Today, we will get off the beaten track with the visit of the city of Aizu Wakamatsu. It’s located in Fukushima prefecture and it’s part of the Tohoku area in Japan. Tohoku is a very authentic region which is really underrated and should attract a lot more visitors from my point of view.
When mass tourism may spoil a bit the travel experience in Japan, Aizu Wakamatsu is still a hidden gem where old traditions can be seen everywhere! Let’s spend a day in this beautiful city and see what are the places you should not miss out!
Nisshin-kan – The School of Samurai
The Samurai tradition in Aizu is very important and the best place to witness it is in Nisshin-kan. It’s a school of Samurai that has been established in 1803 for the purpose of training young kids to become successful Samurai warriors.
The kids used to join the school at 10 years old and their education includes academic studies and physical training. The goal was to create powerful warriors that are strong mentally and physically.
An important part of the education was based on Confucius teachings and you can actually find a shrine dedicated to the worship of Confucius in the school.
When you visit Nisshin-kan school, make sure to watch the introductory video that has English subtitles. You will get to discover the school’s history in a fun way.
After that, you will be able to visit the old class rooms where the becoming samurai studied. But the great thing in Nisshin-kan is that you can also experience some parts of the Samurai training! I personally advice to try the meditation experience and the Kyudo training (Japanese martial art of archery).
Another place that you should not miss in Aizu Wakamatsu is the Tsuruga Castle! It was originally built in 1384 and was owned by different clans until it was destroyed during the Boshin War in 1868.
In the 60s, the castle was rebuilt in concrete and renovated in 2011. You can get to the top of the castle and enjoy an amazing view of Aizu city.
The park surrounding the castle is also worth visiting and you can experience there a tea ceremony at the Rinkaku Teahouse.
It’s lunch time already and we will go eat at Takino restaurant! They are specialised in local food and they serve the very popular Wappa Meshi. It’s a dish made of rice and steamed ingredients like fish, crab, vegetables, mushrooms etc… It’s served in a traditional oval bamboo box and it’s really delicious!
The building of the restaurant is quiet old and well preserved so you will be able to enjoy your lunch in a nice traditional setting. Amazing experience!
It’s time to visit the surroundings of Aizu Wakamatsu and we start with the unmissable Ouchi-juku village. It’s an old post town located on the ancient trade route that connected Aizu and Nikko during the Edo Period (Aizu-Nishi Kaido trade route).
When you visit Ouchi juku, it actually feels like you are back in Edo period with all the old-style houses with thatched roofs (gassho style). It looks a bit similar to Shirakawago or Gokayama village.
To get the best view of the village, follow the main road and you will find stairs. Get to the top of the hill and take amazing pictures of the village from there.
If you are a bit hungry while visiting Ouchi-juku, don’t miss the soba noodles that you eat with an onion stick (instead of the usual wooden chopsticks).
The No. 1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint
We finish this tour of Aizu with a beautiful viewpoint! It’s a spot that has been made popular by local photographers who enjoy shooting the train (Tadami line) while it goes through the arch bridge. The river also creates a beautiful reflection of the train and bridge.
The access is not very difficult and if you like photography, you will LOVE this viewpoint! This is the exact location of the view point on Google Maps.
And this is how we end up our tour of the beautiful city of Aizu. If you want to discover the “real” Japan, Aizu Wakamatsu may be a great answer! It’s an authentic city full of history and traditions and I’m sure you will love it as much as I do!