One of the most underrated places in Japan is quite surely Fukushima, an area that offers impeccable nature, delicious food and unique sights and people. To the outside world, the name of this incredible Japanese prefecture might send chills down the spine, as the media outside Japan reports anything connected to the 2012 earthquake and tsunami disaster with the nuclear power plant leak as the "Fukushima disaster". For 13,780 km² of Fukushima prefecture, this reputation serves as a great injustice.
On the other hand, the fear of a known toponym with unknown possibilities preserves Fukushima as a hidden gem even at the peak of the tourism season.
We're always happy to swing by Fukushima during our traditional Golden Week trip to the North. This year, it was an unbeatable experience - our bikes took us there for the first time. And the best thing about going to Fukushima when Japan is overflown with tourists: Clear roads & clear skies ultimately lead to clear minds. We camped by the Aizu Wakamatsu lake for 2 days, throughout which we relaxed more than we could have ever expected. All the hustle and bustle of Tokyo work life evaporated out of our heads upon the fist 20mins of gazing across the lake. We planned to do so many activities around the area, but ended up situated a few meters around the tent, enjoying the view and the atmosphere without any further wishes.
Tiny tent at the Aizu Wakamatsu Lake
We arrived to Tenjinhama campsite faster than expected, despite getting separated on the way. Kazuto stopped his Suzuki Hayabusa at a convenience store for a few minutes and expected to catch up my Ninja 400 fast, but after going faster and still not having me in sight, he panicked a little bit after not being able to call me. As he was checking recent accidents with the local police station, a turtle vs. hare race took its chances. My Ninja turtle brought me to the lake earlier, wining the privilege of choosing a perfect tent spot.
Still, we both arrived before sunset, which was a miracle considering that we left Tokyo pretty late at the very start of the most congested week of the year. We got all set up, took a shower and met neighboring riders before opening a beer in anticipation of good times - just as the sun set behind the lake:
A camp full of moto/camping nerds - no better trip buddies than that.
We cannot recommend the Tenjinhama campsite more. It's accessible, yet hidden from the main street, lays at a perfect spot at the lake and the mountain, and the amenities are impeccable. Coin showers and an outside kitchen area (炊事場) are the basics, but this place offers separate toilets near the reception cabin, with a women's "powder room". That's quite some luxury offering for a camping trip! As soon as I got there, I sent a picture of the washlet to my mom. Cause it's impressive:
The campsite is very close to a supermarket, therefore it is quick and easy to pick up groceries and beers before setting the dinner on fire. For the first time, we rode the short distance without protective jackets, appreciating the mild weather and safe road to the mall.
Best riding season to visit Fukushima
Golden Week was the first camping opportunity we grasped. Since we got the bikes just before Christmas, our rides ever since followed the initial signs of cherry tree blossoms - it was too cold to try an outdoor expedition earlier. Going north of Tokyo, sakura still bragged with its colorful jewelry, even on the last day of April, which was a sign of warm sunny days and very chilly nights. Most Japanese campsites are open only during the Summer season, with exception of the Golden Week, which serves as a convenient trailer for what the coming season will bring.
We parked our bikes (& tiny tent) by a blossoming cherry tree, learning that Hanami is most relaxing during the Golden Week.
We brought only tiny essentials to this camping trip, which were replaced with real deal camping equipment after this successful trial (more about that in future posts). Still, the miniature camping gear was more than sufficient for preparation of various culinary delights using the most delicious regional ingredients.
Yakisoba with locally grown veggies was our personal favorite lunch special.
With exception of riders (the nerdiest easy-going hedonists with a very determined level of desired interaction), the happy campers at Inawashiro lake were mainly locals. Families brought their pets to the lake for venting out their access energy. Easily transmittable energy maintained the background sound of laughs and children calling their dogs that wandered off exploring what's cooking across surrounding BBQ grills.
The most famous camper was Mozuku, who chose Hayabusa for his secret spot during hide&seek play with his bffs.
Overall trip rating: 10/10
There was nothing we missed, craved, would have wanted another way... Maybe we'd only avoid the lumberjack action that almost cost Kazuto his finger. Teru teru bōzu we made out of a bandage brought us good weather on the way further to Yamagata (and not so much on the way back). All's well that ends well.
Amateur lumberjack asking teru teru bōzu for good weather
With less than 300km from Tokyo to Inawashiro Lake, we can't wait for another long relaxing weekend in Fukushima. It's definitely worth the trip. If you're looking for a quick escape from Tokyo lights, substituting them with stars above Inawashiro Lake might be your thing as well:
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