Google Fukushima and you’ll see images from the nuclear disaster and very little else. Determined to visit the capital and see the city for myself, I found planning a little difficult. Fukushima is such a large and beautiful prefecture that most places recommended are outside of the capital; mostly mountains and onsen towns.
Undeterred, I purchased my train ticket and was pleased to discover a wonderful city; full of kind and generous residents, most of whom were curious as to why I chose to visit. As a prefecture still recovering from the aftermath of the Great East Japan earthquake, they need visitors more than ever and I found an impressive community of people working together to promote the region. Here are my favorites from a day spent wandering.
My first stop was Sakamoto Coffee, a cute coffee shop just south of the station. Over my iced latte, I chatted with the kind owner Yamaoka Tsuguya, who generously gave me some lovely omiyage. He makes a delicious pour over and has a great selection of publications for coffee lovers, including the beautiful Standart magazine.
Sakamoto Coffee, 〒960-8061 福島市五月町 1-12 メゾン高徳
Cafeteria Hitoto (食堂ヒトト)
Lunch was a magical combination; a minimal Japanese interior, warm service and superb food. Housed on the third floor of a building full of creative spaces, Cafeteria Hitoto serve a daily set menu of macrobiotic foods from their open kitchen. The space is filled with locals and gazing across the tatami room, you can see steam slowly billowing from teacups. My tasty lunch set included tofu with miso, brown rice, miso soup, natto and hijiki.
食堂ヒトト,〒960-8041 福島市大町 9-21, ニューヤブウチビル, 3F
Downstairs is Bloom, a florists space packed with oodles of flowers. The selection is impressive, with not just the usual selection of fresh flowers, but also an interesting array of ferns, succulents, cacti and dried flowers too. Next door you can find Little Bird, a record store that was sadly closed during my visit.
Bloom,〒960-8041 福島市大町 9-21, ニューヤブウチビル, 2F
Downstairs again is the most beautiful optical store I’ve ever seen, Optical Yabuchi. The store has an incredible range of glasses, along with a selection of zakka – homewares, jewelry and other trinkets. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Yoshihisa Yabuuchi, who hand carves eye glasses made with only wood. No glue or metal parts are used and they require such meticulous attention, the waiting list is two years long!
Optical Yabuuchi,〒960-8041 福島市大町 9-21, ニューヤブウチビル, 1F
Mens clothing store Pick-Up has a gorgeous selection and interior, along with super friendly staff. The industrial space is small but packed to the rafters with all things sartorial, with lovely bags from Herringbone and boots from Blundstone. One of the staff asked me if I liked coffee and promptly escorted me upstairs to discover my next stop.
Pick-Up, 〒960-8033 福島市万世町 4-28, 1F
River Beach Coffee
The kind of place you need to know is there, River Beach Coffee is hidden down a laneway and up the stairs. Inside is a rustic space, full of well-dressed customers with gorgeous interior details that mirror the clothing store below. They were serving Fuglen beans from Tokyo during my visit, which were surprisingly sweet and fruity.
River Beach Coffee, 〒960-8033 福島市万世町 4-28, 2F
Women’s clothing store BarnS is the sister store of Pick-Up and stocks one of my favorites Marimekko. The owner of both stores, Shogo Takahashi is a keen gardener and craftsman; he built much of the store himself and can be found tending the local street gardens on weekends. He also initiated the local project F-pins, to help support the community and spread love for Fukushima in the aftermath of the disaster.
BarnS, 〒960-8011 福島市宮下町 18-30, 1F
Books & Cafe Koto (Books & Cafe コトウ)
Located upstairs is a sweet bookstore and cafe, Books & Cafe Koto. Owner Yuji Kojima opened the space earlier this year, as the first secondhand book store in the city. With a lovely selection of hand-picked magazines and books, I especially liked some of the children’s picture books and the special Japanese editions of Kinfolk.
Books & Cafe コトウ, 〒960-8011 福島市宮下町 18-30, 2F
Japanese sweets shop Urokoya, specializes in beans and is known by all the locals. Slide open the rickety glass door and step into a tatami room with baskets arranged on the floor. Each basket has a different kind of confectionary. The kind owner helped me choose the most popular omiyage from their selection.
うろこや, 〒960-8036 福島市新町 7-13
Fukushima Gokoku Shrine (福島縣護国神社)
Located at the foothill of Mt Shinobu, trees and blossoms overlook the Fukushima Gokoku Shrine. As I approached the front gate, I heard familiar sounds, those marking a wedding celebration. I proceeded with trepidation, not wanting to interfere. The bride and groom were dressed traditionally and not only was I welcomed with excitement, but encouraged to have photos taken with the happy couple! A most special honor.
福島縣護国神社, 〒960-8025 福島市駒山 1
Mt Shinobu (信夫山)
This mountain is a symbol of Fukushima and a lovely place for hiking. It has three mountain peaks and a number of shrines and temples to explore along the way. I ambled along, getting lost numerous times as the trail isn’t always signposted nor obvious. I didn’t encounter any other hikers on foot, only locals driving to the top and a handful of cyclists whizzing down the mountain.
Karasugasaki Observation Deck (烏ヶ崎展望デッキ)
The peak of Mt Shinobu is marked by an observation deck at 270 metres high, with incredible views right across the city. Relieved to reach the top, I joined the teenagers perched on the rocks and we watched the incoming thunderstorm. To our left, we could see forks of lightning in the distance and to our right, a glorious sunset over the mountains.
Yamame Gyoza (山女)
As I rounded the corner at Yamame, I was greeted with a long line of people waiting outside. Inside I scored at a seat at the small 10-seater counter downstairs, where I could see the kitchen. I watched hands rapidly folding their famous enban gyoza, a mesmerizing process. Frozen beer in hand, I made friends with my neighbors and ordered a half-plate of the fried dumplings. Served with dipping sauce and pickles, they were plump and filling.
山女, 〒960-8044 福島市早稲町 5-23
As I left, my neighbor insisted on a selfie and passed me a napkin with a note she’d Googled the English for. “I’m so glad to have met you.” I’m so glad I meet her too. Her and all the other lovely locals I encountered during my most charming trip to Fukushima. I urge everyone to visit and help support this incredible community. There’s a lot to love!