Handayama’s Heart Lake

As the long, hot summer days continue, I thought I’d write about a spring time hike I went on this year to Handayama, to the north of Fukushima!

In the springtime, the picturesque heart-shaped lake at Handayama bursts into shades of pink and pastel.

Bordered with stunning sakura in the spring, Handa Pond (Handa Numa) lies at the heart of Handayama Natural Park. The pond looks incredible, especially if viewed from near the top of Handayama.

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Handayama Natural Park is a great place for hiking, cycling, camping and cherry blossoms viewing. Bungalos and tents are available to rent, and camping space can be reserved for those planning to bring their own tents. A limited number of bicycles can also be rented for the day.

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Bungalo at Handayama Camping Ground

 

Hiking at Handayama

Landslides between 1959 and 1961 dramatically changed the shape of the mountain, giving it its current form. The landslides are thought to have been caused by extensive silver mining which took place at Handayama during centuries gone by.

There are a range of hiking routes stretching across Handayama. The longest route takes approximately 3 hours, and passes through a view point from which you can see Handa Pond’s heart-shape.

Nowadays, visitors don’t have to worry about landslides, although it is recommended for hikers to attach bells to their hiking gear, and to talk loudly in certain areas of the Natural Park, as bears do tend to hang around here during Spring.

The Heart Lake

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The Heart Lake refers to the way that Handa Pond appears in the shape of a heart when  viewed from Handayama.

The Heart Lake is best viewed in April and early May. Beautiful cherry blossoms surround the heart during spring, but from mid-May onwards, the water of the pond is gradually drained for use by local farmers. This means that the pond loses its shape.

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The best place to view the Heart Lake is the Heart Lake View Point, near the peak of Handayama.

The Heart Lake View Point can be accessed by hiking routes starting at Handayama Natural Park Camping Grounds.

It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the view point, and another 1.5 to descend the mountain, either by retracing the same route, or by continuing to circle around the mountain.

For those travelling by car, it’s possible to park closer to the view point, making the view point accessible by 30 minutes!

 

Trying Out the Hike

Even before arriving at the start-point, Koori town’s scenery is extremely beautiful. I enjoyed being completely surrounded by mountains, rice fields and everything green.

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The trail started out at Handayama Natural Park Management Center, from where we picked up a map.

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Handayama Natural Park Management Center

We headed up the mountain via the Handayama Camping Ground.

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Despite being only around 2 km one-way, the route to the view point was very steep in places, and difficult to hike without walking poles. The dry ground also meant it was hard to grip the ground in places.

I would suggest driving to the car park nearest to the view point, to cut your walking time. But please be aware that even driving to the second car park won’t cut out all of the steep ground.

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The view at the top made the slightly difficult ascent worth it!

As you can see from the picture below though, the heart-shape was already fading by time that I went hiking there (May 22nd). I recommend going earlier in the year, especially during cherry blossom time! If you’re a hiking fan, definitely include this route in your visit to Fukushima next year!

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Access

Koori Town is in Northern Fukushima Prefecture, basically bordering Fukushima and Miyagi Prefecture.

Here is a basic map of the hiking routes

By public transport:

15 minute walk from Koori Station.

Koori Station is 13 minutes by train from Fukushima Station, 75 minutes from Koriyama Station, 1 hour from Sendai Station (all on the Tohoku Line).

By car:

20 minute drive from the Kunimi Interchange off of the Tohoku Expressway. Car parks are available at Handayama Natural Park.

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