Saturday, September 24, 2011

Goshikinuma - the Five coloured lakes

Post 11th March 2011, Fukushima has become a name synonymous with crisis, calamity and despair. In a sad turn of events, the once peaceful and unspoilt region has been associated with one of mankind's worst disasters. Before disaster struck this region, it was an agriculturally rich area with a lot to offer for nature lovers. Be it the coastal areas, called Hamadori or the mountainous interiors called Nakadori or the Aizu region in the west, Fukushima prefecture is a traveller's delight. Living in Iwaki city in the same prefecture, many a weekends have passed with us driving northwards towards the Bandai or Aizu regions hoping to spend some time closer to nature. 

One of my personal favorites among all the places my family has visited in Japan happens to be Goshikinuma Ponds. This is one of the places where one can feel closest to nature. A place my family totally loves to visit over and over. The best part of visiting Goshikinuma is that with each season, the place is totally transformed. We ended up visiting this place during three seasons- Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each time has been a totally different experience.

Goshikinuma simply translated means "Five Colored Lakes". As the name says it, Goshikinuma is a cluster of five lakes situated at the foot of Mount Bandai in the Bandai Asahi national park. These lakes were created due to a volcanic eruption of Mount Bandai in 1888 which caused widespread destruction in the Bandai area. The eruption resulted in a near complete transformation of the area, thereby creating a number of lakes, swamps and the Bandai plateau. The volcanic activity deposited minerals in the lakes thereby giving different colours to each of the ponds. The colours of the lakes vary during each season and even at different times of the day.

A 3.6 kilometre walking trail around the ponds is the way to experience this natural wonder.

The first of the five ponds on the trail is Bishamon Pond. It is also the biggest of the ponds and has a turquoise blue-green glow. 

The view of this pond is especially spectacular during the Autumn months when red maple leaves against the turquoise blue pond make it a magical sight. 

Boating facilities are available for rental at Bishamon pond. Carp fish are found aplenty in Bishamon Pond.

Next on the trail is Akanuma Pond which as the name suggests has a Reddish Brown tinge.

It takes about 25 minutes at a normal walking pace to reach Akanuma Pond.

A three minute walk further takes one to the Midoronuma Pond. The pond has a greenish tinge.

About 10 minutes ahead is the Bentennuma Pond which is actually a big swamp.

Last on the trail is the Aonuma Pond which has a dark blue hue.

Along the trails are small streams of water and swamps. Even during the hot humid summer months, one feels refreshed walking along the trail. The entire 3.6 km trail is covered in a little over one hour.

At the end of the trail is a Visitor centre with food stalls and souvenir selling shops. Right across the road is a bus stop from where a Bus service is available (at a price, offcourse) to the Parking Lot. This is a relief after a 3.6 km trek along the ponds.

Our first visit to the area was during the Obon Holidays in August 2010. The place was crowded and we had a tough time finding a parking space. There were busloads of tourists vouching for the fact that this was clearly Fukushima’s most popular tourist destination.
Our last visit to the place was in February 2011. The entire place had a deserted look barring a few people. The entire area was covered under a thick blanket of snow. The trail was closed, but we could walk up a thick wall of ice to see Bishamon Pond , rather the frozen Bishamon. 

It was unbelievable that there was not a trace of the turquoise coloured Bishamon. 

White snow was all that we could see everywhere around. 

Clearly, Goshikinuma is one of the most scenic points of the region and attracts large number of tourists from across Japan.
Address: 1093, Kengamine, Hibara Ko, Kita-Shiobara, Yama gun, Fukushima Ken- 969-2701

Entrance Fees: Free.

Phone:  0241-32-2349 (Urabandai Tourist Association)

Best Season: All year round, Spring and Autumn (peak)

Parking: Available (Limited)

Lake Hibara is another lake in the vicinity. This lake was also formed as a result of the volcanic eruption of Mount Bandai. The lake is the largest of all lakes in the Ura Bandai highlands or Bandai kogen plateau as the region is called.  It is a short walk away from the endpoint of the Goshikinuma trail. The lake has boating facilities except in winter months, when it is totally frozen. There are lot of eating joints on the shore of Lake Hibara.

During the winter months, this entire region turns into a ski resort with lot of skiing slopes and snow fields. Infact many people camp on the frozen lakes and we did see many such campers. Icefishing is a popular sport at Lake Hibara during the winter months.  

Lake Akimoto and Onogawa are other smaller lakes in the Hibara-Goshikinuma area. 

Completely frozen during the winter months, these too are popular camping and ice fishing spots. 


  1. Hello Shreya, great pics! I am interested to go camping at Hibara-Goshikinuma area during winter this middle of December and I was wondering if the lake is already frozen by then. Also, can you camp anywhere on the lake or do you have to pay the registered campsites around the lake?

    John B.

    1. Thanks John for the nice words. Not sure if the lake will be frozen enough to camp on it during December. We saw people camping there in the end of February. It snows heavily in the Bandai region and the Inawashiro area is full of skiing resorts. I am not aware of whom to contact . Sorry !