*The information posted in this article is based on data as of August, 2015
Travel to Oku-Aizu, surrounded by rich nature
The area in the western part of Fukushima Prefecture, located about 200 km (124 miles) to the north of Tokyo, is called “Oku-Aizu” which includes Yanaizu Town, Mishima Town, Kaneyama Town, Showa Village and Tadami Town. It is a secluded region surrounded by mountains over 1,000 m (3,280 feet) high. The highlight of this area is the scenery of lakes created with abundant natural water resources and beautiful valleys. There are hot springs in the area, and you can also enjoy local cuisine that use river fish and wild plants from the mountains.
JR Tadami Line is the main mode of transportation for sightseeing in Oku-Aizu. It runs between JR Aizu-Wakamatsu Station in Fukushima Prefecture and JR Koide Station in Niigata Prefecture. To get to JR Aizu-Wakamatsu, take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Koriyama Station and change to the local train line, JR Ban’etsu West Line. From Tokyo, it takes a little under 3 hours to get to Koriyama Station. To get to JR Koide Station, take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Urasa Station and change to the local Joetsu Line. From Tokyo, it takes about 2 and a half hours to get to Koide Station. If you are visiting from Tokyo, Japan Rail (JR) Pass is good value.
* The total length of JR Tadami Line is 135.2 km (about 84 miles), with the total of 36 stations along the line, but due to damage from a big storm in 2011, the train is not currently running between Aizu-Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station (as of September, 2015). The substitute bus runs between these stations, for which you can use Japan Rail Pass.
A steam locomotive runs temporarily on JR Tadami Line on an irregular basis. The sight of the locomotive running through a beautiful scenery is extremely impressive.
Only a few train services run each day on JR Tadami Line, so traveling with plenty of time, and staying for a night or two is recommended. There are plenty of accommodation service providers including those with hot springs, but not many offer reservation sites in foreign languages. As such, using hotel booking sites or enquiring at the local tourist information center is recommended.
This ultimate view! Enjoying the scenery of each season.
The scenery along JR Tadami Line surrounded by rich nature changes a great deal from season to season, attracting many visitors. We will now introduce the highlights of each season.
Winter, when fantastic scenery of snow spreads
The scenery of winter seen out of the window of the train on JR Tadami Line is said to be the most beautiful with snow covered valleys and lakes. On a sunny day, the pure white snow glitters in the sunshine and on a cloudy or a snowy day, a magical world, where earth and sky blend together unfolds before your eyes. A snow festival is held in mid-February every year in each town and village along JR Tadami Line. The one in Tadami Town is especially grand with many huge snow statues and a spectacular fireworks show.
Tadami Hometown Snow Festival
Venue: The square in front of JR Tadami Station, Tadami-machi, Minami-Aizu-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Spring, when cherry blossoms and dogtooth violets are in full bloom
Wild cherry blossoms are in full bloom along JR Tadami Line in mid-April. You can also see colonies of elegant purple flowers, called dogtooth violets, in the forests from the end of April. The most famous place for dogtooth violets is “Obayashi Furusato-no-Yama Mountain” in Mishima Town. Depending on the year, it is possible to enjoy them together with Sargent’s cherry trees.
Obayashi Furusato-no-Yama Mountain
Address: Nishikata, Mishima-machi, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Directions: About 10 min by car from Aizu-Nishikata Station of JR Tadami Line
Summer, when you can enjoy vivid fresh green
The area along JR Tadami Line in summer changes into a world of lush green, where green rows of mountains reflect on the surface of the river and the lakes along the line. You can enjoy a peaceful walk through the woods in a variety of places including the beech forest in Tadami Town which has been certified as an UNESCO eco park. Mishima Town holds “Aizu Artisan Festival” in early June every year where handmade crafts such as baskets and sieves made of wild vines and silver vines gather.
Aizu Artisan Festival
Dates: Second weekend in June every year, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Address: In front of Mishima-machi Seikatsu Kogeikan, 395 Suwanoue, Oaza-Nairi-Aza, Mishima-machi, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Directions: About 10 min by shuttle bus from Aizu-Miyashita Station on JR Tadami Line
Autumn, when you can see impressive autumn colors
The mountains start changing colors into red and yellow around the end of October in Oku-Aizu. The most famous spot along JR Tadami Line for autumn foliage is “Enzoji Temple” in Yanaizu Town. This is a temple with about 1,200 years of history since its foundation and it is also known for a traditional event called “Naked Worship at Nanoka Do Hall (a festival to wish good luck and good health for the year)” held on January 7th every year.
Let’s get local specialties of Oku-Aizu!
We will introduce local specialties only available in Oku-Aizu which is rich in nature. These items are available for purchase at “Michinoeki”, rest stops along the main road that carry many local specialties, and souvenir shops.
Natural sparkling water (Kaneyama Town)
Kaneyama Town has a unique well which pumps out natural sparkling water. When the water level is high enough, you can draw it for free, but you can also purchase a bottle of sparkling water drawn from the source.
Michinoeki Oku-Aizu Kaneyama
Address: 949-8 Kamiidaira, Oaza-Nakagawa-Aza, Kaneyama-machi, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Directions: 3 min walk from Aizu-Nakagawa Station of JR Tadami Line
Open: 9:00 am – 6:30 pm ( – 5:30 pm from November to March)
Closed: December 31 – January 2
Karamushi-ori textile (Showa Village)
Karamushi-ori is made with plant fiber of the stinging nettle family called Choma and is said to be one of the oldest woven textiles in Japan. Everything in the process from growing Karamushi plants to yarn-making and weaving is done by hand.
Michinoeki Karamushi-ori-no-Sato Showa
Address: 1 Sagura-Uenohara, Oaza, Showa-mura, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Directions: About 30 min by Aizu Bus from Aizu-Kawaguchi Station of JR Tadami Line, near “Shimo-Sagura” bus stop.
Open: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays in December – March, during end-of-year and new-year holidays
Oku-Aizu Amikumi Zaiku (Mishima-machi)
“Oku-Aizu Amikumi Zaiku”, or Oku-Aizu braided craft products, is said to have been started by farmers as a handiwork during the off-season in winter. The daily necessities such as baskets and sieves made with plants of wild vine and silver vine are popular for their simple taste.
Michinoeki Oze Kaido Mishimajuku
Address: 610 Kawaitenyabara, Mishima-machi, Onuma-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Directions: A 4-minute drive from Aizu-Miyashita Station on JR Tadami Line
Open: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Closed: Jan 1-3
Oku-Aizu, filled with the beauty of four seasons. Enjoy a slow and relaxing trip on a train away from the hustle and bustle of daily life!