During my trip to Fukushima prefecture I had to change my initial plans and ended up visiting Koriyama for a bit less then one day. And you know what? I totally did not regret it, and actually wish I could have stayed there for more days to enjoy the lovely atmosphere of this town.
First of all, I walked around the main train station and city centre. Even though Koriyama is a relatively small city with a population of just around 328,000 people, the central area was quite lively and had a lot of different shops, ranging from luxury clothing outlets to electronics and food stores. However, it wasn't crowded at all, and lovely instrumental music that was playing in the streets created a rather relaxing atmosphere.
Having no knowledge about Koriyama, I quickly looked at the tourist map that suggested a number of walking routes to explore the city, and I simply chose one that led to a park called Hayama Park.
On my way to the park, I wandered into a Shinto shrine, then a Buddhist temple, and then another and bigger Buddhist temple. The territories of those shrines and temples as well as streets were nicely decorated with numerous and colourful flowerbeds, and I couldn`t help taking pictures of such pretty plants.
After just 15 min of walking, I finally reached Hayama Park and was quite pleasantly surprised. It was arranged in a traditional Japanese garden style, but looked different from the gardens I had seen before. There were some lovely ponds with small, cute bridges, coniferous trees and various plants.
But the main surprise of this park was a legit and beautiful waterfall! I don't know about you, but I rarely see this kind of waterfall in parks!
It was dusk, and I saw a very pretty sky through the trees, so I decided to walk a bit further to get a better view. And right after I went out of the park, I spotted an interesting building with an open observation deck, so I decided to go there to get a good view of the city and sunset.
At that time, I had no idea what the building was for, but I simply went in and used the elevator to get to the highest floor. For totally free of charge, I was able to get a great panoramic view of the city, surrounding mountains and sunset. As I found out later, it actually was a Community Centre, where some events are held in the first floor, and some space for studies is provided on the upper floors. So, from time to time some students were coming up to the observation deck to rest for a while, but other than that I was completely alone there and could enjoy a great view quietly and peacefully.
When the day was drawing to a close, I was quite sad that I had to leave Koriyama soon and didn't have more time to explore it. There are a lot more things to do or see there, such as the science museum, art gallery, various parks, and so on, and it'd definitely be better to allow a couple of days to get to know this place more. But even though I spent such little time there, I already fell in love with this wonderful city and found it quite unique. I saw a lot of cities and towns in many prefectures of Japan, and indeed, they all had something special. But personally, I found Koriyama quite different from other Japanese cities or towns. While I was walking and discovering this city, I had a feeling that I was actually not in Japan but somewhere in Europe. Even though I saw Japanese stores, typical Japanese architecture and traditional Japanese shrines, temples and gardens, I could also find a couple of buildings with European-style architecture. And plenty of flowerbeds all around the city, as well as a relaxed atmosphere around the shopping malls really made me feel differently from what I felt in other places in Japan.
All in all, Koriyama was a very nice surprise to me and I would definitely recommend visiting it if you plan to explore the Tohoku area. But more importantly, from this experience, I would like to say that you should never be afraid of visiting a lesser known place or a town you know nothing about. It's interesting to explore somewhere new, and having no expectations gives you more chance to find something you would personally like, appreciate or be surprised by.
Koriyama access information:
JR Koriyama station is connected to other major stations such as Tokyo, Sendai, Yamagata and Aomori through a variety of JR lines and can be accessed by Shinkansen (both Tohoku Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen), as well as local trains (Ban-Etsusai Line, Ban-Etsuto Line, Suigun Line and Tohoku Line).