Visiting Kawamata and Iitate, and climbing Mt. Megami, October 27, 2019. (女神山に登り、川俣町、飯舘村に行く 2019年10月27日。)

Today I participated in one-day group tour through Kawamata and Iitate area organized by Environment Restoration Plaza in Fukushima. The tour included climbing Mount Megami (599m) in the morning, having Kawamata Shamo lunch, which was a popular local specialty food, tea break at Chieko teahouse, and stopping at Yamada Cattle Farm. About 20 people participated in the tour from across eastern part of Japan and we had a good exercise climbing the local mountain. Photo above was a view at the top of Mt. Megami in Kawamata.

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The mountain trail started from Akiyama community center as shown above. This was located not far from the famous Akiyama Komazakura cherry tree.

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Although it was not a very high mountain, a first order triangulation point was placed at the summit, as shown above, due to its fine surrounding view.

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We enjoyed autumn leaves along the trail as shown above. I measured radiation exposure during the mountain trekking. Although mountain trails have not been decontaminated since Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident, the resulting accumulated radiation was 3.26μSv, which was just normal and negligible compared to natural background radiation.

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There were a couple of shrines at the top: Otehime Shrine and Hebi (or Snake) Shrine, as shown above in the back and in the forefront. Both were based on a legend which dates back to 6th century. A couple of elderly local volunteer guides led us climbing the mountain and they also told us importance of mountain, water, and woods. Many of us were impressed by the powerful talk.

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We found a rare wild edible plant called Gonboppa as shown above. The leaves are used to make Shimimochi, a local specialty rice cake made from glutinous rice and leaves of wild plants.

At lunch time, we stopped at a restaurant “Shinkawa” in the city center of Kawamata. We had a local specialty menu of Kawamata Shamo chicken and egg bowl which was juicy and excellent.


In the afternoon, we stopped at Chieko’s teahouse, as shown above, which opened on the 1st of this May, which was the first day of Reiwa Era. Gramma Chieko in her 70’s was born and lived in Iitate Village. She had hard times before and after the Great East Japan earthquake with her cancer treatment, evacuation, her husband’s death and difficulties starting up her new business. But she started producing local specialty shimimochi and finally reopened her antique style cafeteria for serving shimimochi dessert dish. She told us her story of hardship as well as success of reopening the teahouse, while we tasted the excellent shimimochi dessert with home-grown vegetables. Many of us were moved by her resilience.

The final stop was Yamada Cattle Farm in Iitate Village, as shown above, which raises quality beef cattle. Due to the entire village evacuation caused by the nuclear plant accident in 2011, the farm was once forced to close, but it restarted this July with new cowsheds. Iitate beef was quality brand beef before the accident and we felt the family’s powerful momentum toward the revitalization of the region.

Finally, we came to Kikori Hall, as shown above, which was Iitate Village community center as well as accommodation facility. We had 1.5hr discussion on how we felt meeting and hearing from three local residents, all of them were tough, powerful and resilient toward the future of their life and regional revitalization. On the other hand, it might be difficult to tell the actual reality to other people. Maybe the best way to understand the right situation in the region is to go and see firsthand the reality and communicate with local people.

I visited Iitate and Kawamata in 2012, 1.5-year after the disaster, when Iitate was still restricted access area as shown in the 2012visit. This time I could see more and more people actually returned to the town and could feel much vitalization than before.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.

Lala mew and Halal restaurant in Iwaki, Dec. 14, 2017 (いわき市 らら・ミュウと ハラル食堂 2017年12月14日)

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Today I participated in a group study tour of Omotenashi Guide Fukushima, which was a voluntary group of interpreter guides for Fukushima, and visited Iwaki City. It was a clear day with spectacular blue sky in Iwaki today, while other regions of Fukushima (Aizu and central area) were still chilly with snow and clouds. Photo above shows a sunny ocean view of Aquamarine Aquarium and Marine Bridge at Onahama Port.

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The ocean view was taken from Iwaki Lala mew as shown above, which was Iwaki City tourism and products center. On the 2nd floor of the center, a large exhibition of traces Iwaki had experienced toward recovery and reconstruction of the region was being displayed. Anybody can visit and see the exhibits to learn the facts of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant accident and the recovery.

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Then we visited a new Halal restaurant opened this year in Yumoto district of the city. It was located 5-minute walk from Yumoto Station of JR Joban Line. The restaurant was certified by Halal Certification Committee that all items in the menu were qualified as Halal. We had curry dishes for lunch, which was extremely healthy and excellent in taste with reasonable price (\700-800).

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
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Deep countryside tour in Towa, Nihonmatsu, Nov. 16, 2017 (二本松東和地区の素敵な里山ツアー 2017年11月16日)

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Today, I attended a wonderful tour through deep countryside of Towa district, Nihonmatsu City. This study tour was promoted by Omotenashi Guide Fukushima, which was a group of interpreter guides for Fukushima Pref. Photo above was a 3-story shrine tower which suddenly appeared on a mount Kohata trail about 540m above sea level.

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A history was described on a board above which said that the tower was already there in 16th century. It suffered fire and natural disaster since then, and was repaired every time, and today it remains as one of the only three of this kind of towers in Fukushima.

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There was a main building or “Honden” of Okitsushima Shrine as shown above just up the stairs from the tower.

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Also down the mountainside, there was a worship hall or “Haiden” of the shrine as shown above.

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These buildings were built in late 18th century and the details were explained on a board above.

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And near these structures, there was a gigantic Japanese cedar tree as shown above, which was designated as a national natural monument. The tree is 700 years old and the circumference is 16 meters.

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There was a scenic viewpoint along the trail which overlooked northwestern plains with fall colors as shown above. With all of these historic sites and scenery and a lot of uphill exercise, I believe this was a hidden attraction in Fukushima.

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Towa district has some of the excellent local specialties. One of them was organic wine produced at local winery. The grapes are harvested at local organic vineyard. Photo above shows wine products from Fukushima Farmers’ Dream Wine Co. Both of them tasted healthy and excellent.

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Another specialty was locally produced natural honey products as shown above. These are from Watanabe Apiary in Towa district. These tasted excellent and healthy. You can purchase one at either of roadside stations referred below.

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There were a couple of roadside stations or Michi-no-eki along the national route 349 in Towa district, one of which “Michi-no-eki Towa” was shown above. They serve delicious lunch prepared with local vegetables. One of them I had today at “Sakura-no-sato” roadside station was “kenchin-udon” bowl with plenty of local vegetables and delicious soup, which was extremely good and healthy.

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This time, it was high season for autumn colors in the district. In April, cherry blossoms are all over the area. One of the famous weeping cherry trees is called “Kassenba-no shidarezakura”, or a couple of 150-year-old weeping cherry trees in the battle field, as shown above as of today.

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Local festivals are held including Abaredashi or wild floats Festival in October, or Kohata Flag Festival in early Decmber. (This year’s festival is on Dec. 3rd. History of Kohata Flag Festival is explained above in Japanese.) So you can enjoy some of the festivals or cherry blossoms or autumn colors depending on the month you visit here, altogether with having local healthy vegetable lunch or purchasing excellent local specialty food or drink products, while enjoying great countryside atmosphere.

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Today, attendees gathered at Adachigahara site, which was about 40-minute walk from JR Nihonmatsu Station, and then a microbus took us through the tour. A mistress of local organic Nanakusa Farm, who was also a member of Omotenashi Guide Fukushima and who teaches English to local children, guided us through the tour. Our first visit was Sainenji Temple, where a natural monument of the city shown above was preserved. This was called Garyu-no-matsu, which was 400-year-old Japanese white pine. It grew crawling horizontally as far as 14 meters wide.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
The last visit which was Dream Wine Co. was out of GPS route in the map due to battery outage.
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