Introducing Tokyo’s northern neighbors: Fukushima, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures
Kasumigajo Park actually contains the remains of two castles, with the later Nihonmatsu Castle built in the 17th century. The castle fell in a brutal battle during the Boshin Civil War to government forces. In 1872, the castle ruins were demolished, although the walls remained. A gate and turret were rebuilt in 1982, with further restorations completed in 1993. The site became a National Historic Site in 2007.
Visit Nihonmatsu city in Fukushima to participate in traditional Kendo experience in learning the history and the manner of Bushido. Kendo is a Japanese martial art that is derived from Kenjutsu (Japanese swordsmanship) and literally means the “way of the sword“. Nihonmatsu is famous as one of the ancient samurai cities having strong roots for Kendo. In the lessons, you may use bamboo swords named “Shinai” and protective armor. Nowadays, Kendo is widely being practiced not only in Japan but in the world.
Nisshin-kan, A Samurai School
The Nisshin-kan was the highest educational institution that the Aizu Clan had. Its purpose was to produce elite members in a society. The sons of samurai families entered the Nisshin-kan when they turned 10 years old. The facilities included a gym for martial arts, an observatory, the oldest school pool in Japan, and more. Visitors can see the fine architecture of the Edo period, as well as the schooling methods of the Nisshin-kan. There are also several hands-on activities such as Japanese archery, zen practice, painting local crafts, and so on.
The highlands of Urabandai boast some of the best scenery and skiing fields in Fukushima Prefecture. Bring your camera to capture dramatic shots of lakes framed by majestic mountains. Volcanic eruptions formed the dramatic landscape, creating a collection of multicolored lakes and ponds. The Goshikinuma (Five-Colored Lakes) walking trail leads past these stunning bodies of water, flashing brilliant hues of red, green and aquamarine.
Ashinomaki Onsen is conveniently located just 30 minutes from the heart of Aizu Wakamatsu City, perfect for an overnight stay or day trip and close to tourist spots such as Ouchijuku, Tsurugajo Castle and the Aizu Bukeyashiki, etc.. Ashinomaki boasts beautiful valleys and natural hot springs with abundant hot water where you can relax and enjoy the feeling of falling back in time, surrounded by the beauty of Aizu in all four season. Tourists visiting nearby Lake Inawashiro and Urabandai are always welcome, too.
An Old Post Town
Tucked among the Aizu mountains, a quaint little town full of thatched-roof houses appears as if out of a dream. The pastoral beauty of Ouchi-juku is like something out of the world of a storybook. Formerly served as a post town in the main route of rice to Edo (the name of old Tokyo) during the Edo era, it is now preserved in the fashion of its original appearance, lined with buildings that are characterized by thatched roofs. Though no longer used as the main point of trade routes, Ouchi-Juku still remains preserved as a designated Group of Traditional Buildings by the Japanese National Government.
Nikko Toshogu enshrines the most famous samurai leader Tokugawa Ieyasu. Its carved and brilliantly decorated structures are part of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage Site and the highlight of any visit to Tochigi. The ingenuity and careful attention to detail that went into constructing Nikko Toshogu Shrine are extraordinary. Its vibrant colors and flamboyant carvings stand in stark contrast to much of Japan’s more spartan design.
～Nikko Nat’l Park～
Kegon Waterfall is the most famous of Nikko’s 48 waterfalls. Water from Lake Chuzenji falls 97 meters straight down to the rocks below creating a dynamic and artistic work of nature. A special lift takes visitors to the basin where the force and roar of the water can be witnessed close up. Impressive in any season, the waterfall looks particularly spectacular when surrounded by the color in autumn, small streams of the frozen waterfall clad in blue ice during the winter season.
Local Japanese Cuisine
North of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture, Utsunomiya offers great places to enjoy famous local cuisine, literally hundreds of places to try the city’s signature dish of savory dumplings called “Gyoza” and a top-ranked Japanese beef of “Tochigi Wagyu” which has often won the top prize at competitions across Japan for its superior quality. It is the Number One brand of beef in Japan.
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