May 06, 2008

Fukushima: Day 2 - Ouchijuku

After breakfast it was an early check out and into taxi to Ouchijuku some 6 kilometres away. The staff at the minshuku had advised to set off sooner rather than later as the traffic gets very heavy by mid-morning in the holiday period.

Ouchijuku is a quiet town with a glorious past, but which is now simply a tourist spot famous for its main street consisting of Edo period buildings. It was an important post town in days gone by, making its money from people passing through, much as it does today, albeit in different circumstances.

It was good to get there early, as it was possible to wander around at leisure without getting jostled and bumped by other sightseers, though it gradually got busier and busier as mid-morning approached.

The main street consists of lots of old buildings with thatched roofs, most of which are now eateries, shops selling souvenirs or local produce. I had a lot of fun looking at the different types of jam, miso and tea on sale as well as the usual tourist tat, but the only thing that convinced me to part with any cash was a bottle of Dr Noguchi sake, which was shaped like a chemist's flask. I'm no sake connoisseur, but mainly wanted the bottle, which will make a nice ornament when I've drunk the contents. Shallow, I know, but ...

Apart from the main sightseeing street, there isn't much else to the town, but it is surrounded by some beautiful natural scenery, and I was particularly impressed by the many different shades of green in the surrounding hills.
Time was running out, as a return journey in the taxi had been booked for 11 o'clock, but no trip to Ouchijuku would be complete without a bowl of ippon soba (buckwheat noodles in a cold soup with a whole leek), even if it meant having a very early lunch. The idea is to use the leek instead of chopsticks to eat the noodles, but taking a bite from it from time to time to complement the noodles. It was a novel and tasty experience.

On the taxi ride back to Yunokami Onsen station I could see the queue of cars waiting to get to Ouchijuku which tailed back over 4 kilometres. Who ever said cars were the best way to get around?

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