Fukushima is the third largest prefecture in Japan (13,782.54 km²), and one of its least densely populated. The prefecture is divided into three main regions: Aizu in the west, Naka dori in the centre and Hama dori in the east. Aizu is mountainous with snowy winters, while the climate in Hama dori is moderated by the Pacific Ocean.
On 11th March 2011 the region was hit by an earthquake with an 9.0 magnitude followed by a tsunami and many aftershocks. As a result of the tsunami, severe damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant occurred, including a meltdown of three of the four reactors. Due to radioactive fallout, an evacuation zone covers a roughly 20-km radius around the power plant and some outlying areas in the north-west. Access to this zone is heavily restricted. While there has been much debate over the effects of low-level radiation exposure to the locals, that danger is from prolonged exposure, so travellers passing through or visiting the region should not be unduly worried if they remain outside of the evacuation zone.
- Fukushima — The prefectural capital
- Iwaki — City located in southern part of the Hamadōri coastal region
- Aizu-Wakamatsu — a castle city located near the middle of the prefecture
- Koriyama — the largest city in the prefecture
- Shirakawa — the southernmost city in Fukushima
- Sukagawa — famous for its Taimatsu Akashi (fire festival) and peony garden
- Kitakata — a city close to Aizu-Wakamatsu which is famous for ramen and old warehouses
- Tamura — known for Abukuma Caves.
- Mount Bandai — Home to the Bandai-Asahi National Park and numerous snow and hot springs resorts
- Lake Inawashiro — Japan's fourth largest lake
- Oze National Park — the largest highland marshland on Japan's main island of Honshu.
Fukushima is served by Fukushima Airport, located near Sukagawa to the south of Koriyama. The airport is served by JAL and ANA, with domestic services to Osaka, Sapporo and Naha. There are also international services to Shanghai and Seoul.
High speed rail access is provided by the Tohoku Shinkansen, which serves Shirakawa, Koriyama and Fukushima stations. The Tohoku Shinkansen links Fukushima with Tokyo in the south and the rest of Tohoku to the north. The Yamagata Shinkansen runs from Fukushima to various cities in Yamagata prefecture. Local train services include the Tohoku Main Line, which generally follows the route of the Tohoku Shinkansen; and the West Ban'etsu Line, linking Koriyama with Niigata via the ski resorts of Inawashiro and Aizuwakamatsu.
Driving through the restricted zone near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant
Since 9/2014 it is possible again to drive through the exclusion zone that was established after the 2011 nuclear crisis. The national route 6 was previously blocked in Hirono (the Iwaki side) and Haranomachi (the Sōma side). A 14 km long stretch of the road was decontaminated and open for public again. It is still not possible to travel along this section on a motorcycle, bicycle or on foot. In 3/2015 a new stretch of the Jōban Expressway was open, including an 8 km long part within the exclusion zone. An estimated radiation dose to passengers is 0.2 microsievert. The drivers are also informed about actual radiation at several monitoring posts. In the rest of the restricted zone, the borders are not clearly marked and are changing with time, as some previously restricted areas are being decontaminated or considered safe for entry again. A centralized information about traffic in the exclusion zones is missing. Many minor roads are barricaded with explanation signs in Japanese.
Several expressways serve Fukushima prefecture and provide fast connection by car:
- Tōhoku Expressway - south-north connection, parralel to national route 4 as well as Tōhoku Shinkansen. Connects Shirakawa, Koriyama and Fukushima.
- Ban-etsu Expressway - connects Iwaki at the Pacific coast with Koriyama and Aizu-Wakamatsu and continues north-west towards Niigata at the Japan Sea coast. The route parallels the national route 49.
- Jōban Expressway - runs along the Pacific coast from Tokyo metropolitan area to Iwaki. In 2015 the northmost part reaching Sendai and crossing also the Fukushima exclusion zone was completed. The route is parall to the national route 6.
- Abukuma Caves in Tamura
- Skiing and snowboarding: The western part of Fukushima prefecture (Aizu) offers excellent conditions for winter sports from late November to early May. It has some 24 ski resorts, for example at Mount Bandai or Mount Adatara.
- Hot springs: Fukushima prefecture has a fine selection of hot springs and onsen accommodation. Their styles range from modern hot spring leisure facilities like Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki to traditional onsen villages with public bath-houses, foot-baths and ryokans. There are Iizaka Hot Springs and Tsuchiyu Hot Springs just outside Fukushima city or Higashiyama Hot Springs and Ashinomaki Hot Springs near Aizu-Wakamatsu.
- Cherry tree blossom time is best enjoyed in Fukushima Hanamiyama Park. East of Koriyama, a famous over 1000 years old weaping cherry tree, Miharu Takizakura, is a magnificant specimen. It can be admired also after sunset with artificial illumination. Another cherry blossoms appreciation locations include Komine Castle in Shirakawa, Tanagara Castle ruins in Tanagura, Tsuruga Castle in Aizu-Wakamatsu or banks of Natsui river in Natsui.
- Scenic views are guaranteed when taking the mountain toll road Bandai Azuma Skyline. The panoramas are especially colourful in the autumn. The route passes directly next to the crater of Mt. Azuma. Visitors can park their cars at the visitor center and take the short walk up to the crater's rim. The road is closed in winter.
- Bridge for Fukushima, ☎ 090-7710-7281, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization offers tours specially designed so that the visitors can get first-hand impressions from areas affected by the great Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. The participants can experience, how local people and businesses are coping with the recovery from the disasters. The tours start and end in Tokyo and include accommodation in Iizaka hot spring near Fukushima. ¥23,500/person.
In Fukushima, everyone knows Mama doll. Mama doll is a sweet which has white anko (milk flavor and chocolate flavor) inside it like an omanjuu. This name means “People who drink mothers’ milk” in Spanish (the Spanish original is "mamador"). Mama doll is sometimes shown on the TV. Many people who visit Fukushima buy it as a souvenir.
Another local specialty is anpo, dried persimmons, produced from kaki fruits farmed in Date and several other places in Fukushima prefecture. The consumers do not have to worry about radiation levels in local products, because they all pass routine radiation checks on release to the market.