Ouchijuku is one of the most unique places to visit in Tohoku, and boasts status as a national historic preservation district.
The town began life as a rest stop for travelers traveling between modern day Tochigi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture during the Edo Period. As such, much of the villages architecture is preserved to resemble life during that era, with electrical and telephone lines being buried out of view and houses with traditional thatched roofing.
Ouchijuku was also the site of various battles during the Boshin War in the late 19th century. There is also a shrine for Prince Michihito Takakura, who was the second son of Emperor Goshirakawa. The prince had revolted against the Heike Clan. Every 2nd of July, the Hange Festival is held at the Takakura Shrine, where people pray for their family’s safety and stability and for an abundant harvest.
Unfortunately, the construction of modern highways led to a decline of travelers traversing through this area. Since then Ouchijuku has developed into a historic preservation site, offering tourists insight into the history and culture of the region!
Lets eat Negisoba!
The specialty food of Ouchijuku is Negisoba, which translates as Green Onion (Leek) Noodles!
Rather than eating these noodles with chopsticks, you will be given a single stalk of green onion to eat the noodles with. The trick is to bend the white end of the stalk, and use it as a hook to gather the noodles. Of course, if you prefer to eat with chopsticks, those are available as well! Within Ouchijuku, there are a handful of stores that serve Negisoba.
Getting to Yunokami-Onsen by Bullet Train
Reaching Ouchijuku will take a bit of time. If you are coming from Tokyo, or are located further north in Sendai and beyond, you will need to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Koriyama Station in Fukushima Prefecture. This will take anywhere between 1 hour to 90 minutes depending on the type of train.
From Koriyama, you will need to ride the Ban-Etsu West Line towards Aizu-Wakamatsu. It is normally found on Platform One of Koriyama Station. Please note that during the spring til the end of summer, you can also ride the special FruiTea Train, which is basically the same Ban-Etsu West Line with an additional maid-cafe car. This journey takes roughly 70 minutes.
From Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, transfer to the Aizu Railway Line bound for Aizu-Tajima (usually it is on platform 5), and get off at Yunokami-Onsen Station. This will take about 40 minutes.
CAUTION: For travelers using their JR Rail Pass or the JR Seishun 18 Ticket, please note that Aizu Railway is a separate company from JR East, thus they will NOT be valid on the final segment. Although it is a bit complicated, part of the portion from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station to Yunokami-Onsen is owned by JR East, but the remaining part belongs to Aizu Railway, despite riding on the same train.
Getting to Yunokami-Onsen by the new Revaty Aizu Line
Another option for those in the Tokyo area is to go to Asakusa Station and take the Tobu Revaty Aizu Line, one of the newest trains in Japan, beginning service in 2017!
Unlike the Shinkansen route above, the Revaty Aizu Line goes westward into the mountains. Along the way you will pass by many famous onsen (hot spring) towns in Tochigi Prefecture, before finally arriving in southern Fukushima Prefecture. You will need to switch at Aizu-Tajima, take the Aizu Railway to Yunokami-Onsen Station. This route will also take about 4 hours but requires only one transfer compared to taking the Shinkansen. The scenery is also much better.
The interior of the Revaty Aizu Line is comparable to the newest Shinkansen Train, but offers slightly more leg room. Additionally, these trains come with built in wi-fi while every seat includes its own power outlet, allowing you to surf the internet and charge your mobile devices (note that the wi-fi will not work when passing through tunnels). Snacks and drinks are offered between the Tokyo to Tochigi segment. There are toilet facilities just like on the Shinkansen!
Please note that the Revaty Line belongs to Tobu Railway, while the final segment belongs to Aizu Railway, thus none of the JR passes and tickets will be valid. Additionally, the entire segment is significantly cheaper at less than 6,000 yen, compared to the Shinkansen option which is closer to 10,000 yen.
When arriving to Yunokami Onsen, you will be greeted by a station that resembles a small traditional Japanese house. Inside is a small fire place while right next to the station is a foot hot spring free for the public.
Here is a link for some other great value options using the same service around other areas of Aizu or even via Nikko! http://www.tobujapantrip.com/en/data/pdf/tokyo_nikko_aizu_en.pdf
There are several Ryokans (Japanese traditional inns) located in Yuminokami Onsen, as well as in the neighboring hot springs. If you prefer to stay in a business hotel, we suggest you travel further north to Aizu-Wakamatsu Station on the Aizu Railway where you can find a number of options.
Hyperdia – Go here to organize your train schedule. A must for this area as trains are infrequent
Japanican – Go here to reserve hotel rooms
Japan’s Samurai Cities – Read our guide on how to travel to Aizu-Wakamatsu and ride JR East’s FruiTea Train!
JR East Train Status – If commuting in winter, it is important to check JR East’s train status to see if there are any delays. The Aizu area has a lot of snow in winter, so be sure to check if your train will be on time!
Ouchijuku Official Tourism Page – Go here for up to the date information from the official website of Ouchijuku’s tourism association.