Aizuwakamatsu (Fukushima)


Iimoriyama is a tall hill to the northeast of Aizu Wakamatsu’s central area. The hill was where the Byakkotai retreated to after losing the battle of Tonoguchi-hara in the Boshin War. Mistakenly thinking that Tsuruga-jo, their castle, was being destroyed in flames, 20 teenage members committed ritual suicide (with one failed attempt) at this place. Their graves are located midway down the hill and are visited by many people still today.

Sazaedo was built as the Buddhist temple to the Syosyuji temple in 1796, a hexagonal structure with three-storeys and a height of 16.5 metres. It is not obvious from the exterior, but its interior is designed in a sloping double-helix structure. As one enters from the entrance, one ascends the slope in a clockwise direction and upon reaching the top storey, descends in an anti-clockwise direction. When it was first built, it contained the 33 statues of the Kansai Kannon along its slopes, which the visitor would be able to see by walking around the interior. At that time, it was an unreachable dream for the common folk to perform the pilgrimage to Kansai to visit the thirty-three Buddhist temples.

Ōuchijuku is a village of taverns where rows of the houses remain in their Edo Period condition. The village stands along the ancient Shimotsuke route that connects Aizu and Nikko, and played an important role of offering accommodation to the lords and the travelers headed to Edo, the former name of Tokyo. The rare view of a row of more than 30 houses attracts over 1 million tourists a year.

 

 

Tsuruga-jo (also known as Aizu Wakamatsu-jo), a white castle that stands tall at the near center of Aizu Wakamatsu, serves as the city’s main tourist landmark. To the east and northeast of the castle are many sites of interest, including Iimoriyama, the Aizu Clan leaders’ gravesite, and Oyakuen. The city’s main commercial district lies to the northwest of the castle. There you can see traces of the city’s bygone eras when trade and commerce flourished. There are also various places to dine and shop for souvenirs.