Last Updated: Jan 4, 2023
When most overseas foreigners think of Fukushima, their thoughts immediately flash to the devastating disasters of March 11, 2011. A decade ago, the prefecture as well as the neighboring regions were hit by a triple punch. This combination, known as the Great East Japan Earthquake, initially comprised a calamitous earthquake followed by a ruinous tsunami. Of course, as the world would soon learn, this devastating disaster was only the beginning. Shortly thereafter, reports emerged of Level 7 meltdowns inside three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. The rest, as they say, is history (or at least it was until recently).
While nearly ten years have passed since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Fukushima Prefecture continues to get a bad rap. In fact, I regularly get wind of reports concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants and their ill after-effect on the environment, especially now with the emptying of the water into the Pacific Ocean. What’s more, some of the poor souls who were victimized by the destructive events have yet to right their upended lives. These extremely tragic tales and topics remain a serious concern and one that is not well suited for travel blog discussion. Instead, I want to focus on doing what I can to rightfully redeem Fukushima as a destination for overseas tourism.
Rather than take on the entirety of Fukushima (which by the way is the third largest prefecture out there), I am going to zero in on the historic area of Aizu-Wakamatsu. This castle town is located in the mountainous interior of Fukushima and is well known throughout Japan for its top- tier sake and samurai legacy. During the Edo period (1603–1868), Aizu-Wakamatsu developed extremely strong ties with the Tokugawa shogunate. As a result of this allegiance, the region became the site of the final battle of the Boshin War with the forces of Aizu-Wakamatsu continuing the struggle despite the Tokugawas throwing in the towel.
By the way, if the name Aizu-Wakamatsu sounds familiar to you, know that you probably encountered it once before in some historical anime, manga, or drama. For example, the name is heavily featured in the acclaimed Samurai X and Rurouni…