A CAT OBSESSION, SAKURA VIEWING AND BLUE PONDS AT FUKUSHIMA
The name is Demas Ryan, a full time traveler, writer and radio broadcaster. You might had known me before as a radio announcer, but today, I am chasing my own interest to create a path to see the world. In short, this blog is made for you see the world through my experiences, so that one day you can explore them yourself!
With this post, I begin my series of journey through the Tohoku region. I have been fortunate to be given the chance to cover 5 prefectures of Tohoku Region in Japan, which I will write about in detail for the upcoming 4-5 weeks. Let’s start with Fukushima!
Although Japan is widely known for its Tokyo, Hachiko, anime and AKB 48, there are many more to see up in the north. Unlike the busy streets of Shibuya, Fukushima prefecture was a much more relaxing visitation a few hours away from Narita Airport, Tokyo.
It is not difficult to visit the not-so-average Fukushima. The shinkansen, also known as the ‘bullet train’, is widely used as a transportation option between prefectures. Tokyo and Fukushima is only a bullet train ride away. To make it even easier, the bullet trains are accustomed to be as precise as possible, even to its minutes. We finally arrived at Fukushima prefecture, precisely at 1.55 PM, as scheduled. This precise timing has helped making tourism in Japan very easy and convenient.
My first city destination in Fukushima was the Aizu Wakamatsu city. During the ride to Aizu Wakamatsu, I was introduced by the tour guide to the other writers involved and a few government officials who were hosting us in Fukushima. From the very beginning, these Japanese hosts had a clear message, which was to make everything work perfectly for us. Indeed, it ended perfectly.
I am getting ahead of my own story.
Aizu Wakamatsu city
After arriving at Aizu Wakamatsu, we immediately visited Ashinomaki Onsen Station. Of course, this is not a regular train station. Other than its beautiful Sakura scenery, this train station is also famous for its station master, which is a furry purry kitty cat named ‘Love’. No kidding.
I was honestly confused. I heard about this cat before, but seeing it firsthand was a different experience. People came and took photos with this cat like its a celebrity. They tried to touch it, as if it will bring good fortune! This cat’s face was printed on t-shirts and mugs to be sold as merchandises. Soon enough, I learned that Japanese are crazy about cute things, or as popularly known as ‘kawaii’.
It seemed that the locals were enjoying it as well. At the very least, they were enjoying sakura to the very end of the season. This scenery was seen everywhere in Aizu Wakamatsu, especially around a historical castle named Tsurugajo. In the middle of my walk to the castle, locals were spotted enjoying the cherry blossoms after office and school hours. Some were enjoying picnic and some were just strolling around. If you ask me, I prefer enjoying the view from above the Tsurugajo Castle.
Every Japanese I met in Fukushima kept on telling me that the Cherry Blossoms I was seeing in the prefecture is nothing compared to those in the Upper Region.
This is because the Sakura had passed a few days ago in Fukushima as someone who has never see Cherry Blossoms before, I was content with the wilting sakura that I saw for the first time.
As I wrote on the above paragraphs, I loved the view from the top of the castle. To get to the top, I had to get inside the castle, which is a museum that tells the history of its origin from centuries ago. It was very interesting to learn more about the civil wars in Fukushima and how devoted the samurai warriors were to the traditional system. That was when I realized that Aizu Wakamatsu is also widely known as the city of samurai.
Other than its sakura trees and samurai warriors, Aizu is also known for its Akabeko. Aka means red, and beko means cow, because cows in Aizu makes noises like “bekoooo”. Seriously, that’s what the guide told me. This wooden craft is believed to be a cure for illness and protection from diseases. The tale goes wider than Aizu and soon became one of the symbols of Fukushima, even Tohoku!
I was fortunate to be given a chance to paint one. I believed the wooden cow that I picked wasn’t really happy to have me as its painter. My hands were shivering and I kept on making mistakes. If you know me long enough, you would know that I suck at this kinds of stuff. Can you guess which one is my painted akabeko?
Just like that, the first day ended so fast. Personally, I felt it was too fast. I wanted to walk and explore more, but the time came for us to rest at Uribandai Lake Resort. It is a beautiful resort located an hour away from the city. Although located on the outskirts of the town, it offers a great outdoor getaway that I experienced the next morning. The website is in Japanese, but the photos paint more than a thousand words, scroll down and you will find its contact details. Should I write more about the hotels I’ve slept in during my Tokou trip?
Back to the Fukushima experience!
My first (and last) morning in Fukushima was unexpected. Before breakfast, I was guided outside of the resort into a beautiful forest called Goshiki-Numa, a home of 300 beautiful lakes. The birds were chirping happily as the sun rose and gave us a warm greeting. All the beautiful colors combined, even the lakes were showing off its turquoise blue color. These photos do not lie.
People were definitely enjoying themselves under the sun, in the middle of those beautiful colored flowers. Hanamiyama Park is definitely a place to visit in Fukushima!