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May 16, 2014 - Roadtrip: Aizu-Wakamatsu

Trip to Tsuruga Castle and Oyakuen Gardens in Aizu Wakamatsu, April 19th. Part 1 of 4.

For the weekend of April 19th and 20th, two friends of mine joined me on a mini road trip up to the Tohoku area. Our plan was to see Aizu-Wakamatsu and Ouchijuku in Fukushima Prefecture, stay the night in Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture, then finish with Yamadera Temple in Yamagata City before heading home.

We got an early start in the morning and made it to Aizu-Wakamatsu around lunch time. Although the trip wasn't meant to be a "cherry blossom trip", it certainly turned out that way, with the cherries just after full bloom in full petal release mode. It was very beautiful around the city, especially around the castle where there were many cherries lining the roads.

Delightfully, parking around the castle was free, so we easily found a free space, and decided to get a quick bite to eat first.

There are many restaurants, shops, and even a sake brewery around the castle. If I hadn't been driving I would have enjoyed doing some tastings at the brewery, but we skipped that in order to grab some lunch.

We tried kozuyu at a local shop, which is a traditional clear soup from Fukushima that usually contains dried scallops and different kinds of vegetables. It has a unique taste, but was very good!

Walking up to the castle area was very beautiful. One curve of the moat held all the fallen petals, turning the water a pink-white. We enjoyed looking into the many souvenir shops along the path and taking pictures with the trees.

Finally coming up to the castle, there was a lot of activity going on. A small craft fair was being held, selling traditional Fukushima products such as Akabeko or Okiagari Koboshi, as well as more general Japanese souvenirs like chopsticks made in Japan. We walked up to the castle to go inside.

The inside of the castle displays many treasures such as samurai armor and swords, as well as interesting scrolls etc., however on most floors pictures were not allowed. There was an area for visitors to try on kimono and explore locally made goods, but the main draw for me was the view from the top!

There was a small benefit concert/show going on relating to the 3/11 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, hence the crowds in the middle of the castle green. We could hear the taiko drums from the top of the castle.

After climbing to the top and back down, we headed out on the green to relax and listen to the taiko performance. Unfortunately, they finished too quickly for my preference, and then a video started up. We decided to skip the teahouse and leave for Oyakuen Garden then.

Oyakuen is a small but pretty garden about a 5 minute drive away from the castle. It is primarily an herb garden (the bottom red square on the map) with over 400 varieties of herbs, the majority of which I didn't recognize! Coming in early spring, many varieties are only beginning to put out new leaves, so that area was a bit bare.

However there were still flowers blooming here and there, and the biggest delight was the large pond in the middle.

After circling the garden, we sat down by the teahouse to rest a moment, and made friends with a few ducks who, after realizing we didn't have any food, left us. We took that as our cue to leave, after checking out some nice daffodils on the way out!

And with that, we packed up and headed on to Ouchijuku, which will be in my next post.

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List of Posts:
2016/04/24 - Mitsuhiko Imamori Paper Cut Works Exhibit in Takasaki
2015/11/19 - Shiobara Onsen, Tochigi
2015/08/30 - Southern Kyushu: Miyazaki City
2015/08/30 - Southern Kyushu: Nichinan Coast and Cape Toi
2015/08/30 - Southern Kyushu: Takachiho, Miyazaki
2015/08/27 - Southern Kyushu: Kumamoto Castle
2015/08/25 - Southern Kyushu: Ibusuki and Kirishima
2015/08/24 - Southern Kyushu: Kagoshima City, Kagoshima
2015/08/03 - Tambara Lavender Park
2015/07/13 - Event: Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium
2015/05/01 - Kanna-machi Koi-no-Bori Festival
2015/05/01 - Wisteria Festival in Fujioka
2014/11/15 - Sakurayama Koen: Fall Colors and Winter-blooming Cherry Blossoms
2014/11/15 - Ueno-mura Sky Bridge and Fall Colors
2014/08/22 - Gifu Road Trip Part 1: Gifu City and Gujo Caves
2014/08/22 - Gifu Road Trip Part 2: Gujo City and Shirakawa-go
2014/08/22 - Gifu Road Trip Part 3: Hida Takayama
2014/07/02 - Rainy Season around Tokyo: Hydrangea Flowers
2014/05/27 - Road Trip: Yamadera, Yamagata
2014/05/26 - Road Trip: Yonezawa, Yamagata
2014/05/19 - Roadtrip Fukushima's Ouchijuku
2014/05/16 - Roadtrip: Aizu-Wakamatsu
2014/04/30 - Climbing Gunma's Mt. Myogi
2014/03/09 - Flower Weekend 2: Tokyo Report
2014/03/09 - Flower Weekend 1: Gunma Plums
2013/10/30 - Onioshidashi Koen and Mt. Asama Part 1
2013/10/30 - Onioshidashi Koen and Mt. Asama Part 2
2013/10/30 - Cosmos and Mt. Myogi
2013/10/01 - Fall Flowers: Higanbana
2012/12/01 - Winter Cherry Blossoms at Joumine Kouen
2012/11/18 - Annual Coco Harvest Festival
2012/11/11 - Ueno Cat cafe ''Nekomaru''
2012/11/10 - Tokyo Design Festa vol.36 at Odaiba
2012/11/04 - Utsunomiya, Tochigi Gyoza Festival