How to Enjoy Fukushima's Ouchijuku: Make Soba, Wear Kimono, and Soak in a Hot Spring in a 2 Day, 1 Night Trip!

Surrounded by mountains, Ouchijuku is one of the leading preservation districts for thatched-roof houses in Fukushima Prefecture. It served as a rest stop for travelers journeying to and from the east and west during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), and today, it has become a valuable place for visitors to deepen their understanding of life back then. So, how can you best enjoy Ouchijuku in a meaningful and fun way? Read on for the best two day, one night travel itinerary that will take you exploring around Ouchijuku and its surrounding areas.


Things to Do

*This article was written in collaboration with Fukushima Prefecture Tourism & Local Products Association.

Get to Know Ouchijuku in 1 Minute


Characteristics and History

With a history of more than 400 years, Ouchijuku was one of the post towns on the Nikko Kaido route which connected the Aizu Domain (present-day Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture) with Edo (Tokyo) during the Edo Period. Today, this 450-meter road is jammed with old Japanese-style houses with thatched roofs that are reminiscent of that period. Back in the day, travelers would take breaks and stay overnight in those thatched-roof houses.

In 1981, Ouchijuku became a National Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings to help put a stop to the dwindling number of thatched-roof houses in the area. Today, it remains a beloved sightseeing destination that is visited by more than 800,000 people each year thanks to its traditional scenery and warm atmosphere that is unique to this mountain town.

How to Access Ouchijuku

Train: The fastest way from Tokyo is to take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Koriyama Station (about 1.5 hours), transfer to the Ban-Etsusai Line to Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (about 1 hour and 5 minutes on the rapid service train and about 1 hour and 20 minutes on the regular train), and then get on the Aizu Railway and get off at Yunokami Onsen Station (about 40 minutes). Another way is to take the Tobu Railway and the Yagan Railway from Asakusa to Aizukogen-ozeguchi Station (about 3.5 hours), transfer to the Aizu Railway to Yunokami Onsen Station (about 50 minutes), and then take a taxi or the Saruyu-go bus to Ouchijuku (about 20 minutes).

Expressway bus: Get on the expressway bus operated by Aizu Bus or Fukushima Transportation, and go directly from JR Shin-Shirakawa Station to Ouchijuku (about 2 hours). *Operation is suspended in the winter. Click here for the latest information.

Rental car: Approximately 3-4 hours from Tokyo or Sendai to Ouchijuku via the Tohoku Expressway.

2 Day, 1 Night Travel Itinerary: Day 1

Ouchijuku: Soba Making Experience

Situated in the mountains, Ouchijuku is a place that is rich in clean, delicious water. Water is one of the key ingredients in making delicious soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles). And with the kind of water found in Ouchijuku, it's no wonder that many restaurants in the area serve homemade soba noodles that are chewy, have a sweet aftertaste, and an aroma that is unique to soba.

One of the best ways to make memories of your trip is to experience making soba in Ouchijuku. You can even eat the delicious soba that you make! The soba noodles in Ouchijuku are made from 100% buckwheat flour. You will need about an hour and a half for this soba making experience. This includes the time taken to actually eat the noodles that you made. There are no tools that need to be brought nor preparations that need to be made in advance. All you have to do is to make a reservation and head straight to the site on that day. No experience is required either. There will be an instructor who will teach you from scratch, and the buckwheat flour and other ingredients will be waiting for you when you get there. After your trip, just follow the recipe they teach you and you can make soba noodles at home whenever you want!

First, add small amounts of water to the buckwheat flour several times, and then stir and knead the flour and water to make a large dough. Do not add too much water when kneading, as that will ruin the texture of the noodles. Note, though, that if there is too little water, the noodles will be dry. The ideal softness is around the same as your earlobe. Next, let out the air that has entered the dough and slowly roll it out. Finally, use a rolling pin to shape the dough into a square. Fold the dough in half, shape it into the size the instructor tells you, and then cut it into strips.

Every step seems easy, but needs a little bit of skill. Once you get the hang of it, though, you can make delicious soba noodles whenever you want! They can boil your noodles right there so that you can eat it on the spot together with green onions and "tsuyu" dipping sauce. It doesn't matter if you cut your noodles thick or thin, as its exceptionally delicious taste will remain the same.

There is a special way to eat soba in Ouchijuku, and that is to use a stalk of green onion for scooping and eating the noodles. In the past, the character for “kiri" (cut or slice) was inauspicious for the shogun (military dictator of Japan), so whenever people gave soba to the Tokugawa shogun, the green onions would not be sliced into small pieces but instead put on the noodles as they were (the entire stalk). That way, they could just nibble on the green onion whenever they felt like it while eating the soba. This custom has been passed down from generation to generation, and it has become one of the characteristics of soba noodles in Ouchijuku today. If you have a chance, make sure to give it a try.

Ouchijuku: Kimono Rental and Sightseeing Experience

After tasting delicious soba, why not take a walk on the streets of Ouchijuku? A post town in ancient times, Ouchijuku is now lined with shops and restaurants selling specialty products and folk crafts unique to the area. Seeing how beautiful the thatched-roof houses look lined up on each side of the main road will definitely put a smile on your face. There's also a waterway with incredibly clear water that follows the main road. Relax as you stroll through the town while listening to the sound of the water flowing. This waterway serves another extremely important function, and that is to make it easy to put out a fire in any of the thatched-roof houses. It is a manifestation of how much the residents in the area value these traditional buildings.

To give sightseers the chance to fully enjoy Ouchijuku and its traditional Japanese atmosphere, the local municipality has prepared a package where you can walk around the town while clad in a rental kimono. This experience does not require advance reservation and is available to everyone, male or female. It will take about 2 hours to get dressed in a kimono and walk around the town. You can choose your kimono, haori (formal coat), obi (sash), and other accessories when you arrive, and in less than 15 minutes, you’ll be beautifully dressed in a kimono. Men will have fewer choices when it comes to kimono than women, but any color you choose will be perfect for a picture. It is also easier for men to put on and take off their kimono, as it won’t even take 10 minutes.

After dressing up in a kimono, explore Ouchijuku with a professional guide and listen to the history of the area while looking at the materials they've prepared. You will learn a lot about Ouchijuku, from the difference in the orientation of the houses to the history of its special products and thatched-roof houses, and even the heat-insulating properties of the thatched roofs. In the past, only the entrances of the houses of wealthy people were allowed to face the main road, so just by looking at the direction the houses were built, you can already tell which of the houses was the most prosperous.

Before getting some free exploration time, we were guided to a path leading to a shrine on the mountainside and we took pictures there. You can capture the scenery of Ouchijuku from this spot, and the view will make it look like you are inside a postcard.

When you do get some free exploration time, take the opportunity to visit the shops! Aside from sweets for souvenirs, you can also eat dumplings and ice cream right there. If you like Japanese sake, try some made with Ouchijuku's water at the town's only Japanese sake store.

If you want to stay a little bit longer in Ouchijuku after returning the rental kimono, why not stay overnight? There are guest houses built within thatched-roof houses, allowing you to soak in the atmosphere of the area at night.

From Ouchijuku, you can take the shuttle bus, Saruyu-go, to the nearest station, Yunokami Onsen Station. There is one shuttle bus every 40 minutes on average. The bus schedule varies depending on the season, but the last train is usually at around 4:00 pm (the bus runs from April 1st to November 30th, and does not operate during winter). You can also take a taxi.

2 Day, 1 Night Travel Itinerary: Day 2

Nakanosawa/Numajiri Extreme Hot Spring Experience

After having breakfast in or around the place where you stayed the night, enjoy a wild hot spring adventure! Most of the hot springs in Japan are found inside an inn or hotel, or in the form of a public bath, but in this experience, you will get to soak in a hot spring in the middle of the wilderness.

Nakanosawa/Numajiri Onsen may not be as famous as Gunma’s popular Kusatsu Onsen, but it is a hot spring area that is well known only to those in the know. You can reach it in about an hour and 20 minutes by car from Ouchijuku, or get on the JR Ban-Etsusai Line from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, get off at Inawashiro Station, and then drive for about 20 minutes from there. The hot spring source of Nakanosawa/Numajiri Onsen is not so far away, and from it, extremely hot water gushes out. It is also known for having the highest yield for a single gushing point in Japan at 13,400 liters per minute. The way that it intersects with the wild torrents nearby creates a spectacular view. In addition, the temperature is not too hot and it is easy to get in the water, so it is a recommended spot for those who love hot springs.

However, since it is a sulfuric hot spring, it may put your life in danger if the concentration of hydrogen sulfide is too high. In addition, there are places where it is difficult to climb and walk on the road to the hot spring source, so be sure that you visit through tours operated by local agencies. When you join a tour, a trained guide will lead your team to the source safely. There is no changing room near the outdoor hot spring, so it would be best to wear a swimsuit under your clothes when you leave for the tour.

When you participate in the tour, you will have to gather at the meeting place near Numazu Kogen Lodge early in the morning. You will arrive at the Numajiri trailhead of Mt. Adatara in about 5 to 10 minutes by car.

The total journey to the source takes about 3 hours in total, but on the way to the outdoor hot spring, you will get to see the beautiful Shiraito no Taki (literally “white thread waterfall") that the locals are so proud of. This is a natural waterfall flowing with hot spring water, and if your eyesight is good, you can even see smoke rising from the waterfall. The silky thread-like waters of the waterfall are complemented by the steep surrounding cliffs. No matter where you take a photo from, you are guaranteed to have an amazing picture. You can also see the iconic mountains of Fukushima, Mt. Bandai and Mt. Azuma Kofuji, on the way to the source. While watching this beautiful scenery, you can recharge your energy by eating the sweets prepared by the guide, so you shouldn't have a difficult time climbing your way to the source.

When you arrive at the outdoor hot spring, pull up or fold your pants up to your knees and dip your legs in. Or take off your clothes and soak in the hot spring in a swimsuit! The acidic hot spring can kill off bacteria, so it has long been said to have healing effects. On top of that, you will be able to marvel at a splendid view surrounded by greenery on all sides, so your fatigue will surely melt away.

We were also able to enjoy delicious coffee and cheesecake while taking a hot spring bath on this tour. It was definitely a pleasant time! If you are interested in such a rare experience, try to join the tour.

If you participate in the tour that starts at 8:30 am, you will be going down the mountain just around noon. Whatever you eat after that kind of activity will surely be delicious, but since you are already in Fukushima, why not try the area’s specialty dishes? Have some hearty sauce katsudon (pork cutlet bowl) or Kitakata ramen, one of the three most famous ramen in Japan. Now, if you are into sweets, then you can grab some sasa dango (mugwort rice cakes filled with red bean paste) or usukawa-manju (a kind of steamed yeast bun with filling), both specialties of Nakanosawa Onsen. They make great souvenirs or desserts!


Before leaving Fukushima, don't forget to take a picture of yourself against the backdrop of the gorgeous Fukushima landscape. This is where our two day, one night trip ends. If you still have some free time, walk around the train station surroundings to experience the daily life of people in Fukushima.


If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram!

Tohoku Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

About the author

Ying Lu
  • tsunagu Japan Travel - Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas! CLICK Here!

Restaurant Search