Mount Bandai, "Bandai-san", is a volcanic peak which gives its name to part of the Tohoku region of Japan. The region is located at a large opening through the northern Japanese alpine ranges. The small towns of Inowashira and Aizu-Wakamatsu are on this low-lying area overlooked by Bandai-san. The area of Urabandai, literally "behind Bandai" means what it says: the alpine basin behind the volcano with many features formed by its eruption in 1888. Just to keep us all on our toes, Urabandai is also called Bandaikogen, meaning "Bandai plateau" and its main hub, Bandaikogen Eki is not an "eki" as in rail station.
An alternative train route, but much slower, involves taking the Tobu line private railway from Asakusa in Tokyo towards Nikko then taking inland alpine rail routes (the Aizu Tetsudo) north to Aizu-Wakamatsu.
By car, drive north along Tohoku expressway to Koriyama junction, then turn west onto Ban-etsu. Exit at Inawashiro-Bandaikogen.
The JR Ban-Etsu-Zai-sen line links all the main cities. Urabandai is reached by bus from Inowashira.
formed by Bandai-san's eruption. Well worth checking out if you are in the area. A one hour walk links all the ponds. Take a bus from Inowashira station to Goshikinuma Iriguchi bus stop. The walk finishes at Bandaikogen Eki where the bus can take you back again.
Loghouse Mori no Uta, Minami Ourenzawa-yama, Kitashiobara, tel 0241 33 2929: stay in a genuine Canadian log house (no kidding!) with a local family. Heaps of traditional country cooking, which is mostly delicious apart from the weird boiled floaty things.