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Urabandai’s abundant nature: Exploring the “Lake District” of Japan

Urabandai’s abundant nature: Exploring the “Lake District” of Japan

One of the reasons I love travelling to Japan is to relax in the majesty of nature—soaring mountains, picturesque lakes, colourful seasons, etc. Eastern Japan has more than its fair share of captivating scenery and National Parks, and one place I’ve been yearning to check out is Urabandai (裏磐梯) in Fukushima Prefecture (福島県). 

 

The perfect place to escape from the city and surround yourself with nature, Urabandai is abundant in unforgettable scenery, and is part of the Bandai-Asahi National Park (磐梯朝日国立公园 Bandai-Asahi Kokuritsu Kо̄en). Known as the “Lake District” (湖沼の国) of Japan, Urabandai features dozens of breathtaking volcanic lakes and ponds, as well as impressive views of the iconic Mount Bandai.

 

View of Mount Bandai from the southern side (top) and from the northern side (bottom). (Image credit: JR East and 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

A symbol of Fukushima Prefecture, and one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains, Mount Bandai (磐梯山 Bandai-san) is a 1,816m-high stratovolcano that boasts outstanding natural beauty. Much of Urabandai’s scenery that we can enjoy today was only created around 130 years ago, when Mount Bandai violently erupted in 1888.

 

In the past, Mount Bandai was known as Aizu-Fuji because of its former conical peak resembling Mount Fuji, but the 1888 eruption blasted off parts of the summit, forming a crater wall on the northern side. Looking at Mount Bandai from the front on southern side (Omotebandai), its slopes look neat and tidy. However, when you look at it from behind on the northern side (Urabandai), the mountain looks rougher, rockier, and more jagged—scars from the violent eruption. Due to its location on the northern slope of Mount Bandai, Urabandai experiences heavy snowfall in winter, and is a popular ski resort with beautiful powder snow.

 

Map of Urabandai’s places mentioned in this article. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

Other than the creation of the dramatic crater walls, Mount Bandai’s 1888 eruption led to rock avalanches that blocked off the river, which in turn created the abundance of stunning lakes and ponds we can enjoy at Urabandai today. Located in the middle of nature, Urabandai is isolated from the city, away from the crowds, and is a place where you can immerse in nature. There are various hiking trails to explore, which are well-maintained and easy to walk. Due to the area's higher altitude, the air is cool and breezy, especially in summer. It's such a wonderful feeling to walk through the well-maintained trails in the middle of the forest, breathing in the fresh and delicious air, with mesmerising views all around. Let’s check out some of Urabandai’s a-bandai-nt nature, shall we?

 

Goshikinuma (五色沼)

Goshikinuma’s ponds have different-coloured waters. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

The main draw of Urabandai is undoubtedly Goshikinuma (五色沼), a group of otherworldly, colourful ponds. The ponds’ waters have such picturesque colours that at first glance you might think they’re photoshopped, but they’re actually naturally coloured from minerals in the waters. Boasting beautiful views that are hard to describe in words, Goshikinuma received a 1-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide, and is definitely a must-see while in Urabandai.

 

Although the name “Goshikinuma” means “five-coloured ponds”, there are not just five, but close to 30 volcanic ponds, marshes, and lakes. Many of these were formed after the 1888 eruption of Mount Bandai, which caused soil and rocks to block off the river, creating the ponds. Minerals and volcanic elements remained trapped in the water, contributing to the large variety of stunning colours in the different ponds. The weather conditions, season, angle of view, time of day, and other factors also affect how the colours of the ponds’ waters look; it’s truly a surreal sight that you should visit multiple times!

 

View the scenic ponds along the easy-to-walk Goshikinuma Nature Trail. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

If you’re planning to visit, you’ll be glad to know that there is an easy-to-walk trail, the 3.6km-long Goshikinuma Nature Trail (五色沼自然探勝路 Goshikinuma Shizen Tanshо̄ro), that links the main ponds in this area. It’s easily accessible by public transport, and a one-way hike takes just 1 hour 20 minutes, passing by beautiful natural scenery and breathtaking views. Let’s explore some of the sights you can enjoy!

 

Map of Goshikinuma Nature Trail. (Image credit: Google Maps)

  

① Bishamonnuma (毘沙門沼): Row a boat across the pond

Enjoy a view of Mount Bandai from Bishamonnuma, the largest pond at Goshikinuma. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Setting off from Urabandai Visitor Center near the Goshikinuma Iriguchi Bus Stop, the first pond you’ll come across is largest of all the ponds at Goshikinuma—Bishamonnuma (毘沙門沼). Bishamonnuma has beautiful emerald waters, and offers a straight-on view of Mount Bandai.

 

There are two recommended ways to enjoy the scenery here. The first is from the elevated wooden observation decks, where you can admire the view of Bishamonnuma together with the plentiful plants and the majestic Mount Bandai. The first observation deck is just a 5-minute walk from the Urabandai Visitor Center.

 

Row a boat across Bishamonnuma to enjoy a different view. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会 and photoAC)

 

The second way to enjoy Bishamonnuma is by rowboat. With a perimeter of 4km, Bishamonnuma’s larger size makes it the only pond at Goshikinuma where you can row a boat in. From April to November, you can rent a rowboat for 30 minutes for about ¥700, and take a ride out into the pond.

 

If you’re lucky, you can enjoy a glimpse of waddling ducks, or of the colourful carp that live in the waters. Both “carp” (鯉) and “love” (恋) are pronounced as “koi” in Japanese, and it is said that you’ll be blessed with luck in love if you manage to see the white carp with a red heart-shaped mark on the side of its body!

 

② Akanuma (赤沼): Spot the red plants

Akanuma’s surrounding plants have a reddish tinge from the iron content in the water. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Walking on for about 25 minutes from Bishamonnuma, you will reach Akanuma (赤沼), which has a name that means “red pond”. This highly acidic pond has a high iron content, which is reflected in the surrounding plants. Having absorbed the iron from the water, the surrounding plants have been dyed with a reddish tinge, hence the name Akanuma.

 

Many of the ponds at Goshikinuma have blueish waters, but the colour of Akanuma’s water leans more green than blue. During summer, the pond’s water appears a blue-green colour, and during winter, it changes to a deep green similar to the colour of matcha.

 

③ Midoronuma (深泥沼): Admire the unusual colours

Can you see the three different colours of Midoronuma? (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Just a 3-minute walk from Akanuma is Midoronuma (深泥沼). Despite having a name that means “deep mud pond”, Midoronuma appears to have three contrasting colours in its waters: green, brown, and blue. Most of Goshikinuma’s ponds are blue, so the slightly unusual shades of Midoronuma will delight your eyes. This pond can be seen clearly from the walking path, and it's easy to find a good viewpoint.

 

④ Tatsunuma (竜沼): Winter’s hidden gem

Tatsunuma in summer and winter. (Image credit: photoAC and 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Just a short distance from Midoronuma, the next pond, Tatsunuma (竜沼), is best enjoyed during winter. From the main trail, Tatsunuma is mostly blocked by thick vegetation during the green season, so you cannot really enjoy the view.

 

However, when winter comes along, the leaves drop off the trees and reveal the true beauty of this pond. During winter, you can also join snowshoe hikes to get even closer to Tatsunuma. Against the sparkling white snow, the colour of the water shines an enchanting turquoise blue.

 

⑤ Bentennuma (弁天沼): Enjoy the mountains in the distance

View of Bentennuma. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

About 15 minutes from Midoronuma is the stunning cobalt blue Bentennuma (弁天沼). Bentennuma is near the midpoint of the Goshikinuma Nature Trail, and is the second largest pond in the area. From the elevated observation deck, you can gaze at the view of Mount Nishi-Azuma (西吾妻山) and Mount Yanabe (簗部山).

 

Depending on the viewing conditions, the blueness of the water and its depth seem to change. When you observe the pond, rather than being the same colour throughout, it seems as though the colour of the water in front of you and the colour of the water further in the distance form a gradient.

 

⑥ Rurinuma (瑠璃沼): A pond that never freezes

Rurinuma in autumn. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Next up is Rurinuma (瑠璃沼), a pond with a stunning blue colour. “Ruri” means “lapis lazuli”, a mineral with an eye-catching blue colour, and like its name Rurinuma also has a captivating blue colour. With a depth of 9m, a special feature of Rurinuma is that warm groundwater constantly feeds into the pond, so it does not freeze over in winter.

 

⑦ Aonuma (青沼): An unbelievably blue pond

Aonuma is unbelievably blue. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

True to its name, which means “blue pond”, Aonuma (青沼) has water that appears an unbelievably bright blue. This fantasy-like colour is mainly due to the presence of allophane—a compound made of aluminium and silica—which reflects light in a manner that makes the water appear bluer. The water also has a high amount of calcium and sulphate ions. Aonuma is the bluest of all the ponds at Goshikinuma, and there are benches for you to sit back and slowly enjoy the view.

 

⑧ Yanaginuma (柳沼): Perfect reflections

The surface of Yanaginuma is like a giant mirror. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Finally, we have Yanaginuma (柳沼), which is just a 10-minute walk from Rurinuma and Aonuma. This pond is surrounded by trees, and is especially beautiful in autumn when the leaves change colours. The surface is also relatively still, turning the pond into a giant mirror that reflects the trees and the sky. The view is also incredible in the early mornings, when a thin layer of mist covers floats above the surface of the water.

 

Unlike most of the other ponds, the water here has low acidity, making it a suitable environment for fish such as carp and smelt to live in. Yanaginuma is also just a 4-minute walk to the end of the trail, where you will find the Urabandai Bussankan (裏磐梯物産館) and the Urabandai-Kogen-Eki Bus Stop.

 

When to visit Goshikinuma

Each season brings a different charm to Goshikinuma’s colours. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

During summer and autumn, you can enjoy hiking around the ponds via the Goshikinuma Nature Trail. In summer, the lush greenery creates a beautiful harmony with the water, making it appear bluer. In autumn (early to late October) the warm foliage creates colourful scenery.

 

Heavy snowfall during winter covers the Goshikinuma Nature Trail in about 1m of snow, making it easy to get lost. Hence, during winter I would recommend joining a guided snowshoe tour, where a guide will bring you around the ponds. Snowshoes enable you to walk on top on snow without sinking much, and lets you get even closer the ponds. The colours of the waters appear even deeper and more stunning during winter, so do visit Goshikinuma multiple times in different seasons!

 

Goshikinuma Nature Trail (Urabandai Visitor Center) (五色沼自然探勝路 (裏磐梯ビジターセンター))
Address: 1093-697 Kengamine, Hibara, Kitashiobara, Yama-gun, Fukushima 969-2701
Access: From JR Inawashiro Station (猪苗代駅), take a 30-minute bus ride and get off at Goshikinuma Iriguchi (五色沼入口) Bus Stop, then walk 3 minutes to the start of the trail at Urabandai Visitor Center.
Admission fee: Free

 

Lake Hibara (桧原湖): Urabandai’s largest lake

Aerial view of Lake Hibara. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

The eruption of Mount Bandai created dozens of ponds and lakes at Urabandai. Other than the colourful ponds at Goshikinuma, many larger lakes were formed after debris dammed up the river, and among them the largest body of water is Lake Hibara (桧原湖 Hibara-ko), which has a perimeter of 31km and a maximum depth of 31m. 

 

Sights around Lake Hibara. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

Most of the hotels at Urabandai are located around Lake Hibara, and you can even see small islands floating in the centre of this lake! Given its size, it's not surprising that there are so many things to experience in this area. From sightseeing boats to hiking trails to fishing, let's have a look at some of the sights and activities we can enjoy at Lake Hibara:

 

① Lake Hibara sightseeing cruise (桧原湖観光船)

The best way to enjoy the beauty of Lake Hibara is from the surface of the lake, and you can do this by taking a variety of sightseeing cruises, motorboats, or canoes. Since the lake is quite long from north to south, I recommend trying out the sightseeing cruise if you want to enjoy the views in comfort, especially if you are travelling with elderly or very young family members.

 

Take a sightseeing cruise and enjoy the view. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

The 35-minute sightseeing cruise allows you to experience a unique view you cannot experience from the shore. It’s perfect for those travelling with elderly family members or young children, as they can sit in comfort, sheltered from the elements, but still be able to enjoy the view from the large windows. You can also go out on the deck and enjoy an open-air view. The refreshing feeling of the lake breeze in your hair as the boat glides along the water is wonderful, isn’t it?

 

The boat pier is located near the Urabandai-Kogen Eki Bus Stop, right next to Urabandai Lake Hotel, the largest resort hotel at Urabandai. Guests staying overnight at this hotel can get a discounted price for the sightseeing cruise.

 

Lake Hibara Sightseeing Cruise (桧原湖観光船)
Address: 1172 Obudairahara, Hibara, Kitashiobara, Yama, Fukushima 969-2701
Access: From JR Inawashiro Station (猪苗代駅), take a 37-minute bus ride and get off at Urabandai-Kogen Eki (裏磐梯高原駅) Bus Stop, then walk 2 minutes to the boat pier.
Admission fee: ¥1,400/adult (¥1,000 for overnight guests of Urabandai Lake Resort)

 

② Lake Hibara Lakeside Trail (桧原湖畔探勝路)

Lake Hibara Lakeside Trail. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

If you’d prefer to enjoy the lake views on foot, there’s a 4km lakeside trail (桧原湖畔探勝路 Hibara Kohan Tanshо̄ro) on the eastern side of the lake. It takes about 1.5 hours to walk one-way, and the highlight of the trail is the suspension bridge, from which you can gaze at the many little islands dotted around the lake.

 

Lake Hibara Lakeside Trail (桧原湖畔探勝路)
Access: From JR Inawashiro Station, take a bus to the Nagamine Funatsuki (長峯舟付) bus stop. The trail is right by the bus stop.
Admission: Free

 

③ Sakurajima (桜島)

Sakurajima is an island in the middle of Lake Hibara. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Of the many islands floating in Lake Hibara, one of the most picturesque is Sakurajima (桜島) in spring, when the lone island’s cherry blossom (桜 sakura) trees are in bloom. There aren’t many cherry blossom trees around Lake Hibara, so when this island erupts in pink from early to mid-May, it stands out against the blue lake. Other than the sightseeing cruise mentioned earlier, you can also take a smaller motorboat excursion around the lake, which can bring you even closer to the island!

 

④ Oyamazumi Shrine (大山祇神社)

During Mount Bandai’s 1888 eruption, Hibara-juku, a post town on the Aizu-Yonezawa Kaido, sank to the bottom of Lake Hibara. Fortunately, Oyamazumi Shrine (大山祇神社 О̄yamazumi Jinja) escaped this fate, and the reconstructed shrine building still stands at the side of the lake. You can see a diorama of the former post town at the Hibara Historical Museum (桧原歴史館 HIbara rekishi-kan), which is a 20-minute walk from the shrine.

 

Oyamazumi Shrine in different times of the year. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Oyamazumi Shrine is located on the far northern shore of Lake Hibara. Although the original approach to the shrine was submerged after the eruption, you can still see parts of it during winter and early spring, or when the water level is low.

 

During winter, the water level drops by around 5–6m, and you can see the top of a torii gate that is usually submerged underwater, as well as the stumps of trees that lined the path of the original approach. In summer, you can take a canoe tour or motorboat excursion to get a closer look at the submerged torii through the lake’s water. This mysterious hidden scenery is something you can enjoy again and again.

 

⑤ Smelt fishing (ワカサギ釣り)

In winter, Lake Hibara freezes over, and it’s time to enjoy a fun activity—smelt fishing (ワカサギ釣り wakasagi-tsuri)—which you can enjoy doing in huts, domed boats, or houseboats. Although the official fishing season is from November to March, I recommend going from mid-January onward when the surface of the lake is frozen. A snowmobile will bring you from the short to the fishing site, and you can enjoy spectacular scenery over the frozen lake! 

 

Smelt fishing is a fun activity to enjoy in winter. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

Smelt fishing is a simple and fun activity to try out in winter. The fishing sites (huts, domed boats, or houseboats) are heated, and you can rent equipment for fishing, so you can comfortably come without bringing anything.

 

A hole is drilled in the ice, and you put your bait and hook down the hole. When you feel a tug, gently move the rod up and down and pull it up. Isn’t that easy? Some shops even provide electric rods, which are automatic! Some shops also provide cooking services, so you can enjoy eating your freshly caught fish. There are over a dozen places to go smelt fishing, and you can check out the different shops here.

 

⑥ Rent a boat at Lake Sohara (曽原湖)

Gaze at the beautiful views from Lake Sohara. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

If you enjoy camping or water sports, you definitely can’t miss Lake Sohara (曽原湖 Sohara-ko). The lake is surrounded by many pensions and campsites, where you can stay overnight at affordable prices. Lake Sohara affords tranquil views of Mount Bandai in the distance, and also has a deck for you to sit and enjoy the scenery.

 

Enjoy Lake Sohara in all seasons. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

At Lake Sohara, you can rent a variety of one-person or two-people canoes and kayaks to explore the lake. Even if you’re new to water sports, don’t be shy, give it a try! You might think canoes and kayaks are similar, but the difference lies in the boat design and the paddle. Kayaks have a double-ended paddle, while canoes have a one-ended paddle. Whichever you try, it’s a fun a relaxing way to enjoy some unique viewpoints, including ones of Mount Bandai.

 

⑦ Junsai-picking at Junsainuma (じゅんさい沼)

Junsai-picking is a fun and unique experience. (Image credit: 裏磐梯エコツーリズム協会)

 

Want to try something different? How about junsai-picking (ジュンサイ摘み junsai tsumami) in summer? Junsai is a slimy aquatic plant also known as “watershield” in English, and from mid-June to late August you can try hand-picking them while riding a rectangular wooden boat over the pond. Floating on the surface of Junsainuma (じゅんさい沼), the young buds of the junsai plants are edible, and you can take home the junsai that you pick.

 

Due to its slime, junsai has a smooth texture, with a mildly sweet flavour and pleasant taste, and is a good ingredient for soups or cold salads. Although junsai is mainly found in the northern prefecture of Akita, which produces 90% of Japan’s junsai, even if you don’t travel that far, you can still enjoy junsai at Urabandai!

 

Seasonal flowers

Urabandai may be the “Lake District”, but other than lakes and ponds, you can also enjoy seasonal flowers at various locations around the area. Two that you must check out are the lovely pink cherry blossoms at Sakuratoge Ridge, and the short-lived Nikko day lilies at Oguninuma Marshland.

 

Cherry blossoms at Sakuratoge Ridge (桜峠)

3,000 trees along the Sakuratoge Ridge. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

From late April to early May, 3,000 cherry blossom trees at Sakuratoge Ridge (桜峠) bloom a lovely shade of pink. The cherry blossom trees here are mostly of the Oyamazakura (オオヤマザクラ) variety, which have flowers that are a darker and more vivid pink compared to the common pale pink someiyoshino variety.

 

2,001 cherry blossom trees were first planted at Sakuratoge Ridge in 2002 to commemorate the birth of Aiko, Princess Toshi—the daughter of the current Japanese Emperor—who was born in 2001. In subsequent years, more trees were added to commemorate other events, and currently there are about 3,000 trees.

 

Sakuratoge Ridge (桜峠)
Address: Sakuratoge Oshio, Kitashiobara, Yama, Fukushima 966-0402
Access: From JR Kitakata Station (喜多方駅), take a 34-minute bus ride to the La Vie Spa Urabandai (ラビスパ裏磐梯) bus stop. The cherry blossom trees are a few minutes’ walk from the bus stop.
Admission fee: Free

 

Nikko daylilies at Oguninuma Marsh (雄国沼湿原)

Nikko day lilies at Oguninuma Marshland. (Image credit: 福島県観光復興推進委員会 and 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

From late June to early July, you can see the Oguninuma Marshland (雄国沼湿原 Oguninuma Shitsugen) covered in a beautiful bright yellow carpet as Nikko day lilies (ニッコウキスゲ  nikkо̄kisuge) bloom. Also known as broad dwarf lilies, Nikko day lilies are wild flowers, growing on mountains and highland areas, covering the fields in a beautiful yellow. At an elevation of 1,089m, Oguninuma Marshland is extremely picturesque with the lake and mountains in the background, and you can enjoy viewing Nikko day lilies from an elevated wooden boardwalk. 

 

The day lily’s name alludes to its short life: the flowers open in the morning, last for just a day, and wither by nightfall. But don’t be too sad, Nikko day lilies do not bloom all at once; a single stalk has about 3–5 flowers, which bloom on different days. Kirigamine Highlands and Oze Marshland may be the first places that come to mind when thinking of Nikko day lilies, but did you know? Oguninuma Marshland has the highest density of Nikko day lilies in Japan! The walk to Oguninuma Marshland takes around 2 hours, and you will be rewarded with a truly stunning sight at the end of the hike.

 

Oguninuma Marshland (雄国沼湿原)
Address: Hibara, Kitashiobara, Yama, Fukushima 966-0501
Access: From JR Kitakata Station (喜多方駅), take a 45-minute bus ride to the Oguninuma Tozando Iriguchi (雄国沼登山道入口) bus stop, then hike 2 hours to reach the marshland. Alternatively, on weekends, there is one direct bus per day from JR Kitakata Station to Kanazawa Pass (金沢峠),from where it's just a 10-minute walk to Oguninuma Marshland. (Due to COVID-19, this bus service might be disrupted.)
Admission fee: Free

 

Climbing Mount Bandai

Mount Bandai as viewed from Urabandai. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

The various ponds and lakes at Urabandai offer stunning views of Mount Bandai, but why just admire Mount Bandai when you can climb it? If you’re a fan of hiking, I highly recommend climbing Mount Bandai, as there are a variety of trails to suit different fitness levels. 

 

Climbing Mount Bandai. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

There are six trails to climb Mount Bandai, with the easiest route being via the Happodai Trailhead (八方台登山口 Happо̄dai Tozanguchi). About 80% of people who climb Mount Bandai do so via this trailhead. The ascent to the summit takes around 2 hours 15 minutes, while the descent takes around 1 hour 40 minutes. With a small difference in elevation from the trailhead to the summit, this course is easy to climb and suitable even for beginners. However, no buses go to this trailhead, so you will need to drive or take a taxi to the nearest parking lot. From the summit of Mount Bandai, you can command a magnificent view of Lake Inawashiro below.

 

If you have time, or are spending the night at Urabandai, I highly recommend the Urabandai Trailhead (裏磐梯登山口 Urabandai Tozanguchi), which is a short walk from the end of the Goshikinuma Nature Trail, near the Urabandai-Kogen Bus Stop. On this trail, it takes around 3 hours 50 minutes to climb up to the summit of Mount Bandai, and 3 hours to descend. This route passes by Urabandai Ski Resort and Akanuma (銅沼), a stunning red pond not to be confused with the smaller Akanuma at the Goshikinuma Pond cluster.

 

Akanuma (銅沼): The copper-coloured pond

The copper-coloured Akanuma attracts nature-lovers despite its further location. (Image credit: 裏磐梯観光協会)

 

At an altitude of 1,120m above sea level, the larger Akanuma has a name that means “copper pond”, and is so named because the reddish-brown colour of the water resembles that of copper. The iron hydroxide-rich pond is a 1.5-hour walk from the Urabandai Trailhead, and is surrounded by a crater wall and rusty red rocks. The rugged scenery, coupled with the occasional plumes of smoke, make you feel that the mountain is alive. Although this pond is a bit far from the main pond cluster at Goshikinuma, it’s also worth a visit due to the impressive scenery of the sheer cliffs and dramatic colours!

 

Getting there

Urabandai is filled with a plethora of stunning sights, be it gorgeous lakes, picturesque ponds, or spectacular views of Mount Bandai. Located in the heart of nature, it's a serene sanctuary where you can immerse in the beauty of nature. It may be a while before we can travel to Japan again, but I know that Urabandai will definitely be one of the places I’ll visit as soon as we are able to.

 

Most of the sights at Urabandai are easily reachable by bus from JR Inawashiro Station (猪苗代駅) or JR Kitakata Station (喜多方駅) on the Ban-etsu West Line, and it's not too far from Tokyo, making it a great choice for a short trip. From Tokyo, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Koriyama Station (80 minutes), and transfer to the Ban-etsu West Line to reach Inawashiro Station or Kitakata Station. The bus timetables for the Inawashiro Station~Urabandai route can be found here, and the one for the Kitakata Station~Urabandai route can be found here.

 

FruiTea Fukushima (フルーティアふくしま)

Enjoy desserts with a view onboard the FruiTea Fukushima. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

If you’re heading to/coming back from Urabandai on a weekend or Japanese public holiday, why not take a ride on a special train—the FruiTea Fukushima, a travelling café train? The FruiTea Fukushima is a Joyful Train that runs on the Ban-etsu West Line, and makes stops at JR Inawashiro Station and JR Kitakata Station. Enjoy dining on delicious desserts while enjoying the view of Mount Bandai from the window!

 

JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)

The new JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and usage area. (Image credit: JR East)

 

If you are visiting the Urabandai area, check out the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), an affordable pass offering unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for 5 consecutive days. At only ¥20,000, it costs about the same as  a round-trip between Tokyo and Inawashiro, but you get unlimited rides for 5 days. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, here

 

The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) can be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.

 

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