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Unique in Fukushima

Ouchi-juku
History & Culture

Ouchi-juku

Take a journey to the past in Fukushima Prefecture’s Ouchi-juku area. This isolated village boasts thatched-roof houses and natural streets making you feel at one with the people who lived here hundreds of years ago.Nestled in the southwestern mountains of Fukushima, Ouchi-juku is a great spot to visit thanks to its unique charm and history. This village was established under the post station system of the Edo period, and played a vital role as a rest stop for travelers.In 1981, the well-preserved streets of Ouchi-juku led to it being designated as an Important Preservation District for a Group of Traditional Buildings. It isn’t difficult to see why—the village looks as it did during its heyday. And with no telephone or electric wires above ground, the view from the top of the hill overlooking the village is marvelous.It is a picturesque village where you can lose yourself to the flow of time. The traveler’s road that used to run through this village was called the Shimotsuke Kaido Route, or the Aizu Nishi Kaido Route.Ouchi-juku not only connected Aizu to Nikko, it also connected Aizu-Wakamatsu to Imaichi, a post town on the Nikko Kaido Route in Tochigi Prefecture. This road was frequented by many travelers as well as by the processions of feudal lords who had to travel to and from Edo periodically.Travelers of the Edo Period rested at the inns of Ouchi-juku to relieve their fatigue. Nowadays, festivals and events help draw in new visitors. The annual Snow Festival in February turns Ouchi-juku into a pretty candlelit scene.Visit in July to see a procession of dancers dressed in traditional Edo Period costumes, and you might even get to wear a happi (festival attire jacket) and join the locals in their celebrations!And when you’re feeling hungry be sure to try some of the local specialties, which include negi soba (fresh buckwheat noodles eaten using a green onion), stick-roasted char fish, and more.There’s a little bit of everything at Ouchi-juku.

Bandai-Azuma Skyline
Nature & Scenery

Bandai-Azuma Skyline

This sightseeing road that runs from Fukushima City's Takayu Onsen to the Tsuchiyu Pass, commanding panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.The spectacular views that stretch out at an average altitude of 1,350 meters attract visitors time and time again, and Bandai-Azuma Skyline has been selected as one of the 100 Best Roads in Japan.In spring, tourists can enjoy flower viewing while at the same time taking in the otherworldly winter scenery of the "Snow Corridor".In summer, the Nemoto Shakunage (Rhododendron brachycarpum), a species of alpine rose, and other alpine plants display their colorful flowers and fresh, brilliant green leaves. During autumn, the drive warms as roads become enclosed by fiery seasonal leaves.There are also many hot springs in the vicinity of the Skyline where visitors can enjoy a bath and relax stiff muscles while out on a daytrip.The roadway passes next to the crater of Mt. Azuma-Kofuji. Visitors can easily park their car at the nearby guest center and enjoy a short hike up to the crater’s rim.The Bandai-Azuma Skyline Roadway has been selected as one of the top 100 roads in Japan, and unlike many others, this one is free to use. There are rest stops along the way for the hungry traveler; the most popular is Jododaira, as it’s home to a rest house and an observatory.Be sure to plan ahead though, from mid-November to early April the roadway is closed due to heavy winter snowfall.

Kyu Horikiri-tei
History & Culture

Kyu Horikiri-tei

Kyu Horikiri-tei is a property steeped in history. Built in 1775, the building has been preserved since the Edo Period thanks to wealthy farmers and merchants. The property contains a large kura (storehouse), called Jukken Kura, as well as a traditional Japanese manor house.There is a public footbath located onsite. Use of the public footbath - which gets its water from the nearby onsen hot spring source - is accessible for wheelchair users. Japanese-speaking volunteer guides, knowledgeable about the history of Kyu Horikiri-tei and the rest of Iizaka Onsen, are available upon request. 

Bentenjima
History & Culture

Bentenjima

In a crescent shaped cove separated from the mainland on the small island known as Bentenjima Island, you will find the mysterious Bentenjima Shrine. The vermillion painted tori gate stands out against the jagged stone and the powerful waves. It is believed that the shrine was land based until an earthquake that occurred in 1410 resulted in the formation of this jagged rock island. The construction date of the original shrine is unknown. The island is also known as Wanigafuchi because, according to legend, a creature known as a “wanizame” (crocodile shark) lived on the island. Half crocodile, half shark, this creature can be seen in many old Japanese paintings. The creature may have been believed to cause the swirling water and violent waves that crashed against the rocks, sometimes resulting in people getting swept into the water. Another legend suggests that the wanizame once kidnapped a young woman from Iwaki who had wandered out to explore the island.This coast is lined with small round pebbles that shine when the water hits them. However, do not take any of these pebbles home, legend says that anyone who takes pebbles home from this coast will suffer from eye disease. This area was once a very popular destination for tourists and I highly recommend checking out the photos on the Iwaki city website linked below. It is all in Japanese, but you can read it with the google translate extension on google chrome browsers.

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