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Travel Blog: Aizuwakamatsu

We decided to spend the long weekend in Aizuwakamatsu, a small town in western Fukushima, home to some 125,000 people, and rich in history and old monuments. Its vicinity to Lake Inawashiro and the Bandai Mountains makes it a prime tourist destination.

In Aizuwakamatsu, history lurks around every corner. It was the capital city of the Aizu Domain, ruled by the Hoshina clan, who were later allowed by the Tokugawa to use their crest and the Matsudaira family name. History took its most dramatic turn in August 1868, when the Northern Alliance, under the leadership of Aizu and superior in numbers, was defeated by the better equipped armies of Satsuma and Choshu during the Boshin War (1868-69). Unforgettable the fate of the Byakkotai ('White Tiger Force'), a small contingent of teenage samurai, who upon observing from the distance what they believed was their lord's castle Tsuruga-jo engulfed in flames, decided to commit mass suicide. An ambiance of legacy, pride, and tradition encompasses the whole city.

Aizuwakamatsu has a lot to offer: the Tsuruga Castle has been completely reconstructed in 1965, after the victorious Meiji administration demolished it in 1874. As has the Nishinkan, the former clan school built in the early 1800s.

Oyakuen is a traditional Japanese garden built by the Matsudaira, who had a vast potpourri of oriental and occidental medicinal herbs planted.

Don't miss the Bukeyashiki, the former residence of the Matsudaira and their retainers, as well as the mysterious lichen covered Matsudaira family graves. The city's tragic fate seems to be reflected in the number of historic graves: the Byakkotai monument illustrates this best, marking the spot where the nineteen young samurai ended their lives, with only one surviving to tell their story, and their final resting place.

On the lighter side, there are numerous shrines and temples, a Sake Museum, and the picturesque Noguchi Street, commemorating the life of Dr Hideyo Noguchi, one of the most famous Japanese doctors, who was born close to Lake Inawashiro and who practised in Aizuwakamatsu.

And for the gourmets: the area is famous for basashi, raw horse meat, and kitakata ramen, curled and crispier than their customary counterparts.

Aizuwakamatsu can be reached by Tohoku Shinkansen (to Koriyama, then by local train via JR Banetsu-sai Line) or by JR Bus from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro.

Here's the entire article series:

Series: Aizuwakamatsu Travel Guide | Japan Forum


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