Traveling 3 hours by bullet train from Tokyo is Aizu Wakamatsu, a destination or rich nature with plenty of historical sites, great local cuisines, and amazing hot springs. Being the castle town for the Aizu Domain during the Edo Era, this city preserves the spirit of Samurai. Here we will introduce what to see, what to eat, and where to stay in order to appreciate every part of this Samurai City.
“Explore” the Samurai City
Tsurugajo is the symbol of Aizu and is known as the impregnable castle enduring the harsh Boshin war. It is the only remaining castle tower with the red roof tiles. Once demolished in the Meiji Era, it was brought back to life at the Showa Era. At the observation deck of the top floor, you can enjoy the unbroken view of the Aizu city. Tsurugajo is attractive at all seasons, with the cherry blossoms in the spring and covered in white snow in the winter. The light-up of the castle at night time is also mystical.
Nanokamachi was always a shopping street from the Edo Era. The street is aligned with stores and restaurants of Western-style buildings and Japanese architectures, which preserves the retro atmosphere from the Meiji and Taisho Era when the Western culture started to penetrate in Japan. It is a perfect place to hunt for souvenirs, as there are stores selling traditional items of the area, including Aizu lacquer and painted candles.
“Eat” at the Samurai City
Sauce Katsu-Don, “Nakajima”
“Katsu-Don” is a typical Japanese dish, a bowl of rice topped with deep-fried Cutlet stewed in a soup of egg and onion. However, at Aizu Wakamatsu, they serve this dish a bit differently, as their Cutlet is entangled with a sweet sauce, topped on rice with a fluffy sheet of cabbages. “Nakajima” is a popular restaurant where you can try this mouth-watering “Sauce Katsu-Don”.
Aizu Soba, Kiriya-Yumemitei
Fukushima prefecture is known to serve good Soba noodles, as buckwheat cultivation is common especially in this Aizu area. There are countless Soba restaurants to choose from but we recommend you to visit “Kiriya – Yumemitei”. The most popular is the Soba tasting set where you can compare 3 types of different Soba noodles, but it is also worth trying the “Water Soba”, where the Soba noodle is simply served in a bowl of water. This can only be done as they have confidence in their soba noodle and quality of water, and it allows you to enjoy the pure taste and scent of the noodle.
“Stay” at the Samurai City
Having the history of 1300 years, Higashiyama Onsen has been a place for relaxation for many historians, from the Aizu clans to famous writers. It is a hot spring village with good access to the city center, taking only 10 minutes by car. The spring quality is sulfate spring and is loved by its smoothness. Here, you can also appreciate the traditional performance by the Higashiyama Geisha.
Ashinomaki Onsen is further away from the city center compared to Higashiyama Onsen, as it takes 30 minutes by car, but here you can enjoy the rich nature with the beautiful view of the canyon. One of the famous Ryokan here is the “Okawaso”, where it is gaining popularity by the fan of the world-famous comic “Demon Slayer”, as the Japanese guitar show presented here resembles the major scenes of this comic. (Which must be easy to know if you have read the comic!)