Discover the cultural wonders of Japan’s Bandai-Asahi Nationwide Park

Bandai-Asahi Countrywide Park, which spans Yamagata, Fukushima and Niigata Prefectures in northern Japan, is a location strong in standard Japanese tradition. From the yamabushi (mountain monks) of the syncretic Japanese faith, Shugendo, to the perception-warping art of bonsai, Bandai-Asahi has the ability to delight and inspire at each flip. Examine on for our three-working day itinerary for discovering the cultural wonders of Bandai-Asahi Countrywide Park.

Bonsai Abe © David McElhinney / Lonely Earth

Day 1 – Early morning

Kick off your journey in Fukushima Metropolis, about a 90-moment Shinkansen (bullet coach) from Tokyo Station. At the foot of the Azuma Mountain Array west of Fukushima, you are going to obtain Bonsai Abe, a traditional Japanese dwelling fronted by a yard of miniature pine trees known as Azuma Goyomatsu that’ll make you sense like a big roaming by means of a forest.

Seeds of Azuma Goyomatsu pines are foraged from the nearby mountains by 3rd-generation artisan Daiki Abe, in advance of he painstakingly cultivates them into the bonsai which populate the property. E-book a tour of Bonsai Abe’s store, accompanied by a bonsai workshop and a light food of sticky rice with kinako (soybean flour) and fresh seasonal fruit with Japanese pickles. (Translator or English-talking information advised.)

Throughout the workshop, you will discover about the historical past of Abe’s exceptional system of bonsai cultivation which preserves the trees’ relationship to character. Abe bonsai are crafted to look as while they’ve developed in the nearby mountains and bear the scars of excessive climate and erosion that these types of an upbringing would entail. It’s hoped the graphic of the pine tree surviving in a harsh all-natural atmosphere will encourage the viewer to do his or her best as effectively.

Working day 1 – Afternoon

Right after the Bonsai practical experience, head to Lake Inawashiro, also recognised as “Heavenly Mirror Lake,” the greatest overall body of h2o in Bandai-Asahi Nationwide Park. The coach journey from Fukushima Station to Inawashiro Station by way of Koriyama will consider all around 90 mins.

Lake Inawashiro was formed involving 40,000-90,000 many years in the past (theories range), and offers some of the ideal sights of Mt. Bandai, which erupted violently in 1888. The neat waters of the lake make it a preferred spot for swimming in the very hot summer time months – you can also hire swan-formed pedalos from the Shidahama Beach portion. Or, hire a bicycle to ride all-around the lake through a about 37-mile route hugging the shoreline. (Campsite accommodation is also accessible.)

Working day 1 – Evening

From there, it is again on the educate to Aizu-Wakamatsu, a 30-minute experience from Inawashiro Station. Aizu-Wakamatsu was a previous samurai stronghold and the site of a intense 19th-century fight of Aizu, and is however home to Aizu Tsuruga Castle – a multi-tiered edifice to start with constructed in the 1300s. Upcoming to it is Fukushima museum, with historical artifacts on screen.

When you’re in the city, go for a stroll along the Nanoka-machi-dori previous city quarter, wherever wood-latticed retailers offer standard Japanese crafts, prior to chowing down on marbled Aizu wagyu beef for dinner. La Raison is a common choice for European-design and style beef, whereas Gyu Zou is a improved suit for the japanese traditionalists.

For lodging there are a range of business enterprise accommodations in the metropolis, or for a little something a lot more refined, head to ryokan (classic inns) in the Higashiyama onsen (very hot spring) district, these types of as Shosuke no Yado Takinoyu (breakfast and supper incorporated). 

Goshikinuma trail © David McElhinney / Lonely Earth

Working day 2 – Morning

Return to Inawashiro Station by means of educate, then acquire a bus to Bandaikogen in the Bandai Highlands (40 minutes in total). Go for a relaxed stroll all-around Goshikinuma, a marshland exactly where each and every system of water has its personal distinctive character, from seeking-glass lakes to otherworldly and vividly coloured ponds.

For a lengthier sojourn you can tackle the around 20-mile observe referred to as ‘Hibaichi,’ which surrounds the sprawling Lake Hibara. Bringing a packed lunch is advisable, while there’s also an Italian cafe in the vicinity of the Urabandai Customer Centre, called Il Regalo, and a rest residence, termed Urabandai-busaankan, marketing fundamental Japanese bites and regional specialties at the end result of the Goshikinuma path.

Working day 2 – afternoon

Pursuing your hike, retrace your measures to Koriyama through Inawashiro Station (about a single hour and 40 minutes). If you have time, go for a stroll all around the lively metropolis of Koriyama – Fukushima’s 2nd biggest – while stopping by at the pretty temple and landscape back garden of Nyohou-ji. If you are hungry, Koriyama has some exceptional culinary fare: nip into Shogatsuso for carp sashimi or Moumoutei for Wagyu barbecue.

Right before dark, hop back on the prepare toward your ultimate vacation spot for the day: Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture, a district of effervescent warm springs, centuries-aged common ryokan, and some of the best nihonshu (sake) in Japan. To get there, get a educate to Yonezawa Station, where by you are going to swap to a bus for Shirabu Onsen (whole journey is about 90 minutes). 

Working day 2 – Evening

Relax in a extra-than-700-yr-old incredibly hot spring at Shirabu Onsen Nakaya Bekkan Fudokaku, a mountainside  ryokan wherever the proprietor is the 27th era to run the loved ones small business. A kaiseki ryori (traditional cuisine) evening meal of seasonal sashimi, regionally grown vegetables, and signature Yonezawa beef is integrated in the selling price – as is a basic Japanese rice-and-fish breakfast with inexperienced tea the pursuing morning.

Mt. Haguro © David McElhinney / Lonely Earth

Working day 3 – Early morning and Afternoon

Leave early the next early morning, or lease a automobile with a translator or English-speaking manual. The journey to your next cease, the Ideha Cultural Museum at the foot of Mt. Haguro, is around 5 several hours on public transport. By automobile it’s about two-and-a-50 % hrs.

Go for a wander about the museum, where previous-earth relics and creative centerpieces depth the sacred heritage of Mt. Haguro. When accomplished perusing the displays, you can wander in the fabled footsteps of the Shugendo yamabushi (ascetic hermits) accompanied by a practitioner of the 1,400-calendar year-outdated religious sect. Costume up in all-white yamabushi apparel right before an ascetic hermit guides you alongside the 2,446 stone techniques of Mt. Haguro – a person of the Dewa Sanzan (3 mountains of Dewa). At just 414-meters-tall, Mt. Haguro is the smallest of the Dewa Sanzan, so it’s obtainable to hikers all year.

Regardless of whether the cedar-lined path is swarmed with moss and singing with cicadas in summer or cloaked in snow at winter, it will make for just one of the most beautiful non secular walks in the region. A five-storied pagoda, a mountain-prime shrine with a sweeping thatched roof, and miniature statues depicting jizo (the Buddhist protector of vacationers and souls of the unborn) align the path.

If you’re completely ready for a bite to take in, a couple of regular chaya (tea houses) top rated the mountain trail the place you can enjoy freshly made matcha although tucking into wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) – a preferred among the traveling pilgrims. Rounding off your religious journey, the ascetic hermits will then guidebook you via a session of zazen meditation in a rock garden punctuated by the seems of sighing trees and croaking frogs.

Day 3 – Night

Head to Hagurokan in the evening, a ten-moment stroll from the Ideha Cultural Museum. This aged Japanese inn sits in the heart of the Dewa Sanzan area and has been welcoming pilgrims to Mt. Haguro-san for hundreds of years. Preserving with the standard topic of the day, Hagurokan attributes minimalist tatami interiors, and has a meal and breakfast strategy utilizing property-grown substances.

Alternatively, take a 50-moment bus to Tsuruoka Station exactly where you are going to discover some stylish ryokan and community onsen on the Yunohama seafront – Isagoya is a person of the most common in the area with lodging selections that incorporate a rotenburo (private outdoor bathtub). It’s the excellent way to rest and replicate on your a few-working day exploration of traditional Japanese nature and tradition. From Tsuruoka Station, you can acquire a 4-hour Shinkansen again to Tokyo by way of Niigata Station the adhering to working day.