Explore the Rich History and Nature of the Aizu Region

Tokyo Cheapo
aizu fukushima autumn leaves
Photo by ©CLUB TOURISM

Aizu is located on the Western side of Fukushima, around 90 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen, bordering the prefecture of Niigata. Aizu is rich with history of Japan’s feudal period. To explore, this Trips by Tokyo bus tour will take you around the sites of Aizu over the course of 2 days and includes a 1-night stay at Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel.  You will see sites such as:

  • Tsuruga Castle, the former ruling center of the Aizu area;
  • Ouchi-juku, a former post town that was used before the Meiji restoration;
  • Bishamon-numa, one of the Goshiki-numa, with wonderful views of Mt. Bandai;
  • and Nakatsugawa Valley with it’s beautiful foliage and serene river and more.

This two-day bus tour with an interpreter guide will take you to those places as well as several others which will show you the wonders of the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture for a very reasonable price.

Photo by ColdSleeper used under CC

The tour starts from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. Its observatories on the 45th floor are popular among the tourists to Japan where you can enjoy a sweeping view of Tokyo from 202 meters above ground level. Although it won’t yet be open at the appointed meeting time, in the evening after you return, you can enjoy the night view of Tokyo until 11pm.

Nakatsugawa Valley

Nakatsugawa Valley is located on the northeastern side of the beautiful Kitashiobara village.  The valley is famous for its autumn scenery. In the fall, you can see the distinct leaves of of maple, alder and wild cherry trees as they change colors.

Flowing through the valley is the Nakatsugawa River, that comes from Mt. Azuma, down to Lake Akimoto. The different colored leaves of the trees, in combination with the Nakatsugawa River coursing through the valley, creates a wonderfully chromatic landscape of red, orange, and green hues. Enjoy your stroll down the peaceful valley while taking in the beautiful painting-like scene and the clean mountain air.

Bishamon-numa

aizu fukushima autumn leaves
Photo by ©Fukushima Prefecture

Bishamon-numa is the largest pond of the Goshiki-numa, the “five colored ponds”, located near Lake Hibara and Mount Bandai. The ponds were formed during an eruption of Mount Bandai where debris from the eruption disrupted the flow of a river, creating the ponds.  From the eruption, different mineral deposits and sediment formed at the bottom of the ponds in the area, giving each pond a slightly different, unusually vivid color. Along with the different colors each pond possesses, the colors can shift subtly through the day as the sun reflects off the ponds.

From the Urabandai Visitor Center, the trail to the Goshiki-numa will take you first past Bishamon-numa, which has a cobalt blue hue. Above the pond, you will be able to see Mount Bandai. With Bishamon-numa as the gateway to the Goshiki-numa, take a trek through the former river and marvel at the ponds which can be one color on your way through and a different shade on your return.

aizu fukushima autumn leaves

Ouchi-juku

Ouchi-juku is a beautifully restored former post town located within the Ou mountains of Aizu in the town that is now known as Shimogo. The town was located on a road that was used to connect Aizu-Wakamatsu and Imaichi in Tochigi Prefecture and was used by travelers to rest and trade goods on the long journey.

The area features buildings with thatched roofs from the Edo period that will give you a sense that you’ve just traveled back in time. When you walk through the town, you can experience the journey that many others took ages ago. With various shops lining the main road, you can purchase traditional Japanese snacks, such as senbei (rice crackers), or various other souvenirs.

Ouchi-juku isn’t just an old post town, but it has a rich history as well.  The hamlet housed Prince Mochihito Takakura, the second son of Emperor Goshirakawa. In the early summer, you can enjoy the Hange Summer Festival and watch men dressed as tengu (long-nosed gods) leading the parade. While in the winter, you can enjoy the Ouchi-juku Winter Festival which has been lauded as one of the best winter festivals in Japan.

Tsuruga Castle

aizu fukushima autumn leaves

Tsuguraga Castle is deeply entrenched in Japan’s feudal history.  Originally built by the Ashina clan, several centuries ago, the castle was the military and the administrative center of the Aizu area until it was dismantled after the Boshin War in the 19th century. The castle was reconstructed in the 1960s.

The castle grounds are spacious and surrounded by cherry trees. In April, many people come to visit the castle for cherry blossom viewing season.

The vista on the fifth floor of the castle offers a beautiful panoramic view of the Aizu area including a view of the famous Mt. Bandai.

In the fall you can see the vibrant colors of the autumn leaves around the castle grounds and throughout the mountains. In the winter, you can see the snowcapped peaks of Mount Bandai.  In the spring, you take in the bright pink and white of the cherry trees around the castle grounds. In September, you can visit the castle grounds to witness the the famous Aizu Festival. During the festival, you can see locals, as well as celebrities, dressed as historical figures from the various samurai clans of Aizu.

To-no-hetsuri

Photo by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) used under CC

To-no-hetsuri which means “tower/pagoda cliff that overlooks a river” is a 200-meter long natural cliff formation located in Okawa Hatori Prefectural Park in Shimogo, Fukushima. To-no-hetsuri is located about 20 minutes from Ouchi-juku, the former post town. To-no-hetsuri was designated a natural monument in 1943 and was believed to have been formed over millions of years during the Pleistocene epoch. The cliff formation was carved out over the course of millions of years by wind and the Okawa River that flows through the ravine.

“Hetsuri” comes from the old local Aizu word meaning “cliff overlooking a river”.  The cliff is layered with various types of rocks which are on display as you can see where one layer ends and another begins. Each unique rock formation has a different name by their shape, such as “Hawk Tower” and “Sumo Arena Rock”. Several of the rock formations have trees growing out of them which creates an amazing backdrop to view the cliffs.  The suspension bridge that leads to the cliffs offers a beautiful view up and down the river.  The bridge is also very picturesque against the Okawa River.  At the end of the trail is a view point as well as a gift shop.

We will also give all customers who apply for this tour free entry to the National Museum of Western Art (a World Heritage Site). Located in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, this museum houses an impressive selection of Western art from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century. The permanent collection houses the works by masters such as Monet, Rubens, Manet, Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, Ernst, and their contemporaries. Once you return from the trip, enjoy some art and culture to the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno—to enrich your Japan travels! 

Name: Autumn Leaves in Fukushima Bus Tour & 1-Night Stay at Hoshino Resorts Bandaisan Onsen Hotel
Pricing info: From 25,900 yen to 45,900 yen (adults)
Web: http://www.tripsfromtokyo.org/

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