Kotaro Takamura’s poem about a homesick woman in Tokyo pining for her native Fukushima Prefecture more than 60 years ago could just as easily have been written about many of the displaced locals living in the capital these days.
In his poem “Chieko Sho” (“Chieko’s Sky”), published in 1941, Takamura (1883-1956) writes: “Chieko says there is no sky in Tokyo. She says she wants to see the real sky . . . Gazing into the distance, she says, my real sky is the blue sky above Mount Atatara.”
Craving a taste of home, Fukushima natives often drop by the prefectural tourist office in Taito Ward for a taste of the life they left behind, according to director Masao Abe. In fact, they comprise a large percentage of the 60 or so visitors who come by the office each day, he said.
“They are drawn especially by the special food and products of their hometowns,” Abe said. “Some even hold Fukushima ‘kenjin-kai’ parties, in which people from the prefecture gather to share the ambience and local food in banquet rooms in this building.”
The prefectural tourist office features a shop, restaurant, cafe, banquet rooms and sleep-over accommodations.
The items Fukushima citizens miss the most, according to Abe, are “kitakata senbei,” a large, light rice cracker, and “shimi dofu,” preserved food made from thin slices of freeze-dried tofu.
“The shimi dofu, naturally frozen dry by hanging from the eaves of houses, can only be made in a climate like Fukushima’s, which experiences an acute drop in temperature in February,” he said.
Divided into three parts by the Abukuma and Ou mountain ranges, Fukushima is a picturesque region boasting coastal plains, high mountains and long, winding rivers.
Hot summers and cold winters are typical of the entire prefecture.
Many visitors also drop by the office to prepare for their trips, according to Tatsuji Haruta, who is in charge of tourism. He said Fukushima’s top five attractions are Urabandai, Lake Inawashiro, Oze, and the cities of Miharu and Iwaki.
Urabandai is known for its 300 beautiful lakes and colorful swamps, along with its scenic highways, including the Bandai Azuma Skyline and Lakeline. Hot springs also dot the area.
Various marine sports can be enjoyed on Lake Inawashiro, which is surrounded by four ski resorts. The old town of Aizu Wakamatsu is on its west shore, and the museum of bacteriologist Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928) sits on its northern shore.
Oze, on the southwestern tip of the prefecture, is a moor featuring beautiful highland vegetation. It is designated as one of the nation’s special natural monuments.
Miharu is famous for its flowers and, above all, a 1,000-year-old weeping cherry tree.
“Literally meaning ‘three springs,’ Miharu is named after the three types of flowers — cherry, peach and plum — that bloom at the same time in spring,” Haruta said.
Iwaki, in the southeast part of the prefecture, features many beautiful beaches and the Aqua Marine Fukushima aquarium.
“Fukushima is the best place one can visit,” Abe said. “It’s literally like jumping into full nature.”
The shop also sells well-known folk crafts from the region, including “aka beko,” a red-haired bull dating back to 807 that is said to protect children from epidemics, and “miharu goma,” a horse featured in 15th century folklore.
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