by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
After a day out in Lake Towada yesterday, I headed to Urabandai in Fukushima Prefecture for another day of autumn colors. Due to the large change in elevation around the mountain, autumn colors around Urabandai tend to be good for about a month as they make their way down the slopes.
The weather forecast for today was for rain and generally cooler temperatures and I was worried about how it would affect the views. However, my worries were unfounded as the views from about 800 to 1300 meters were at their peak: beautiful and filled with yellow, orangey-red leaves. From Fukushima Station, I picked up a rental car and drove on the very scenic Bandai-Azuma Skyline towards my first stop, Jododaira. Near the lower levels, the trees were still green, but once we climbed higher towards 600 meters, the colors exploded into view and remained that way until about 1300 meters where the autumn color season was over.
At around 1600 meters, the autumn color season was over at Jododaira. The volcanic terrain reminded me of Mars and had me imagining the Mars scene from Total Recall. I joined the other tourists and climbed to the top of Azuma-Kofuji at 1707 meters to look down the crater; the path is wide enough to walk around the crater, however there are no ropes or fences that prevent people from falling over.
The Bandai-Azuma Lake Line was lined with trees at their peak of the season, looking like they were on fire with orangey-red and yellow leaves. I had to tell myself to concentrate on driving as the scenery and view at each turn was fantastic and all I could think of were "That's a great view!" and "I want to stop and take some pictures here".
The autumn colors at Nakatsugawa Gorge were at their peak and will remain so for a while more. There were many tourists there by the time I arrived and I joined some of them walking down to the gorge. The path was a little slippery walking down to the gorge as it had been drizzling and the area by the gorge was slick from the drizzle, sprays from the river and wet leaves. All this did not stop the tripod-wielding photographers from getting their pictures and the seasoned photographers even had their rain boots on. Best views of the autumn colors, however are from the bridge over the gorge as you can see the wall of red, yellow trees with the gorge at the bottom.
Finally, I drove to Goshikinuma and went on a short walk along the lakes. There were more tourists here compared to Nakatsugawa Gorge and Jododaira. I walked along the largest lake which had beautiful blue waters and incredibly large koi fishes. The autumn colors here were not as impressive with more green than yellow and red leaves.
On my way back, I took the Bandaisan Gold Line to complete my tour of the skylines in the Bandai area. The Gold Line is a toll road that normally costs 730 yen, but is currently free to promote tourism. Due to its elevation (between 800 to 1200 meters) the autumn colors here were also at their peak and made the return journey very enjoyable. I also managed to get to see a sea of clouds (unkai) over the lake and town below as it had been raining and the cooler temperatures made it possible. However, it also meant that the final part of my drive was not as enjoyable as I had to drive through a thick fog back to the station.