Destination Spotlight

Tadami Line: 5 Sights You Shouldn't Miss

Tadami Line: 5 Sights You Shouldn't Miss

The Tadami Line is an incredibly scenic railway that runs across Aizu.

Connecting the bustling samurai city of Aizu-Wakamatsu with the serene, gorgeous countryside of Oku-Aizu, this route is definitely one to try out if you want a chance to see rural Japan at its best.

The Tadami Line is great because it provides a way for visitors to see areas of this beautiful prefecture basically undiscovered by tourists. Riding the train is a fun experience in itself, as is the fact you can hop off and on at any stations you’re interested in visiting.

While being a passenger on the train means you’ll be provided with fantastic, panoramic views of the historic towns which lie on the Tadami Line, getting off at Aizu Miyashita Station, and catching the bus to Mishima Town’s observation points means you can see the train in action, passing over the stunning No. 1 Tadami River Bridge.

No matter what the season, the views along the Tadami Line are absolutely breathtaking.

 

TOP SIGHTSEEING SPOTS ON THE TADAMI LINE

1. AIZU WAKAMATSU: TSURUGAJO CASTLE

Fukushima’s most well-known castle. Destroyed at the climax of the Boshin War, this reconstruction of the castle serves as a reminder to the people of Fukushima of their history, and the code of honor that has been at the heart of Aizu samurai society.

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2. YANAIZU: HISTORIC ENZOJI TEMPLE

Enzoji is a stunning temple with a legendary history, which has sat majestically on top of a cliff edge for over 1300 years. The temple is where the story of the akabeko – the symbol of Fukushima Prefecture began. A red cow is said to have appeared out of nowhere to assist with the building of the temple when all hope seemed to be lost.

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3. MISHIMA: NO. 1 TADAMI RIVER BRIDGE VIEW SPOT

The famous viewpoint of Tadami Bridge that crosses over Tadami River. This viewpoint is accessible from a stairway that begins outside Michi-no-Eki Mishima-juku (Roadside Station).

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4. KANEYAMA: OSHI VILLAGE LOOKOUT

Known for being one of the only places in Japan where carbonated water occurs naturally, Kaneyama Town is home to not only amazing onsen, but also fantastic view spots, like this one looking out over Oshi Village.

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5. TADAMI: BEAUTIFUL SCENERY

Oku-Aizu is definitely the most rural area I’ve been to in Japan. The sight of farmers going about their daily tasks makes you realize that although we get pretty tied up in our fast-paced lives, there is something really special about being surrounded by nature.

See more here (Change the language to ‘English’ from the pull-down list on the top right)

ACCESS

The first stop on the Tadami Line is Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, easily accessible from Tokyo or other areas in Fukushima Prefecture. See here for details about reaching Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Due to damage caused by heavy rains in 2011, service was suspended for certain parts of Tadami Line, but on October 1, 2022, the entire line resumed operations for the first time in almost 11 years.

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  1. Useful Information

    Wearing Kimono in Ouchijuku

    On a clear autumn morning, I stepped out in a bright purple kimono, tabi socks and wooden sandals, my hair up in a pink flower kanzashi hair pin and a cloth purse in hand. The sky looked sparkling blue in the quiet town of Ouchijuku, located between the mountains of the Japanese countryside. What happened next was unforgettable. The Start of my Ouchijuku Kimono Experience “Kimono is for everyone”, the kimono specialist, a middle-aged woman with a thick Aizu accent, reassured me. Few garments are as universal and inclusive as kimono. Sunlight was timidly spilling into the room through the translucent paper windows when my kimono experience began. We were in a wide room parched with tatami floors, warming up close to a heater. First, using a kanzashi hair pin, she quickly and effortlessly arranged my hair. Next, it was time for me to pick my kimono. Kimono means ‘a thing to wear’ in Japanese, and is a timeless item of clothing adaptable to different body types and designed to last for generations. I opted for a bright purple kimono that matched the fuchsia flowers on my hair. I put on white tabi socks and a black cloth bag with embroidered cherry blossoms. As a cat lover, I was delighted when the staff suggested I wear a white obi with pictures of cats. That same kimono must’ve been worn by many before me. Kimono has no sizes and is a timeless piece. In the face of ultra-fast fashion (and its subsequent toll in the environment), this sustainable and inclusive garment has stood the test of time and remains as relevant as ever. Welcoming as it is, kimono does have its intricacies—for one, you need someone to fit you into it. The kimono specialist will answer all the questions you may have, as well as teach you a few local secrets to make your visit even more memorable. Booking a kimono experience brings you closer to Japanese culture in more ways than one. Stepping into the Past: Picture-perfect Ouchijuku Ouchijuku is an old town preserved to look exactly the way it did 300 years ago. Rows of thatched roof handcraft shops and restaurants, no cars nor electricity poles on the streets and little streams shushing along the road, it’s a postcard-like gem hidden between the mountains of the Aizu region. Either people in Ouchijuku are extremely welcoming or the kimono was truly special, because visitors and locals alike would go out of their way to compliment me or even ask to take my picture. Elderly ladies tending for the shops would greet me with a broad smile and a friendly “kawaii, desune!” (‘You look very cute!’). It was a lovely way to connect with everyone—the flowery kimono helped start many warm conversations. A Taste of Aizu Samurai’s Soul Foods It finally was time to sit down for a meal. If you visit Ouchijuku, make sure to build up some hunger and indulge in local specialties. This is what I ordered and would recommend you try! Takatosoba (高遠そば) is Ouchijuku’s signature dish: buckwheat noodles served with grated radish soup and eaten with a green onion. The radish used in this dish is called ‘azagi daikon’ and grows naturally in the Aizu mountains. It smells as tangy as it tastes. What makes this dish unique is that you eat it with a green onion instead of chopsticks or a spoon. You’re welcome to bite into the green onion, too, once you’re done.     Nishin no sanshosuke (にしんの山椒漬)is pickled herring with sansho (Japanese pepper). The herring was buttery soft and marinated in soy sauce. The Japanese pepper leaves on top had a strong but refreshing taste. Kozuyu (こづゆ) is a staple dish of the region, said to have been a favorite of the Aizu samurai. It’s made up of a hearty scallop broth, fish cakes, carrots, konjac noodles and gluten croutons. This delicately presented dish is the perfect way to warm-up during cold days. Sweet soybean flour-flavored tochimochi (栃もち・きな粉) was my personal favorite. These two chewy, warm and powdery mochi were arguably the best I’ve had in over four years that I’ve been living in Japan. Each bite had just the right amount of sweet, with the sweet soy flour kinako powder sprinkled on top leaving behind an almond-like aftertaste.   The Most Instagrammable View of Ouchijuku The best view of Ouchijuku can be found after a short walk through the main street towards the shrine. Climb up the stone stairs and you’ll find yourself in front of a famous photo spot overseeing the traditional minka houses, mountains stretching out in the background. In spite of its striking beauty, this town remains quiet and rarely sees crowds, making it perfect for visitors who enjoy taking their time to explore places off the beaten path. After looking through the pictures of that day, I noticed that the prints of kimono look even more vivid against the backdrop of Ouchijuku’s earthy hues. Strolling through such a well-preserved historical site in a kimono was a one-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’d like to wear a kimono in Ouchijuku, read more about the Ouchijuku Edo Time Slip and Kimono Tour, which includes a two-hour stroll in a kimono, matcha and sweets at a traditional tea house, and entry to the townscape exhibition hall where you can learn more about the way of life way back then at Ouchijuku.

    Wearing Kimono in Ouchijuku
  2. Useful Information

    Guide to Visiting the Famous Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint

    We're currently working on updating this entry, as some of the information may not be up to date, . We apologize for the inconvenience. (2022-11-16)   I am often asked about how to reach the No. 1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint (also known as Daiichi Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint) which has become the focus of spotlights across the world. Taking a look at the beautiful photographs that can be taken there, it is easy to understand why people all around the world have fallen for this picturesque area. When you begin to Google it, getting to the viewpoint can seem quite daunting, so I decided to make a guide on how & when to visit the Tadami River Bridge. VISITING VIA PUBLIC TRANSPORT The Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint is a few minutes’ walk from Ozekaido Mishima-juku – a roadside station (known as ‘Michi-no-Eki’ in Japanese), which sells omiyage (souvenirs), snacks, and light meals. See here for a map of Mishima-juku. Mishima-juku opens daily at 8:00am.   1.) GET TO AIZU-MIYASHITA STATION To reach Mishima-juku, travel to Aizu-Miyashita Station, on the JR Tadami Line from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station to Aizu-Miyashita Station. See here for information on getting to Aizu-Wakamatsu Station from Tokyo, Sendai etc.   2.) TAKE THE BUS FROM AIZU-MIYASHITA STATION TO MISHIMA-JUKU A commuter bus leaves Aizu Miyashita Station every day at 8:10 am, and arrives at Mishima-juku approximately 5 minutes later. No booking is necessary for this bus. Please pay the driver upon exiting the bus. You can also walk to Mishima-juku from Aizu-Miyashita Station (approximately a 40-minute walk) but this route involves walking along roads without footpaths which can be dangerous so I highly recommend you take the bus or rent a car.   3.) WALK TO THE VIEWPOINTS & SNAP AWAY! The various viewpoints are all a short walk uphill from Mishima-juku. If facing Mishima-juku from the road, turn to the right and walk towards the tunnel. Before you get to the tunnel, take the foot path on the left hand side (there should be a sign with an arrow on it to guide you up the foot path.   4.) TAKE THE RESERVATION-ONLY BUS BACK FROM MISHIMA-JUKU There are 2 buses a day that leave Mishima-juku, heading for Aizu Miyashita Staiton.These buses must be reserved, and there are strict time deadlines for the reservations (see below). To catch the bus that leaves at 10:20, you must reserve your spot by 9:00. To catch the bus that leaves at 13:20, you must reserve your spot by 12:00. You can make a reservation inside the Mishima-juku. Ask them for the bus reservation sheet  (In Japanese: Demando basu yoyaku moshikomisho onegaishimasu デマンドバス予約申込書をお願いします) and fill it in. Click here to see an application from previous years to give you an idea of what the form might look like. (Please note, it might have been updated) Make sure to arrive at the bus stop 5 minutes before the departure time. Hand this form in when you get on the bus. When returning to Aizu-Miyashita by bus, pay the driver upon exiting the bus. This bus takes between 5 to 10 minutes. Please be aware that neither the commuter bus to Mishima-juku, nor the reservation-only bus that leaves Mishima-juku run on Sundays or National Holidays. For more information on catching these buses, take a look at this information provided by Oku-Aizu   WHEN TO SNAP YOUR PHOTOS The most famous pictures taken at the Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint are those taken when the train carriage passes over the bridge. The train that you can see from afar is passing between Aizu Nishikata Station and Aizu Hibara Station. Below I’ve listed the times that you can view the trains passing over the Tadami Bridge (Correct as of April 2020). AIZU NISHIKATA STATION TO AIZU HIBARA STATION (Passing from left to right as seen from the viewpoint) 06:04 - 06:07 07:39 - 07:42 09:18 - 09:21 13:03 - 13:06 16:02 - 16:05 AIZU HIBARA STATION TO AIZU NISHIKATA STATION (Passing from right to left) 07:21  - 07:25 08:59 – 09:03 14:21 – 14:24 18:10 – 18:13 Please note: I haven’t listed trains that leave later than 19:00, as you wouldn’t get a good view of the train regardless of the season. Also, there is a separate Winter Timetable so please check an up-to-date timetable for the JR Tadami Line in winter. As you can tell from the information above, the commuter bus arrives nearby the viewpoint at 8:15. However, passengers on the commuter bus cannot reach the viewpoint in time to see a number of the trains passing over the tracks. For those who want to see these earlier trains (especially the extremely early 6:04 train which looks absolutely spectacular in the early morning summer mist), I recommend staying overnight in Miyashita Onsen town. STAYING IN MIYASHITA ONSEN For those who would like to stay overnight in Miyashita in order to see the first train cross over the Tadami Bridge, take a look at the accommodation information listed below: (These ryokan and guesthouses have some experience with guests from abroad) Miyashita Onsen Eikokan Miyashita Onsen Furusato-so Oku-Aizu Nonbirikan (website here) Guesthouse Sokokashiko  (website here) See Oku-Aizu’s website for more information about local ryokan.   ABOUT THE JR TADAMI LINE The JR Tadami Line crosses approximately 135 km of beautiful Japanese countryside, passing through 36 stations along the way. See here for more information about the stops and timetable. Due to damage caused by heavy rains in 2011, service was suspended for certain parts of Tadami Line, but on October 1, 2022, the entire line resumed operations for the first time in almost 11 years. Holders of the JR Rail Pass can ride on the Tadami Line! See below for an English-language tourist map I made of Mishima Town (Miyashita Onsen & Hayato Onsen). 

    Guide to Visiting the Famous Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint
  3. Useful Information

    The Sake Brewing Process at Niida Honke

    Niida Honke Sake Brewery Founded in 1711, Niida Honke has seen eighteen generations of master brewers, each bringing their own personality and subtle changes to the company and its sake. The current head brewer is Yasuhiko Niida, an incredibly nice person with an awe inspiring passion for making Sake.   Under Mr. Niida’s supervision, Niida Honke has seen many changes. In 2011 the brewery celebrated its 300th anniversary and the achievement of using 100% natural rice in its brewing process. Unfortunately, this was the same year as the Great East Japan Earthquake and the following nuclear disaster. Despite the difficulties, Niida Honke worked hard to return the health of the rice fields.   After the fields were cleaned and returned to their healthy status, a decision was made to move the company into a more sustainable and natural direction with the goal of creating its sake with 100% natural and organic ingredients. They currently grow much of the rice used to create their sake in the fields that surround the brewery. Working with local farmers to create healthy, high quality rice that is grown without the use of pesticides or harmful chemicals.   In the future Niida Honke aims to brew all of its sake in natural wooden tanks, switch entirely to solar power, and grow 100% of its own rice. For each bottle that you buy, Niida Honke takes one step closer to these goals.   Growing the perfect crop (without the use of pesticides!) Walking around the rice fields here is a unique experience and definitely worthwhile when visiting the brewery, no matter the season. Niida Honke pays close attention to the quality of rice that they use, they only use 100% naturally or organically grown rice, with no harmful pesticides or additives. In the same way that wineries pay attention to the quality of their grapes, and often grow them in their own vineyards, Niida Honke is looking to follow this same model but with rice. By paying close attention to the quality of the rice that they use, they are able to create more delicious sake. In the same way that walking through a vineyard adds depth to your wine drinking experience, drinking sake is made even more special by the sight of the rice fields. As the seasons changes so do the rice fields.   In spring when the rice is planted the fields are flooded with clean mountain spring water sourced from the mountains near the village. The fields become enormous reflective pools that mirror the beautiful blue skies, the mountains, and even cherry blossom trees. In the summer, when the rice has grown tall and the fields turn a lush green. When the wind blows the stalks of rice shift like the fur of a magnificent beast. If you take a walk through the fields, you are sure to see some jumping frogs playing in the rice paddies. These frogs protect the rice fields from pests, so to honor their hard work Niida Honke uses frog characters on many of their labels and signs. As autumn approaches, the surrounding mountains are warmed by the autumn leaves. The lush green fields turn to golden brown and finally the harvest can commence.   My visit was in winter, so the huge fields lay barren for the season, waiting for the next year’s crops. In just a few weeks the rice fields will fill with snow. While the fields lay quiet for the season, the brewery works at full speed. Winter is the season when sake brewing takes place.   Polishing the rice Once the rice has been harvested, it is polished (polishing is also known as milling) in a process that cuts through the outer layers of each tiny rice grain to reveal the pure white starchy inside. When using lower quality rice, more of the rice has to be polished, sometimes 50% must be chiseled away in order to make high quality sake! This means that only 50% or less of the rice actually gets used to make sake. At Niida Honke, however, the quality of the rice is so high that it only needs to by polished by 73% to reach the level that is necessary to create delicious sake.   Preparing the rice After the rice is polished, it is then washed, soaked and rinsed to prepare it for steaming. Rice is spread out and steamed from below. From the moment that moisture meets the rice, each step is carefully timed to create the perfect product.   When the steaming process is complete, the rice must be quickly cooled. The outside of the rice should become cool and dry on the outside while the inside remains moist.   Making “koji rice” Koji is a type of mold that is used to change the starch of the rice into sugar that the yeast will later feed on to make alcohol. This is a very important step in the process of sake brewing.   The freshly steamed and cooled rice is sprinkled with kojikin (koji mold spores) in a very warm room and left alone for about four days. In this time, the koji will make its way inside the rice grains. Since the center of the rice is still moist from the rapid cooling process, the koji is provided with a perfect environment to grow.   Inside this room the air smells very sweet as the koji turns the starch to sugar!   Koji rice, yeast and water are then combined in a room known as the “Motoba”. Here the air is cool, but still smells very sweet. The combined mixture creates a small batch of sake that is known as a yeast starter, it has a very high yeast content. This is vital in the brewing process.   Brewing Finally, the yeast starter, rice, water, and koji rice are all combined into a large brewing tank and left to ferment. This is known as the main mash, the combination of all of the ingredients. Sometimes piano music is played live on a grand piano on the floor above the brewing room, the music is thought to help the sake become more delicious.   Currently the large tanks are mostly made from metal, but there are a few wooden tanks that make smaller batches. In the future, Niida Honke hopes to brew all of its sake in the traditional way, in large wooden tanks.   Pressing Niida Honke uses the traditional method of separating the sake from the solids that are used during the brewing process. This method is called “Fukuro-Zuri,” literally “Hanging Bag.” As the name suggests, the combined ingredients are poured into bags that are tied to wooden poles. The bags allow the liquid sake to escape, trapping the excess materials in the bags.   The excess materials are pressing into thin sheets that are used to make other products such as the sweet non-alcoholic drink, “amazake,” various sweets, and more!   The final product: Finally, sake is ready to be enjoyed! Sake can be enjoyed hot or cold and pairs well with many types of food so be sure to give it a try.

    The Sake Brewing Process at Niida Honke
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