Explore the cultural wonders of Japan’s Bandai-Asahi National Park

Bandai-Asahi National Park, which spans Yamagata, Fukushima and Niigata Prefectures in northern Japan, is a location strong in regular Japanese society. From the yamabushi (mountain monks) of the syncretic Japanese religion, Shugendo, to the perception-warping artwork of bonsai, Bandai-Asahi has the capacity to delight and inspire at every single convert. Study on for our three-working day itinerary for discovering the cultural wonders of Bandai-Asahi Nationwide Park.

Bonsai Abe © David McElhinney / Lonely Planet

Working day 1 – Early morning

Kick off your journey in Fukushima Metropolis, about a 90-moment Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Station. At the foot of the Azuma Mountain Variety west of Fukushima, you are going to find Bonsai Abe, a basic Japanese residence fronted by a backyard garden of miniature pine trees known as Azuma Goyomatsu that’ll make you really feel like a large roaming through a forest.

Seeds of Azuma Goyomatsu pines are foraged from the nearby mountains by third-generation artisan Daiki Abe, in advance of he painstakingly cultivates them into the bonsai which populate the house. E-book a tour of Bonsai Abe’s shop, accompanied by a bonsai workshop and a light-weight meal of sticky rice with kinako (soybean flour) and new seasonal fruit with Japanese pickles. (Translator or English-speaking tutorial recommended.)

During the workshop, you will discover about the background of Abe’s exclusive system of bonsai cultivation which preserves the trees’ link to character. Abe bonsai are crafted to look as even though they’ve developed in the close by mountains and bear the scars of extraordinary weather and erosion that such an upbringing would entail. It’s hoped the image of the pine tree surviving in a severe normal surroundings will inspire the viewer to do his or her very best as perfectly.

Working day 1 – Afternoon

Soon after the Bonsai experience, head to Lake Inawashiro, also recognized as “Heavenly Mirror Lake,” the largest entire body of h2o in Bandai-Asahi Countrywide Park. The teach journey from Fukushima Station to Inawashiro Station by using Koriyama will just take about 90 mins.

Lake Inawashiro was fashioned between 40,000-90,000 yrs in the past (theories fluctuate), and provides some of the finest sights of Mt. Bandai, which erupted violently in 1888. The great waters of the lake make it a popular spot for swimming in the very hot summer months – you can also hire swan-formed pedalos from the Shidahama Beach portion. Or, lease a bicycle to experience all over the lake by means of a around 37-mile route hugging the shoreline. (Campsite lodging is also out there.)

Day 1 – Night

From there, it’s again on the train to Aizu-Wakamatsu, a 30-moment ride from Inawashiro Station. Aizu-Wakamatsu was a previous samurai stronghold and the website of a fierce 19th-century struggle of Aizu, and is still household to Aizu Tsuruga Castle – a multi-tiered edifice initial constructed in the 1300s. Next to it is Fukushima museum, with historic artifacts on display screen.

Though you’re in the city, go for a stroll alongside the Nanoka-machi-dori outdated city quarter, exactly where wooden-latticed stores provide common Japanese crafts, before chowing down on marbled Aizu wagyu beef for evening meal. La Raison is a well-known possibility for European-style beef, while Gyu Zou is a greater in shape for the japanese traditionalists.

For lodging there are a array of business resorts in the metropolis, or for some thing far more refined, head to ryokan (common inns) in the Higashiyama onsen (hot spring) district, this sort of as Shosuke no Yado Takinoyu (breakfast and dinner provided). 

Goshikinuma path © David McElhinney / Lonely Planet

Day 2 – Early morning

Return to Inawashiro Station by using educate, then just take a bus to Bandaikogen in the Bandai Highlands (40 minutes in overall). Go for a casual stroll around Goshikinuma, a marshland wherever each individual system of h2o has its very own distinctive character, from seeking-glass lakes to otherworldly and vividly colored ponds.

For a more time sojourn you can tackle the around 20-mile track named ‘Hibaichi,’ which surrounds the sprawling Lake Hibara. Bringing a packed lunch is encouraged, nevertheless there is also an Italian restaurant around the Urabandai Customer Heart, known as Il Regalo, and a relaxation household, named Urabandai-busaankan, promoting essential Japanese bites and regional specialties at the culmination of the Goshikinuma path.

Working day 2 – afternoon

Next your hike, retrace your ways to Koriyama by way of Inawashiro Station (all around a single hour and 40 minutes). If you have time, go for a stroll all-around the lively city of Koriyama – Fukushima’s 2nd greatest – though stopping by at the really temple and landscape backyard of Nyohou-ji. If you are hungry, Koriyama has some outstanding culinary fare: nip into Shogatsuso for carp sashimi or Moumoutei for Wagyu barbecue.

Before dim, hop back again on the practice towards your remaining spot for the day: Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture, a district of effervescent warm springs, hundreds of years-old traditional ryokan, and some of the best nihonshu (sake) in Japan. To get there, just take a teach to Yonezawa Station, in which you will switch to a bus for Shirabu Onsen (overall journey is all-around 90 minutes). 

Day 2 – Evening

Take it easy in a far more-than-700-yr-outdated hot spring at Shirabu Onsen Nakaya Bekkan Fudokaku, a mountainside  ryokan the place the proprietor is the 27th era to operate the relatives business. A kaiseki ryori (common delicacies) meal of seasonal sashimi, regionally developed greens, and signature Yonezawa beef is involved in the price tag – as is a traditional Japanese rice-and-fish breakfast with green tea the following early morning.

Mt. Haguro © David McElhinney / Lonely World

Day 3 – Early morning and Afternoon

Leave early the next early morning, or hire a auto with a translator or English-speaking guidebook. The journey to your upcoming cease, the Ideha Cultural Museum at the foot of Mt. Haguro, is all over 5 several hours on community transport. By car it’s approximately two-and-a-fifty percent hours.

Go for a wander around the museum, the place previous-earth relics and inventive centerpieces element the sacred historical past of Mt. Haguro. When done perusing the displays, you can stroll in the fabled footsteps of the Shugendo yamabushi (ascetic hermits) accompanied by a practitioner of the 1,400-yr-outdated religious sect. Costume up in all-white yamabushi attire just before an ascetic hermit guides you along the 2,446 stone ways of Mt. Haguro – a person of the Dewa Sanzan (three mountains of Dewa). At just 414-meters-tall, Mt. Haguro is the smallest of the Dewa Sanzan, so it is accessible to hikers all 12 months.

Regardless of whether the cedar-lined trail is swarmed with moss and singing with cicadas in summer months or cloaked in snow at winter, it will make for one of the most wonderful spiritual walks in the place. A 5-storied pagoda, a mountain-top rated shrine with a sweeping thatched roof, and miniature statues depicting jizo (the Buddhist protector of tourists and souls of the unborn) align the trail.

If you are all set for a bite to take in, a pair of common chaya (tea properties) prime the mountain trail wherever you can love freshly produced matcha although tucking into wagashi (conventional Japanese sweets) – a favored amongst traveling pilgrims. Rounding off your spiritual journey, the ascetic hermits will then guide you via a session of zazen meditation in a rock garden punctuated by the sounds of sighing trees and croaking frogs.

Working day 3 – Night

Head to Hagurokan in the night, a ten-minute stroll from the Ideha Cultural Museum. This old Japanese inn sits in the heart of the Dewa Sanzan location and has been welcoming pilgrims to Mt. Haguro-san for generations. Keeping with the regular concept of the day, Hagurokan features minimalist tatami interiors, and has a supper and breakfast approach working with residence-developed ingredients.

Alternatively, get a 50-minute bus to Tsuruoka Station in which you are going to come across some classy ryokan and general public onsen on the Yunohama seafront – Isagoya is just one of the most well known in the space with accommodation selections that incorporate a rotenburo (personal outdoor bath). It is the fantastic way to take it easy and mirror on your a few-day exploration of traditional Japanese mother nature and society. From Tsuruoka Station, you can take a 4-hour Shinkansen again to Tokyo via Niigata Station the subsequent day.