Aizuwakamatsu (会津若松市) is a city in western Fukushima Prefecture, northern Honshū, and the most important city in the Aizu basin, with a population of about 125,000 residents.

Established as a castle town of the Aizu Domain (会津藩 Aizu-han) in 1592, much of the city burned in the Boshin Civil War (1868-69) in the wake of the Meiji Restoration. Famous for its lacquerware, the city also produces sake, textiles, lumber, and furniture.

Aizuwakamatsu takes great pride in its samurai past and its history of martial arts, as well as its ties with the Tokugawa clan. The Hoshina clan (保科氏), who later ruled the Aizu Domain, adopted the illegitimate son of the second Tokugawa shogun Hidetada and thus expanded their influence, and were in the of the seventeenth century bestowed the privilege to use the Tokugawa kamon (家紋, family crest) as well as the surname of Matsudaira. In the 1860s, the Matsudaira served as Kyoto Protectors (京都守護職 Kyōto Shugoshoku); they opposed the reinstatement of the Japanese emperor and were declared "enemies of the court". The Aizu forces and their allies were eventually defeated by the technically superior armies of the Satsuma-Chōshū Alliance in the Boshin War .

Things to see

Aizuwakamatsu CastleIimoriyamaAizu Bukeyashiki
A reconstruction of the original Aizuwakamatsu CastleThe graves of the Byakkotai and the famous Aizu Sazaedo PagodaThe Samurai Mansions of the Saigō, chief retainers of the Matsudaira
OyakuenMatsudaira Family TombsAizu Sake Museum
Oyakuen: the Royal Garden of the Aizu-MatsudairaThe tombs of eight generations of Aizu Matsudaira lordsAizuwakamatsu boasts almost 500 years of sake brewing tradition

More things to see

Shinsengumi MuseumHigashiyama OnsenNisshinkan (日新館)

Not far from the town centre (A35/H4 station, "Nanokamachi Shirokiya"), it holds artefacts of the Shinsengumi and their final battle.

A picturesque and old hot spring resort with four waterfalls in its vicinity (A14/H27, "Higashiyama Onsen" station).

Founded in 1803, it served as an academy for the sons of the Aizu samurai. Destroyed during the Boshin War, it has been completely restored.
Kondō Isami's graveKitakataFukushima Prefectural Museum

Beheaded in Edo, Shinsengumi members saved their leader's head and buried it at Ten'nei-ji Temple in Aizu (A10/H23 "Yarōgamae" station).

Located 15km north of Aizuwakamatsu and famous for its distinct ramen served throughout the region (JR Ban-Etsusai Line from Aizuwakamatsu).

Fukushima Prefectural Museum (福島県立博物館), depicting the non-feudal history of the Aizu region from prehistoric times to modern days.

Getting around town

Getting around in Aizuwakamatsu is very convenient, either by bicycle or by bus. The Aizuwakamatsu Classic Town Bus leaves quite frequently from the JR Station and goes either clockwise ("Akabe", a modern bus) or anti-clockwise ("Haikara-san", a vintage-type minibus). One ride is 200 JPY for adults and 100 JPY for children. Day passes are available for 500 JPY and 250 JPY.


Goin' both ways: Haikara-san

Aizu Maps

Aizuwakamatsu map (click to download; courtesy of Aizuwakamatsu Tourist Association)

Aizuwakamatsu bus schedule (click to download; courtesy of Aizuwakamatsu Tourist Association)

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Next article in the series 'Aizuwakamatsu Travel Guide': Aizuwakamatsu Castle