Important News: Access to the Bandai-Azuma Skyline Sightseeing Road has been restricted following the Volcanic Warning Level for Azumaya being raised from Level 1 (“Potential for Increased Activity”) to Level 2 (“Do Not Approach the Crater”). A restricted access zone has now been put into effect around within 1.5 k of the crater, meaning that visitors can’t access Jododaira Resthouse, Mt. Azuma-Kofuji or Mt Issaikyo while the Level 2 Volcanic Warning is still in place. Takayu Onsen, Tsuchiyu Onsen and Iizkaa Onsen and outside of this 1.5 km and are therefore not affected. See here for a map of the area. Stay tuned for further updates.
For nature-lovers, I recommend checking out the trekking course from Jododaira Rest House to Mt Issaikyo. The course up to the peak of Mt Issaikyo (altitude of 1948.8m) and back down to the Rest House is around 7km in total, and takes around 3 hours. The official first day of Mt Issaikyo’s 2018 hiking season is coming up soon, on June 3.
Jododaira Rest House, a facility with a restaurant, food and drink counters, and a souvenir shop, is at an altitude is approximately 1600m, sits at the foot of Mt Azuma Kofuji (pictured below), a volcano with a huge caldera at the center.
You can walk around the ridge of this volcano in just 1 hour! I wrote a blog about this quick hike on my blog before – please see here.
The trek to the peak of Mt Issaikyo begins in the car park of Jododaira Rest House. You make your way to the peak of the mountain via Sugadaira Emergency Lodge. Once at the peak, you’ll be greeted with beautiful views of Lake Goshikinuma – a cobalt blue lake. The colour of this lake is made even more fantastic in contrast to the colours of the wetlands surrounding it.
On the way back from the lake, you take a slightly different route, passing through the Sugadaira plains to Lake Kamanuma. From there, you trek through Ubagahara plains, back to Jododaira Rest House.
Although there are pamphlets available of the route to Mt Issaikyo at Jododaira Rest House, none of them are in English, so I made a simple map of the hiking route. I’ve annotated it with with the approximate time it takes to walk between different points.
I hiked up to the peak of Mt Issaikyo last August. We went on the national holiday known as ‘Mountain Day’, along with many other eager mountain climbers, but unfortunately we were a bit unlucky with the weather.
I had been told by my colleagues that unless the weather is really clear, you’re unlikely to be able to see Lake Goshikinuma – which is known locally as ‘The Witch’s Eye’ – from the viewpoint. So, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful that we’d have much a view from the top. But the weather did clear up a bit, and just being outside surrounded by so much green really lifted my spirits.
A lot of the walkway is boarded over, meaning that the trail is easy to follow regardless of lack of English signposts, and also that it’s pretty easy to trek.
As we ascended higher and higher, the mist became more intense, and – as expected – once at the top, we were greeted with a wall of mist in stead of a great view. However, as we rested there to catch our breath, we noticed that as the wind was blowing, the mist was being carried away in front of us, slowly revealing the beautiful scenery we’d all been hoping to see.
A lot of mountain climbers had continued with the descent part of the course pretty quickly after arriving, due to not being able to get a glimpse of the Witch’s Eye. However, because we were all out of breath – and maybe just a little unfit – we were lucky to be there long enough to notice the wind revealed the lake every few minutes!
We even had time to take a few selfies with the beautiful lake!
On a clearer day, visitors can expect to see the type of view in the photos above and below. The photo shows the astonishing blue of Lake Goshikinuma. The Lake earned the nickname ‘The Witch’s Eye’ due to the way that the bright blue lake slowly appears as the snow melts in winters – giving the appearance of an eye opening.
Happy with our time at the top of the mountain, we started the descent. I fell in love with the scenery around us – it had been a long time since I felt so absolutely surrounded by lush green hills. I was also enjoying the fact that the temperature along the route was so much cooler, and less humid, than the city on a day in early August.
The weather was really starting to improve as we continued our descent down from the viewpoint, meaning we could spend our rest-break having a picnic along the side of Lake Kamanuma, under the sun.
Below are a few shots from the walk back. As we approached closer and closer to Jododaira and the impressive Mt Azuma Kofuji, the scenery slowly changed in colour from lush, fresh greens to volcanic yellows, oranges and browns.
I found it hard to believe that this place is in Fukushima City! The landscapes are unlike anywhere else I had seen before. I highly recommend the Mt Issaikyo trek for nature-lovers, mountain climbers and those who love photography – this place is just so photogenic.
Getting to Jododaira Rest House
The easiest way to reach Jododaira Rest House is by car (or taxi). Taxis can be quite expensive because of Jododaira’s distance from central Fukushima City. However, if you’re splitting the cost between a few people, it might be a viable option. See here for information on how to take a taxi in Fukushima.
You can reach Jododaira Rest House by public transport at the weekends and on national holidays. See the timetable below for more details about the bus from Fukushima Station. (Click on the image below for a bigger file).
Please be aware that while you’ll have to time to have a lunch and an ice cream, and maybe do the short hike around the crater top of Mt Azuma Kofuji, you won’t have to time to trek to the Issaikyo Peak if you arrive on the first bus from the city. It is worth considering taking a taxi to Mt Issaikyo, and then taking the bus back – or renting a car.
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