Fukushima city has tourism plans for treasured Akaiyachi wetland

19 November 2017

[Translated by The Japan Times]The city of Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, is making plans to lure tourists to its Akaiyachi wetland, a 70-hectare marsh designated as a national natural treasure.

The Aizuwakamatsu Municipal Government plans to build a promenade and parking lots on 611-meter Mount Okubo, which overlooks the wetland, in the coming years and perhaps a boardwalk through it after lifting a ban on entering the area.

The wetland, in the eastern Aizuwakamatsu town of Minato, is 525 meters above sea level and contains subarctic plants such as sphagnum moss, cranberries and cloudberries, all of which are common on Russia’s Sakhalin Island. It was designated a natural treasure in 1928.

The city is considering renovating an unpaved road, which stretches for about 1 km along the base of the mountain, to turn it into a promenade with parking lots after discussing the idea with the owners of the mountain.

The city also plans to set up a stele engraved with a tanka about the wetland by Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, in the northern part of the wetland.

But how to preserve the habitat of the flora after the swamp is opened to the public remains a big hurdle. The main problem is that sphagnum moss dies easily when stepped upon. The city will consult a committee of biologists leading efforts to preserve the land to see whether its tourism plans are feasible. If the committee approves, the city will discuss the project with the Cultural Affairs Agency.

The town of Minato has a population of about 1,800, down by about 2,700 in the past 60 years. In 2015 volunteers set up a committee to revitalize and develop the area by drawing on its history and natural attractions. Some residents have demanded that Akaiyachi be used for tourism.

“We’d like to search for a way to utilize the state-designated natural treasure for tourism, after carefully considering how to protect it,” said an Aizuwakamatsu municipal official.

Shoichi Kobiyama, head of the association to revitalize the Minato area, said, “We’ll think about ways to develop tourism while protecting and taking care of the local nature.”