Joe's Japan Travel Journal
by Joe, staff writer of

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2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai

Mount Bandai with fresh snow on its peak and just a few patches of autumn color left

Continuing our mid-season mountain coverage of this year's autumn color reporting, I made my way today to one of northern Japan's most famous mountains: Mount Bandai. Located in the north-central part of Fukushima Prefecture, Bandai is a 1816-meter tall dormant volcano whose slopes are well-known or their beautiful autumn colors, particularly on the north side of the mountain itself, in the area known as Urabandai.

Nestled between three stratovolcanoes (Bandai, Adatara, and Azuma), the mountainous landscape of Urabandai covers a wide range of elevations, making for a relatively long koyo (autumn color) season in the area, which usually lasts for the duration of the month of October.

Today, I started my day at the eastern entrance of the Bandai-Azuma Lake Line, making my way west. The scenic road starts at the bases of Mount Azuma and Adatara and passes along several mountain lakes in the area. After a short way in, it was pretty clear that the end of October means the end of the koyo season. All of the trees in the higher elevations were all but barren today, with patches of yellow karamatsu (Japanese larch) providing most of the color. The exceptions were some of the lower river gorge areas, including the lovely Nakatsugawa River Gorge, which still had a bit more variety of colorful foliage left.

Morning light slowly illuminating the Bandai-Azuma Lake Line
Bright yellow karamatsu (Japanese larch) holding out their color till the end (of autumn)
Found this obstreperous bunch darting across the road in front of me
Lake Akimoto from the Bandai-Azuma Lake Line
A bridge stretching over the Nakatsugawa River Gorge
The Nakatsugawa River Gorge, with still a little color left
Golden and brown leaves carpeting the valley floor
Lake Akimoto showing off the last of its autumn colors
Lake Onogawako

Following the Lake Line to its western end, I was conveniently spat out right in front of my next destination for the day, the Goshikinuma ponds. Following the most recent eruption of Mount Bandai in 1888 (which was large enough to blow apart a large park of the peak and kill hundreds of people living below), it is believed a variety of minerals surfaced into the newly-created ponds in this area, giving them all slightly different, brightly-colored hues of greenish blue.

In autumn, the trees around the ponds and walking trails can also get rather colorful. Today, though a bit late for peak color, there were some great shades of yellow and orange here. Juxtaposed with the intensely colorful water, green pines and sasa (alpine bamboo), and susuki (pampas grass), the contrasts were beautiful.

Goshikinuma's Bishamon Pond
Busloads of visitors here to see the autumn colors
Canoes waiting to be ridden
Green and blue
Karamatsu yellow
Giant koi in a grandiloquent conversation
More karamatsu lighting up the background
A hike in the woods
When they named it Goshikinuma (five-colored ponds), it must have been in autumn
Unreal blue and bronze
Artists endeavoring to capture the colors
Akanuma Pond, slightly greener than its big blue brother Bishamon (yet nonetheless named Red Pond)

My last assignment for today was a drive along the Bandaisan Gold Line, the road that leads from central Urabandai along the side of Bandaisan itself out onto the plains of Lake Inawashiro (Japan's second largest lake) to the south. Still rather high up, the road passes by the trailhead of the hiking trail that leads to the summit of Bandai as well as several excellent ski resorts. Like the rest of the area, today was a bit too late in the season for the autumn colors to fully cover the slopes here, but the remaining patches of color were still quite nice.

The many bends of the serpentine Bandaisan Gold Line
The peak of Mount Bandai in full sight, looking like its ready for winter
Through the susuki (pampas grass) fields
Susuki brightening the landscape
Coming to the end of the Bandaisan Gold Line, with a sweeping view of Lake Inawashiro below

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List of Posts:
2019/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2019
2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/03/24 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Mitake
2015/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Takao
2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Fukuroda Falls
2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2015/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda
2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/04/14 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Yoshino
2015/04/13 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Miharu
2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report
2015/01/29 - Crabs, Peonies and Castle Cruises in Shimane

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/16 - Seasonal Illumination: Osaka
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Kobe Luminarie 2014
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Ashikaga Flower Park
2014/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2014/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Shima Onsen
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2014/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification