3 – 4 people and are usually about 3 m high and 3.5 m in diameter with an entrance that is 1.3 m high and 70 cm wide.
If you visit Ashinomaki Snow Park in the winter, you can see and try going inside some kamakura. Spending time with friends and family in a kamakura is such a rare and wonderful experience, you may not want to leave! You’ll be able to grill mochi on a shichirin (small earthen brazier) while watching the snow falling outside. This may be the warmest snow activity you can experience in Fukushima.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.