by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com
This journal is a log of my travels within Japan. Here you'll find my personal opinions on the places I've been and the things I've seen. Also expect to see the occasional review and editorial. Thanks for reading.
2012/10/10 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
Today we paid a visit to the Bandai area of Fukushima Prefecture for our first autumn color (koyo) report this season from the Tohoku Region. After an early morning start, we arrived by train in Koriyama, rented a car, and started the drive to Mount Bandai, a volcano northeast of Aizu Wakamatsu in western Fukushima, and one of Japan's 100 famous mountains.
The quickest way to the top is via the Bandaisan Gold Line, a toll road that leads up the western side of Mount Bandai. The road normally costs 730 yen but is currently free to promote tourism. We were able to drive quite high up the mountain and parked at a trailhead from where it is an approximately two hour hike to the peak.
The first half of the hike leads through relatively green forests and we were almost always under the tree canopy. At one point however, there was a break in the trees and we stepped out into a clearing next to the remains of an abandoned mountain hut and a babbling hot spring.
As we continued up the mountain, the trees began to thin out and were replaced by mountain bushes and shrubs. Their leaves were already changing colors to nice oranges and yellows and really began to show around the first mountain hut from where we finally had a good viewpoint from which to look out over the slopes.
The final push to the top was a steep 20 minute climb up a slippery, rocky trail. Moreover, there were quite a few bus tours on the mountain, and the trail really started to get congested as we neared the top. The views along the way, however, made it worth it and were quite rewarding as the autumn colors were right at the peak around the summit. Over the next few weeks the nice colors will slowly make their way down to Urabandai at the base of the mountain.
After a quick descent, we got back to the car and headed through the Urabandai Area to Mount Azuma. We travelled via the Bandai Azuma Lake Line, another temporarily free toll road, which led past several lakes. As it is much lower than the summit of Mount Bandai, the trees along the road have barely begun to change colors. In a few weeks though, this should become a beautiful and popular leaf viewing spot.
Mount Azuma is accessed by another (temporarily free) toll road, the Bandai Azumai Skyline. This windy mountain road is an attraction in itself and its numerous twists and turns offer beautiful, panoramic views. The road leads to the Jododaira Marshland which wasn't very colorful by itself, but the hills and slopes overlooking the marsh were at their autumn color peak.