The last time I visited Fukushima, it was in mid April 2008.
Fukushima was not in my 2012 itinery. Call it self preservation. But as I was traveling from Aizuwakamatsu towards the direction of Sendai, when the train master announced "we will soon be making a brief stop at Fukushima", I had this sudden urge to see Hanamiyama again. I wanted to see if it has changed with all the bad and harmful reports flying all over the world. I want to see it before it is claimed by another disaster, man-made or otherwise.
The cruel lesson from Tohoku earthquake 2011 has taught me an important lesson. Nothing lasts forever.
The first bus (during Sakura season, they have special bus that goes direct to Hanamiyama) departs from the front of the station at 9.00am. To & fro ticket at ¥500 will be collected at the queue before you board the bus. Keep the ticket as you will need it on your trip back.
The journey took about 20mins. However you will know you are near when the sight of pink mountains greets you from afar.
Stalls selling local produce, food, potted flowers, seeds and fruits were set up. Tourists had already started to pour in even before the first bus arrives. From there, if you are more keen on sight than food, just follow the crowd. There will also be many staff around to give assistance and direction.
The whole of the hills were covered with clouds of pink and white blooms with occasional red breaking the monopoly. Everyone were clicking away furiously with their cameras. Everyone were so excited and elated by the sight of full bloom sakura that everywhere I went, I heard people exclaiming in wonder and awe at the beauty(japanese of course). The Japanese really worship Sakura. I am sure they see this sight every year but every time they see this, their reaction is as if they are seeing it for the first time.
After the earthquake, it was the same everywhere I travel in the Tohoku region. Japanese tourists would give words of encouragement to the locals, Gambatte, Gambatte, hang on, hang on. I wish I can speak Japanese well enough to give them words of encouragement too.
It was a rewarding detour. The crowd was lesser than before but not the beauty. The beauty has not diminished, in fact it was even more dear and breathtakingly beautiful because I know it is not permanent. I was really glad that I came back to Hanamiyama.
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