Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Remnants of the Edo Era - Ouchi-juku in Minamiaizu, Fukushima
Written by Mikako Utsunomiya
Learn more about Ouchi-juku in the Minamiaizu district of Fukushima prefecture, a former town with traditional thatched roofed houses from the Edo era.
Within the mountains of Minamiaizu district in Fukushima prefecture, there is a shukuba machi (*1), called Ouchi-juku.
During the Edo era, many shukuba machi were made along the Aizu nishi kaido - a very important road that connected Nikko to Aizu.
Ouchi-juku was a shukuba machi that was made in the third point from the Aizu castle town.
*1 Shukuba machi: (宿場町) A town built mainly during the Edo era that allowed travelers to take a break during their journey.
There are about 30 houses with kayabuki yane (thatched roofs) still present and in 1981, it was designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings. It is a popular tourist location now.
How to Get to Ouchi-juku
The closest station to Ouchi-juku is the Yunokami Onsen station on the Aizu railway. From the station, it will be a twenty minute bus ride.
If you are coming from Tokyo, the best way to get there time wise and budget wise is from Asakusa.
First, take the express Tobu SKYTREE Line from Asakusa station to "Shin Fujiwara station". Transfer at "Shin Fujiwara Station" to the Nogami railway that connects to the Aizu railway. Head toward "Yunokami Onsen station" from there. However, depending on the train you take, the transfer stations will vary, so please be careful in advance. The total time on the train is approximately four hours and ten to thirty minutes and costs about 3870 yen one way.
Read also: Navigating Asakusa’s 4 Stations
Let's Walk Around the Ouchi-juku
As you follow the signs and make your way, you will begin to see some houses with the kayabuki yane. Now, they have become souvenir stores or soba noodle shops.
Along the street is a cool river where chilled beer and juice is being sold. Using the river as refrigeration is only possible in a place with a great natural environment.
In the very end of the town, you will find a staircase. It's a little steep, but try climbing it.
At the top of the stairs, you will find the Koyasu Kannondo. It is a temple where people pray for children and their growth. Like the other buildings in the town, the roof is also in the kayabuki yane style.
Witness the magnificent view of the town from above. You will see a stunning view of thatched roofs along the road. You will be able to see the same view the people during the Edo period saw.
If you take a short detour from Ouchi-juku, you will enter an area with many farms and greenery. During the spring, colorful flowers will welcome the visitors.
Let's Try the Famous Ouchi-juku's Takato Soba Noodles
Minamiaizu district is known as a producer of soba noodles. That is why Ouchi-juku is also known for their Takato Soba Noodles. The noodles are eaten with a broth soup with grated daikon radish. The strangest part of this dish is how you eat the noodles - with a scallion stalk instead of chopsticks!
You mix the toppings, noodles and soup with the scallion, skillfully coil the noodles on the scallion, then take a bite! The spiciness from the scallion adds a nice accent, making it very tasty.
Chopsticks are available for those who have a difficult time picking up the noodles with a scallion.
Aside from soba noodles, there are tama konnyaku (bite size pieces of konjac jelly), soba dango (buckwheat cakes), and grilled iwana trout on a skewer, which you can enjoy eating while walking. Even people who are short on time can still savor a few local treats along the way.
During each season many events are held at Ouchi-juku. Why not make yourself feel like you've slipped back in time to the Edo era and see Ouchi-juku?
Address: Fukushima, Minamiaizu, Shimogo-cho, Oji Ouchi, Yamamoto
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (varies by shop)
Closed: Varies by shop
Nearest Station: Yunokami Onsen Station (湯之上温泉), Aizu railway
Access: 20 minute bus ride, then 10 minute taxi ride from Yunokami Onsen Station