: Ouchijuku (大内宿)
: close to Yunokami Onsen.
: This town can be visited year-round... in summer and during the koyo season (when leaves turn red), the access road - and therefore the village - can be really crowded; in winter, the whole area is under the snow, and is simply beautiful.
: 20 minutes by car from Yunokami Onsen Station of Aizu Line.
: Take the Tobu Ltd. Exp. at Kita-Senju for Kinugawa Onsen, change for the Kinugawa Line to Aizu Kogenoze Guchi, and finally take the Aizu Line to Yunokami Onsen. Total time : about 3h15, for 4880 yen. Alternatively, take the shinkansen for Koriyama and get off at Yunokami Onsen by taking the JR Banetsu-sai and JR Tadami lines, and then the Aiyu line, in that order.
From the Yunokami Onsen station, there is no public transportation available. You can either walk (6 km, almost 90 minutes) or take a taxi...
This is to say that a car
is really handy! Access from Tochigi-ken or Fukushima-ken, but through mountain roads only.
Yunokami Onsen station (湯野上温泉駅)
Ouchijuku is a small village isolated in the mountains of the prefecture of Fukushima, in the south. This village was, during the Edo period, an important post town on the road linking Edo (the former name of Tokyo) and Sendai. Many buildings which, before the Meiji restoration, where used as hotels, restaurants or shops, are still in pristine condition today. This is due to the fact that when a new road was built (road 121, a little on the east), Ouchijuku was almost completely forgotten, which prevented the old buildings from being destroyed during a "modernization". The re-discovery of this village made this place one of the main attraction of Fukushima-ken. Since 1981, this architectural site is also protected; at that time, all electric cables have been put underground.
Those forty buildings with their characteristic roof are standing along the only road of the village, covering a short distance of a couple of hundred meters. Parking lots are available just next to the village, but only pedestrians are allowed in the village.
Nowadays, almost all houses are occupied by shop selling mostly souvenirs (local products from artisans, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, spices). Unlike most omiyage shops in Japan, which all sell the same 30 boxes of biscuits and sweets with only a different name, products available in Ouchijuku are quite interesting, with for example several locally produced miso. And lots of apples, too. This "monopoly" of shops in the village leads to a surprising result: most visitors just walk a couple of minutes around, buy as much souvenirs as they can and leave usually in less than one hour.
We can still see from time to time workers fixing roofs without any modern equipment...
Not to be missed, at the end of the road - which is a dead-end - is a sanctuary on the hill. Although the religious building is really small and is of no interest, there is a fantastic view on the whole village; an ideal location to shoot some great souvenir pictures (light is better in the afternoon).
Every year on the 2nd July takes place the traditional parade of the Takakura Jinja. The second week-end of February is the time of the snow festival; large lanterns made of snow are lighted at night.
In a word, Ouchijuku is a pleasant stop for every visitor in the area. In the absence of any accommodation in the village and no other attraction around, this area is probably not as charming as the most famous villages of Kisoji on the Nakasendo (the road linking Kyoto to Edo through the mountains): Tsumago and Magome.
The biggest advantage of Ouchijuku is that you could visit the town from Tokyo in a day trip.
Two links with some extra informations :
Some extra nice pictures :
How is it in winter??