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6 Things to Do at the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai School

6 Things to Do at the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai School

I visited the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan, originally established in 1803. This was a large and prestigious school where the children of samurai families were sent at the age of ten to learn both academics and physical discipline. Today it is a large interactive museum where you can participate in many of the activities that the students here would have practiced back in the day. So, for anyone interested in history, culture, or anything samurai, I highly recommend a visit! Even if you do not know much about the history, there are lots of interactive group activities that you can enjoy with friends and family.

A school for samurai or a Japanese school for wizards?

 

1. Walk around the school grounds

Walking through the front entryway, the beautiful architecture and vastness of the school will immediately draw your attention. The property covers something like 26,500 square meters, making it as large as some modern-day universities. It feels like a Japanese school for wizards and it is so fun to get lost in your imagination as you wander around the grounds.

The architecture throughout the complex is beautiful, and there are even the remains of an astronomical observatory where students could have studied the stars.

2. Check out the oldest swimming pool in Japan!

The first thing that drew my attention was a large pool of water, which is actually Japan’s oldest swimming pool! Today, you can see koi fish swimming peacefully in the water, however, this was once a place when samurai-in-training would wear weighted practice armor and swim while practicing battle moves. This was to train them in the case of a mid-battle river or moat crossing. Swimming was always my favorite subject so I asked a staff member if visitors could swim here, and unfortunately the answer was no. It’s too bad, but I probably wouldn’t have lasted long trying to swim in weighted armor... Maybe it is better this way! My disappointment evaporated when we walked over to the archery course.

3. Try out Japanese archery or “Kyūdō”

The archery course is shaded by a classic-style wooden roof, and there are a variety of classic Japanese-style bows to practice with. There is a lot of space to sit and watch your friends and see who can hit the target the best. Even if you come alone, the male and female archery teachers are really kind and will give you lots of pointers and advice.

Japanese archery is called Kyudo, and has a rich history! Archery in Japan dates back to pre-historic times with images of long-bow-wielding Japanese people first appearing in the Yayoi period which lasted between 500 BC to 300AD. Sometime during the Edo period (1603-1868) the name “Kyūdō” was coined to refer to the martial art of Japanese archery. Kyūdō was commonly used in ceremonies, competitions, and festivals. Today, you can still see Kyūdō events in festivals around Japan.

It’s a lot of fun, but it’s harder than it looks! Will you impress yourself and others with unexpected talent? Pricing is very reasonable, only a couple hundred yen (a couple of dollars) for a handful of arrows.

4. Decorate some traditional crafts to take home

If you want a relaxing activity to do, I recommend trying your hand at painting a traditional craft. The open-air craft space is cool in the shade, with an occasional breeze blowing through. You can even hear the songs of birds drifting in through the large open doorways.

I painted an Akabeko and a set of Okiagari Koboshi dolls. Akabeko is a good luck charm that is thought to ward off illnesses, while Okiagari Koboshi are little dolls that represent perseverance as even when they are knocked over they stand up again. Both of these crafts are symbolic of Aizu and Fukushima spirit making them a great souvenir once you finish painting them!

Learn more about Fukushima Local Crafts

5. Learn the history by exploring the classrooms

Exploring the classrooms, you can get a sense of what it must have been like to live a day in the life of a student here. Students would begin attending from age 10 and continue till age 15, after which they would study etiquette, calligraphy, martial arts, and other subjects. Top students may have gone on to university for further studies.

In some classrooms, you can see classrooms recreated as they would have looked to students so many years ago. Other classrooms are left open so that you can enter and even experience some classes that students here would have experienced such as meditation and tea ceremony.

6. Become a student!

If you visit with a party of at least ten, you can try out Japanese classes the traditional art of Zazen (Japanese Mediation) and Sadou (Japanese Tea Ceremony) which were also traditional cultural subjects that the samurai students would have studied back in the day. Combine this with archery and painting experiences to feel like a student for the day!

Learn more about the Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan Samurai School

Contact us through email or on our social media channels if you have any questions or need help planning a trip here!

Published 2022/05/11

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Since they are the ones who do the drifting, those who do not have a driver’s license can also participate.©JNTOWhat is Drifting, and What Does it Involve?Drifting is a motorsports technique in which a driver approaches a curve by oversteering the vehicle, causing it to glide sideways with the wheels facing the opposite direction to the turn. When drifting started growing in popularity in Japan during the 1980s, there were no closed courses where to practice, which meant that drifters would do it on public roads in the mountains at night, for which drifting gained a reputation for being dangerous. Nowadays, however, drifting has evolved into a widely recognized motorsport, with safety standards in place and thousands of enthusiasts and apprentices worldwide. Facilities like the Ebisu Circuit provide a safe space to enjoy and learn about drifting (the circuit also has a drifting school!).Driving and drifting safely is a top priority at the Ebisu Circuit. Apart from basic measures like fastening seat belts and wearing helmets, rest assured that drivers have a deep understanding of cars, oversteering, and drifting techniques.Meet Your Drivers“I am sometimes told that I have the best job in the world”, says Naoto Suenaga of his role driving for the Drift Taxi Experience at the circuit. Since first picking up an interest in cars decades ago, Suenaga has been an active member of the racing and drifting scene in Japan and is one of the salient members of Team Orange.So is Nobushige Kumakubo, the managing director of the Ebisu Circuit, who, after winning the D1 Grand Prix International Drift Championship in 2006, established himself as one of Japan’s legendary drifters and also travels the world connecting with others who share his passion for drifting.Although Kanta Yanaguida is among the youngest at the circuit and at Team Orange, his age should not be mistaken for a lack of experience. He is, in fact, a skilled and confident driver who has been honing his drifting abilities for over 10 years and frequently participates in racing and drifting events around the world.Cars Used for Drifting at the Ebisu CircuitCar manufacturers are making it increasingly difficult for drifters: new cars are anti-drifting by design. So, the drivers at the Ebisu Circuit tuned their vehicles for drifting. The two drift taxis used at the circuit are modified cars: a Toyota Chaser and a Toyota Mark II with above-average horsepower and bucket seats.Fasten Your Seatbelt for a Crazy Ride!Once the experience starts, the driver will drive you through the complex towards the drifting course. You will be required to wear a helmet and fasten your seatbelt. The driver will let you know once the drifting is set to begin. Whether you choose to sit on the passenger or the back seat, enjoy the electrifying halts, twists and turns as you dash through each of the three courses.BookingYou can book Ebisu Circuit’s Drift Taxi experience in English through this link.FAQs About the Drift Taxi Experience Are there any restrictions on who can participate? Participants must be over 140 cm tall to ride. Those with heart conditions or other health afflictions should ask their doctor before drifting. Do I need a driver’s license for this experience? No, you do not need to have a driver’s license to be able to participate in the experience. A professional driver from the Ebisu Circuit will be the one doing the drifting. Are there any requirements for participants? Participants are required to purchase insurance for an additional 500 yen. It is mandatory to ride with a helmet on and with the seatbelt fastened. How much does the Drift Taxi Experience cost? The experience is offered at a flat fee of 50,000 yen per vehicle.The price includes drifting several laps on three courses in one car with up to three passengers per car ride. For four participants or more, you can either take turns riding three at a time or book an additional car (up to two cars with a maximum of three passengers per car).The tires of the car wear off almost entirely after each Drift Taxi Experience. The price is calculated to cover the change of tires, as well as the cost of the gas and the expertise of the professional driver.If you go with a group, you will pay less per person than if you are going individually.  Can the drivers speak English? The drivers can speak basic English and are used to foreign visitors. How much time does the experience take? The experience takes approximately 45 minutes. How do I get to the Ebisu Circuit from Tokyo? Check the final section of this page for information about different ways of accessing the circuit from Tokyo.If you have any other questions, send them our way and we will do our best to assist you!Useful LinksEbisu CircuitEbisu Circuit: A Drift ParadiseEbisu Drift Matsuri (Ebisu Drift Festival)

    Drift Taxi Experience at the Ebisu Circuit
  2. Useful Information

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    2023 Autumn Festivals in Fukushima: Dates & Times
  3. Destination Spotlight

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The blackboard and the messages were preserved and are on display at the school today.When the evacuation order for the Ukedo area was lifted in 2017, the Ukedo Elementary School building was one of the few left standing, although it was utterly devastated. With time, more and more people expressed their wish to make the school building a memorial site to pass on the lessons of the tsunami, honor the Ukedo community, and let visitors see firsthand how disaster preparedness can save lives.In October 2021, the school opened for visitors and has since then become one of the flagship facilities where visitors can learn about Fukushima’s recent history and revitalization.After the disaster, a sakura tree began inexplicably growing from the asphalt by one of the old school entrances. The tree blooms beautifully each spring.Flow of the visitYou will begin your visit on the ground floor, with an exhibition showing life in Ukedo before the disaster.Next, you will enter the main school building, where you will grasp the scope of the destruction of the tsunami. You will see what the classrooms, staff rooms, kitchen, dining room, and school gymnasium look like now, alongside photographs showing what they used to look like.After walking in and around the first floor, you will head to the second floor, where you will learn more about the impact of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear accident. There is information about the area, a model of the town, as well as images of the blackboard with support messages.Advice for Visitors Scan the QR code at the entrance to access the English translation of the explanation panels. 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If you notice your car GPS trying to take you down a road that is no longer there, we recommend using your phone navigation system instead, which might be more updated.   There is a toilet and a vending machine at the site, but no convenience stores, supermarkets, or restaurants are nearby, so consider eating or buying snacks before your visit.   After visiting the school, we recommend walking to the Ukedo Port to see what the area looks like today.AccessBy Train, Bus & Bicycle From the JR Futaba Station (JR Joban Line), take the shuttle bus from Futaba Station to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum. Take one of the free rental bicycles at the museum and ride to Ukedo.By Car Approx 1 h 45 min from JR Koriyama Station [郡山駅] via National Road 288. Approx 1 h 29 min from Sendai Station [仙台] via the Joban Expressway. There is a parking lot available at the site.By Train & TaxiAbout 15 min. by taxi from Namie Station [浪江駅] (JR Joban Line). Please note, though, that there are no taxis at the station, so please make your travel arrangements in advance.Useful LinksThe Remains of Ukedo Elementary School in Namie TownFukushima’s Revitalization Educational One-Day TripThe Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial MuseumNamie Roadside Station

    Fukushima’s ‘Miracle’: A Visitor’s Guide to Ukedo Elementary School
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