Ouchijuku - It looks exactly like the pictures on google 😍
I visited Ouchijuku Village in Fukushima last year during fall and winter seasons. I stumbled upon it while looking for places to visit close by Tochigi Prefecture where I'm currently living. Ouchijuku is located in the mountains of Fukushima Prefecture, in a small town called Shimogo, which is right beside Tochigi. So, it was a convenient place for me to visit.
It took approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes drive time from downtown Utsunomiya to the village via Tohoku Expressway.
If you'll be driving from Tokyo, it might take around 3 hours and 30 minutes roughly.
If you’d be coming by train and prefer least the transfers, you may take the Nikko-kinugawa limited express train from Asakusa station via Tobu rail. Transfer to the local train at Aizu-tajima station heading to Aizu tetsudo, then alight at yunokamionsen station. From there you may take buses number 33 and 38 going to Ouchijuku village. This takes approximately 5 hours.
Taking the Shinkansen or bullet train to Koriyama station, then transferring to the local trains might be a good idea if you want to reach there faster.
What makes Ouchijuku so famous amongst local tourists?
Ouchijuku is an Important historical site. Designated as an "Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings", the village was preserved to its original traditional design since the Edo period.
The most iconic image of Ouchijuku are the thatched roofs of the buildings lined up along a pathway, which was a highway used by travelers passing through the Aizu Nishi Kaido (connecting Tochigi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture) since the Edo period(1603-1867).
What to expect
I did a bit of research about the place before I went there, as most travelers do. I thought the photos on google looked too good to be true. And I was fairly surprised that aside from the picturesque scenery of the pathway surrounded by straw roofed buildings, the place also has this warm, hospitable feel. This is all thanks to the friendly locals who run the inns, restaurants, and shops.
Staffs of the shops can speak several languages including English.
During peak season, fall season, Ouchijuku Village can get a bit crowded because it's a really famous tourist destination in the Tohoku Region of Japan.
Quick Facts The Japanese Regions:
Japan is divided into 8 regions (geographical order from south to north)
Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures are in Tohoku, and Prefectures like Tokyo and Tochigi are in Kanto.
Let's talk about FOOD!
The most famous food in Ouchijuku is their "Negi Soba", Buckwheat noodles with leek or long onion. Soba is everywhere in Japan. But what make eating Negi Soba in Ouchijuku aside from the scenery is that you eat the noodle dish using the leek instead of chopsticks.
If you cannot picture it, watch my Video on Youtube. I can show you a firsthand experience of how messy and difficult it was. I tried. 😅 It's best eaten together with grilled river fish.
We ate at the shop at the far end of the village, on the foot of the view point hill. I recommend this shop because if you could get a seat beside the window, you can have a good view of the village while dinning.
I also tried the huge "Senbei" or Japanese rice cracker. It was as big as my face!
The rice cracker tastes salty and a little bit sweet. A piece of advice, make sure to have a drink on the side while eating. This is one of those food that's quick to eat but makes you very thirsty.
There is also a "sake", Japanese rice wine, shop near the entrance of the village. They sell aged sake which was really good. It's always worth to try the local sake.
How much will I spend? 💸
Aside from the travel fees which depends on your mode of transportation, here is a rough estimate of what you might spend.
Food - 1,400JPY
Parking fee - 500JPY
Souvenir Shopping(optional) - 1,500JPY
Sightseeing only - free
The village has no entrance fee. So, if you're only there for sightseeing, it's totally free.