Fukushimagata Lagoon is a freshwater lake located in Niigata prefecture, an important wetlands ecosystem that is home to the rare Gorgon Plant and is also an important stopover for migratory birds. At well over 200 hectares it also serves as a small sanctuary from city life, and its renowned wetlands are popular with Niigata visitors. Here are the top 5 reasons to visit.
1. Watch the Sun Rise over the Serene Landscape
Fukushimagata Lagoon has a unique circular tower, interesting in its architecture, but also the perfect viewpoint from which to savor the early morning's sunrise. Watching the sun peep in the east and then gradually making its way higher up in the sky with the lapse of time is really impressive from this tower. Even if you don't arrive in time for the sunrise, the tower gives a clear picturesque view of the whole lagoon area.
As you climb up the five story tower, you will be able to watch birds and animals in the lagoon through free telescopes provided for visitors. The building has no entrance fees. Watching the lagoon from the 4th floor from the glass windows gives an excellent view of the area. Up in the tower, there are souvenir shops, a cafeteria and exhibition areas to enjoy. Inside you can learn all about the history and culture of the area, including the local plants and wildlife, through videos, photographs and other permanent exhibits. This is great for making the trip educational as well as fun.
2. Go Bird Watching or Take a Nature Walk
During spring and summer the rich greenery makes the area perfect for a leisurely walk, either to observe the wildlife or simply to rejuvenate yourself. The place is specially serene in early mornings when you can hear the chirping birds and smell the freshness of the air with the sun low on the horizon.
This location also features beautiful mustard fields during the spring between April and May. At this time of year, you will be able to catch up with the crowd of professional photographers ready for that perfect shot with their sophisticated cameras. Around this lagoon, you can see over 220 kinds of birds and 450 kinds of plants.
In winter you will be fully welcomed by the big migratory birds that settle here during the cold months. Since ancient times, people have been attracted to go and watch bean goose (oohisikui in Japanese) flying over the Fukushimagata Lagoon. The geese fly from the coldest parts of Russia and find shelter in this lagoon from the end of September to the beginning of March. If you are a bird lover, winter is the best time to visit the lagoon. It will definitely be chilly outside but if are dressed up warm on a fine cold morning, you will get to rejoice in the blissful moments of quiet as you scan the lagoon for waterfowl.
3. See the Gorgon Plant
Fukusihmagata Lagoon is well known as the northern limit of the Onibasu (Gorgon Plant). The Gorgon Plant has beautiful violet-red flowers with leaves of 1.5-2.0 meters in diameter. Since this rare species is on the verge of extinction, Niigata City is trying to protect it. The blooming season is the summer, from the end of July to September, and Fukushimagata Lagoon is an excellent place to appreciate the unique beauty of this water plant.
4. Learn about Japanese Traditions
Fukushimagata also has a Japanese-style cottage with a thatched roof located in the lake area. This cottage provides a unique cultural experience as you can get an idea of what traditional Japanese houses looked like. There is a unique fireplace in the tatami room, spacious and cozy. The entrance to this cottage is free.
During my last visit to this place, I had a chance to see Japanese people dry persimmon fruits by the fireplace.
Dried persimmonsOutside this house there were traditional bamboo stilts to walk on. I did not miss the opportunity to try them!
The information desk in the Fukushimagata tower provides information on the possibility of renting this place for social events and a night out. This could be a very interesting location to spend some time learning the culture in a Japanese ambiance.
5. Enjoy Camping in Summer
Last but not least, there is a possibility to reserve the kitchen field area of the traditional house for camping during the summer season. Families visit with chlidren and can be seen camping in their tents. This facility is open only between March and November when the weather conditions are fine. You need to make an advance reservation at the information desk at the tower before you plan your camping trip. The cost for camping is minimal ( Adult-200 yen and for children- 100 yen).
Photo: Yamakidoms on Flickr
Official website: http://www.pavc.ne.jp/~hishikui/index-e.html
- By train: It takes about 2.5 hours by Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to reach Niigata station. From Niigata station you can catch a local train to Toyosaka station which is about 10 km from the lagoon. It is only 5 mins taxi ride from Toyosaka station.
- By car: If you are driving from within Niigata take bypass route no. 7 and you may get off at Toyosaka IC. Lots of free parking spaces are available so parking should not be a problem.