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October 27, 2017 - Ouchijuku - Historic Town in Fukushima Prefecture
After visiting Hokkaido for almost a week, it was time to head back down to the Tohoku Region for some more explorations. In this travel report I introduce Ouchijuku, located twenty minutes south of Aizu-Wakamatsu.
From Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, take the train down to Yunokamionsen Station (湯野上温泉駅). From here take the bus to Ouchijuku where you will be surrounded by massive hills. Ouchijuku sits on a plain full of rice patties and fields.
The buildings that front onto this earthen road are rectangular with the short end facing the street. The roofs are thickly built of thatch to keep in warm in winter and cool in the summer, and protect the building from the heavy snowfall.
There are mountain streams that run on both side of the road like ditches, This is an age-old solution to refrigeration because the mountain streams are still cool as it flows down.
One of the main attractions is not the buildings but the views of the village from the lookout point. Walk up the steep steps to find yourself in a forest. Follow the path and you will find something amazing.
This view changes by the seasons but when I was here in late October the leaves were still green. Other than the darn hydro towers in the far distance, the view is worth a million bucks.
Another thing you should do while in Ouchijuku is trying out negi soba. The photo above is a generous bowl of homemade soba noodies with mountain mushrooms and a large stick of negi. The premise is to use the negi as a form of eating utensil and you eat the negi while eating the noodles. It was refreshing and light but using negi was hard. I ended up using chopsticks.
There are many snacks to try here so take the time to stroll each of the buildings.
The gateway to Ouchijuku is Yunokamionsen Station on the Aizu Tetsudo Line. This old train station has a similar architecture and uses similar building techniques as in the buildings in Ouchijuku. The train station has thick thatched roofs with ornaments on the top. White plastered walls grace the facade.
As you walk inside, you are greeted by a weird scene. It looks like someone's home. To the left is a series of bookcases. This is a library full of reading material for people to enjoy. There is also a small vegetable stand where you can purchase local produce. Make sure you pay!
A little further is a Japanese hearth, or an Irori. There are small tatami mats to sit on. In the middle is a jizaikagi with burning embers on the ground and a small kettle above.
On the other side is the ticket agent, and a small souvenir shops. Quaint and adorable, this is the side of Japanese culture you do not get to see.
Back on the Aizu Tetsudo train and heading back to the city, you get to see amazing views of the highlands. You also get to see Wakasato Lake, which was created after damming Aga River. The Okawa Dam is a local attraction in itself. The train conductor slows the train to a stop for a brief while so tourists can view the scenery. Very thoughtful indeed!!
So that concludes the tour of Ouchijuku. I highly recommend coming here as it is an amazing historic post town. Thank you for reading.