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Mount Bandai & Lake Inawashiro 磐梯山 & 猪苗代湖

Bandai-Asahi National Park (© Tony Schönherr - Fotolia.com)
Bandai-Asahi National Park

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Mount Bandai 磐梯山

Bandai-san (1819m) is located at the southern edge of the Bandai Asahi National Park, Japan's second largest national park after Hokkaido's Daisetsuzan.

Often referred to as Aizu Bandai, due to its proximity to the town of Aizu Wakamatsu, Mount Bandai is an active volcano. It is reported to have erupted in 806 and again a millennia later on 15 July 1888.

This last eruption was particularly tremendous and reshaped completely its vicinity. All the surrounding villages were destroyed, killing 461 people and burning another 70. Lakes and ponds were created owning to nearby rivers blocked by volcanic debris.

In August 2000, Mount Bandai threaten to erupt again, but nothing has happened so far.

The area is one of Fukushima prefecture's most popular hiking destination. Walks around Goshikinuma (lit. "five colour lakes") are pleasant and well-equipped for the masses of tourists that invade the area in summer.

Access is through Goshikinuma-Iriguchi (五色沼入り口) or Bandai-Kogen (磐梯高原) bus station. The three big lakes are Lake Akimoto-ko, Lake Onagawa-ko and Hibara-ko. Mount Bandai itself can be climbed in a long day (about 9 hours).

All can of accommodation, from youth hostel to up-market hotel, is available around Goshikinuma Iriguchi and Bandai Kogen.

Crater and panorama from Mount Azuma-Kofuji
Mount Bandai-san
Bandai-san from afar

Mount Azuma 吾妻山

Mount Azume is a collective terms for several volcanoes of the Bandai-Asahi National Park. They include Higashi-Azuma-san, Issaikyo-yama, Azuma Kofuji and Nishi-Azuma-san.

The Bandai Azuma Skyline and Bandai Azuma Lakeline toll roads are a good way to enjoy the scenery. They traverse nearly 30km of mountain roads of an average height of 1350m above sea level.

If you don't have a car, buses from Bandai-Kogen to Fukushima (3 hours, 2800 ¥) pass on these roads between Lake Akimoto-ko and Lake Onagawa-ko and command majestic views on the mountains.

The bus stops at the Jōdōdaira Viewpoint. From there you can reach the summit of Mount Azuma-kofuji (1,705m) in just 10 minutes and contemplate its 500m-wide crater. Mount Azuma Kofuji is the best scenic spot in the regio and command a 360-degree panoramic view, notably Issaikyo-yama (1,949 m) across the road.

Note that there are only 2 or 3 buses a day, and the service only runs between the end of April and the end of October.

Lake Inawashiro 猪苗代湖

Inawashiro-ko is the fourth largest lake in Japan and is popular with Japanese for camping or boating.

There is not much to do around apart from the Noguchi Hideyo Memorial Hall. Noguchi Hideyo (1876-1928), who appears on the new 1000-yen banknotes, grew up near Lake Inawashiro. He was a bacteriologist who made important studies of snake venoms, smallpox and yellow-fever vaccines, and isolated the causing agent of shyphilis. He died of yellow-fever in Ghana (Africa) while studying the disease.

How to get there

Both Mount Bandai and Lake Inawashiro are accessible by bus from Aizu Wakamatsu.

Lake Inawashiro also has a railway station. It takes 28min from Aizu Wakamatsu (480 ¥).

Buses for Goshikinuma-Iriguchi and Bandai-Kogen via Inawashiro station take 90 minutes from Aizu Wakamatsu (about 1600 ¥).

Direct buses from Inawashiro station are more frequent. They take 25 minutes (about 850 ¥) and run every 30 minutes from 7am to 7pm.

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