Follow the noodle north to scenic Shirakawa.
- The 2020 Jindaiji Temple Daruma Doll Market which was scheduled to take place on Tue. Mar 3 - Wed. Mar 4 has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Individual daruma stores may still be open at their own discretion.
Featuring famous poet Basho’s Japan travelogue the Narrow Road to the Deep North, the southernmost city of Fukushima prefecture once marked the passage from civilization into a land of exile. Nowadays, Shirakawa is just a short one and a half hour bullet train ride away from Tokyo. Still, it’s far, rural and remote enough to offer a slice of Japan that definitely qualifies as off-the-beaten-track. Win-win.
For those who love hiking amid a bit of poetic scenery, you can’t do better than Shirakawa’s Tengu Mountain. A half hour bus ride from Shirakawa station will put you right in the middle of your typical idyllic Japanese countryside – all emerald mountains and endless rice fields – from where you can explore easy hiking courses at a relaxed pace. Known as Hometown Mountain by the locals, it’s a 30 minute walk to the top of Tengu-yama, making it a great spot for outdoor day trips with friends, or as a family with children.
September travelers shouldn’t miss the Shirakawa’s Chochin Matsuri, a 400 year old traditional lantern festival, that draws crowds from all over Eastern Japan. Considered one of the three largest lantern festivals in Japan, the event takes place over the course of three days. Thousands of lanterns representing each of the 23 townships decorate the night sky as locals start their march at Kashima Shrine, cross the Abukuma River and travel throughout town.
Visiting in February? Every 11th of the month, the main street in Shirakawa is decorated with 700 stalls for the Daruma Ichi Market. Daruma is a traditional doll that has its roots in Buddhism and its features differ depending on the region. The Shirakawa style Daruma, considered a symbol of good luck and perseverance, is often given as a gift of encouragement.
For noodle lovers, the city offers no shortage of Shirakawa-style ramen and soba. Characterized by a rich soy sauce broth and chewy, curly noodles, Shirakawa ramen is a favorite throughout northern Japan. Shirakawa is also one of the four main soba cities in the country meaning you can also binge on buckwheat (with a variety of different toppings) in the many restaurants across the city.