My second weekend of “Kenji-absence” was spent mostly cleaning and resting, but the third weekend I decided I wanted to get out of the house, and planned a small road trip with two friends, Amy and Sarah, to Fukushima and Yamagata prefectures up north in the Tohoku region.
Fukushima has the unfortunate privilege to be famous in the western media due to the nuclear plant meltdown that happened after the earthquake and tsunami three years ago, but beyond a very small area, the prefecture actually is a really great place! As long as you stay out of the radiation zone that is. Since we weren’t going anywhere near there, we weren’t worried at all.
Our first destination in Fukushima was the city of Aizu-Wakamatsu, a city full of samurai history, with a great castle, some museums, and an old area of town with samurai residences. We started off pretty early in the morning driving up there, about a 3 hour drive. We visited a post office, ate some lunch, then went up to visit the castle and grounds. We also saw a nice, if small, garden in the city, before heading south toward Ouchijuku. Ouchijuku is a post town from back when travel by most people was regulated to foot travel only. So you had to have frequent towns along the roads to accomodate travelers with food and places to stay. Ouchijuku preserves that old style town with thatched roofs and no power lines (a rarity in Japan!). It is a really awesome looking place!
Cherry blossom-lined streets in Aizu-Wakamatsu
From there, we drove into Yamagata to stay the night in Yonezawa, which will be included in the next post. Fukushima was lots of fun… I want to explore more there again!