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Ouchi-juku is a time-slip worthy of a Hollywood movie set. Thatched-roof houses, dirt tracks and unblighted natural surroundings (no electricity cables on show here) make this former postal town worth a stop on your travels through the Aizu mountains.
Once part of the long road from the Aizu domain in the west of Fukushima to the capital of Edo, Ouchi-juku flourished as a major trade station, offering rest for travel-weary feudal lords and their attendants. Inevitable industrialization and the development of major highway routes diverted the road to Edo but the town’s scenic main street was meticulously preserved by dedicated residents.
Today, Ouchi-juku is visited by millions of time travelers year-round looking for an authentic glimpse into Japan’s feudal past.
If you’re there in February, the annual Snow Festival on the second Saturday and Sunday of the month transforms Ouchi-juku into a candle-lit winter wonderland blanketed in snow.
Midsummer festivities are just as photogenic. On July 2nd, the main street of Ouchi-juku is full of procession goers decked out in Edo-period garb and masks to celebrate the middle of the hot summer days. Tourists even get to try on a happi coat and celebrate along with the residents – a rare privilege for a festival this local.
Granted there isn’t a huge amount to do when there’s no event on but you should sample the famous negi soba, a dish of local soba buckwheat noodles eaten with a long, fresh leek in any one of the 11 tatami-floored restaurants.
After have a poke around the shops selling local handmade goods, like beautiful Aizu momen cotton, locally made ceramics, or even fried insects. For a more personal touch, make a stop at Minatogawa-ya and try your hand at painting your very own akabeko, or red cow, the symbol of Fukushima prefecture.