Colored Lakes of Urabandai, A reason to visit Fukushima again


The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant disaster made the prefecture of Fukushima internationally known for all the wrong reasons. The words “radiation” and “unsafe” became synonymous to the town’s image, where both local and foreign tourists completely abandoned the area rendering it from a place for sightseeing to a place to fear and skip.

I am not disputing the health concerns associated with the nuclear disaster; in fact I have to admit that I had a brief period of paranoia on how safe we actually are in Japan- from the food that I eat, to the water I drink, a worry that cannot be shrug off even if I reside 164 miles away from the disaster zone.

But a year had passed and I wanted to do my part on helping the recovery of the region by visiting few places around Fukushima prefecture. Maybe after you have read this post, you will realize how beautiful Fukushima is. It is such a shame that a man-made error had overshadowed what the prefecture is about- extremely friendly people and nature at its best.

On a beautiful Saturday morning, I made my way from Koriyama to Inawashiro aboard the JR Ban-etsu West Line. Inside the train, you can hear a gasp of awe, as we pass an unblocked view of Mt. Bandai (Bandai-san). It is the same reaction when you are on a train bound for Kawaguchiko and suddenly a view of Mt. Fuji appears from your window. I admired how fascinated Japanese are with mountains and for this alone I admire them dearly.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

After 40 minutes, we arrived at the town of Inawashiro to the tune of “I love you baby, Fukushima, I need you baby, Fukushima”. I’m not making it up, it was actually playing at the station. I find it done in a good taste for a good purpose- for foreign tourist like me to see Fukushima prefecture beyond the news headlines of radiation level conspiracy.
urabandai(fukushima)

As much as I wanted to add Bandai-san on the list of mountains I climbed in Japan, I opted to go for a more relax way of exploring Urabandai via the 3.6 km long Goshikinuma (Five Colored Lakes) Walking Trail of Urabandai.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

Similar to the story of how Mt. Fuji eruption created the now famous five lakes, the eruption of Mt. Bandai last 1888 not only created hundreds of lakes but changes the over-all landscape of the Bandai-kogen plateau.

Out of the many lakes created by the eruption, the most celebrated are the one found along the walking trails of Goshikinuma. Due to the minerals deposited by Mt. Bandai eruption, the lakes mysteriously changes hues every season, making it as scenic place to capture regardless if its summer or winter.
urabandai(fukushima)

Since the story of Fuji-san’s five lakes is almost the same as Bandai-san’s colored lakes, so what distinguished them for each other you might ask? Personally, I love how Bandai-san and its surrounding lakes appears to be untouched and not cultivated for tourism purpose. There is an ambiance of wilderness- where trees grow exactly as they please, where the walking path is not populated by shops selling souvenir but of fallen leaves.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

My timing was perfect. Autumn colored leaves in full swing.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

Savoring the beautiful day and walking the Goshiki-numa trail with me are couples on a date, family on a trip, friends on a reunion hike and my favorite – Ojiisans with their DSLR.

I named them the “koyo hunter (autumn leaves hunter)”. They hide behind bushes, armed with tripod and assortment of lenses and they know where the best spot is, this all in the name of an amazing shot.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

The Goshikinuma Walking Trail can be accessed in two ways, either via the Goshiki-numa Iriguchi bus stop or the Bandai-Kogen bus stop. Whichever starting point you choose, it takes an approximate 1 hour and 10 minutes by foot to walk from one end to another. I made Goshiki-numa Iriguchi bus stop as my starting point, for the reason that I wanted to visit the Tourist Information Center first to ask for a map and know my way around the area.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

Within a few steps from the visitor’s center, I was introduced to Urabandai’s one of a kind natural beauty. A beautiful blend of autumn colors and cobalt-blue water of Bishamon-numa.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

Aka-numa, a mixture of acidic water from Mt. Bandai and neutralized by the alkaline water from a hot spring along the way.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

Like Bishamon-numa, the combination of aluminum and silicate minerals produces allophane particles which gives Midoro-numa a combination of blue-green pond color.
urabandai(fukushima)

With a small observatory for a perfect panoramic view, Benten-numa is another allophane particles enriched pond in the trail.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

Few meters walk from Benten-numa is the emerald green waters of Ao-numa.
urabandai(fukushima)

After Ruri-numa (top photo) is Yanagi-numa, the last pond towards the Bandai-Kogen bus stop.
urabandai(fukushima)
urabandai(fukushima)

A rental car is the most preferable way of exploring Urabandai. Though there is bus service (Toto Bandai Bus) from Inawashiro Station to any of the two bus stop I mentioned above, the issue is the time of departures is normally one per hour.

One of the highlight of my trip was meeting and conversing in my broken Japanese with several elderly tourist couples. One of them not only gave me a ride all the way from Bandai Kogen to Inawashiro train station but generously gave me food and souvenir. I guess they are just happy to see foreign tourist around the area or maybe I have this unexplained charm towards old couple or I just look hungry and homeless. Nonetheless, this is another aspect of traveling I enjoyed the most, meeting new people.
urabandai(fukushima)

With a radiation level of below 0.2 µSv/h or almost similar levels to any city around the world, Urabandai has to be, if not the top reason why you should visit Fukushima again.

60 thoughts on “Colored Lakes of Urabandai, A reason to visit Fukushima again

  1. i think the radiation panic generated by the media has been over-hyped. what we fail to see are the resilience of the people living there to continue with their lives along with nature =)

    1. Fukushima is really a beautiful place. I can’t stop promoting Urabandai to my colleagues but as expected the radiation fear is so overwhelming- they do believe me but still don’t want to go.
      thank you!

    1. thanks Winny!
      happy to know that somehow I achieved the goal of letting people know about natural beauty of Fukushima 🙂

    1. thank you Japan Australia!
      receiving this comment from one of the most visited and best blog about Japan is truly inspiring!

  2. The beauty of this place leaves me rather speechless, it’s spectacular. So is the quality of the pictures. Thanks for sharing this. Japan and especially Fukushima couldn’t be better promoted. In case you would like to share / promote this on a larger scale, we at JapanTourist (www.japantourist.jp) would be happy to help. Feel free to contact me: tokyo@japantourist.jp.

    1. Hi Nicole,

      Thank you very much for your comments, really appreciate it.
      I’m a fan of JapanTourist..always looking forward on reading your articles at Metropolis Magazine.
      It would be a dream come true to share my experiences to a broader audience and in return promote how beautiful Fukushima and Japan is.
      I will surely contact you 🙂 Thanks again!

    1. thank Jinn!
      the fish are quite huge, not sure if the minerals on the lake are making them huge or just the tourist feeding them enjoyably 🙂

    1. thank you as always!
      i might be replying repeatedly the same thing BUT i truly appreciate how inspiring and nice your comments are 🙂

  3. Our first trip to Japan hit the peak of cherry blossoms, now I know our second trip will have to be in autumn! Beautiful photos, and wonderful encouragement for folks to fight their fears and go visit. Thank you!

    1. thank you David!
      i agree with you.i often recommend the same, to visit Japan either during Sakura Season (Spring) or Koyo Season (autumn).

    1. thank you as well!
      i agree with you, hiking + autumn in Japan is one of a kind, something i will miss for sure in case i decided to leave the country 🙂

  4. Simply stunning, though I admit I’m now all the sadder that such a horrible manmade disaster threatens the people and natural world of Fukushima. Great post.

    1. thank you very much!
      i hope one day the people of Fukushima/Sendai will be able to live their lives more freely- without the radiation issue looming above their heads 🙂

  5. This can be only called as poetry in photographs. I am thanking you in my mind , while leisurely scrolling through the scenic beauties down the page.
    Thanks a lot for sharing. Unforgettable scenes.

  6. Thank you Orchid for your beautiful photos of Japan… a place I have always wanted to go. I had no idea of the beauty of the Fukushima area. I hope the area and people of Japan continue to heal and grow from what happened to them.

    1. thank you so much too!
      i hope one day you will visit Japan and I guarantee it will be a rewarding trip!
      there are a lot of uncertainty for now regarding the affected area of Fukushima, like you I wish one day everything will be fine for them..

  7. Excellent!! And cheers to meeting people on your travels. I met several wonderful people on my wanderings through Europe last year. They make traveling in foreign lands a great joy, and a comfort to those of us who don’t yet speak other languages.

    1. thanks Russel! Happy Thanksgiving too!
      it was Labor Thanksgiving Holiday in Japan yesterday..so any holiday-no work for me is a reason to be Thankful for 🙂

    1. me too..i was surprised to find out how beautiful Fukushima is.
      i hope more people will be drawn to visit again . thank you very much!

    1. thank you Desiree! really appreciate your comments 🙂
      i hope one day i can do just that but i’m still a bit hesitant if my work is magazine material..

  8. Hi orchid,
    do you happen do have a photo of the Adatara Volcano in Fukushima? One of our users is looking for one to be used in a school project. Thanks. Best, Nicole

  9. Hi there! When did you visit during the fall? In October or November? I know the post is from November. I am booked for late October but wasn’t sure if it’s too early for the colors? Thanks!

    1. If I remember correctly it was late October. Better check some weather reports prior your trip but i think October should be ok. Have fun!

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