Surrounded by scenic mountains, Aizu-Wakamatsu in western Fukushima Prefecture is a bustling former castle town with friendly locals deeply proud of their history and culture. The region is known for its pristine landscapes, quality sake, traditional crafts, and rich samurai history. Enjoy exploring Aizu Wakamatsu’s winding little streets walking in the footsteps of past samurai.
Renowned for its award-winning sake distillery and as being the refuge of the last samurai, Aizuwakamatsu is worthy of history buffs and sake lovers alike. Aizu is naturally blessed with three important qualities for sake making; high-quality rice, pure water springs, and cool weather. Suehiro is one of the largest sake producers in Tohoku and there are hourly tours around the brewery in the centre of town.
Today visitors can soak up samurai culture at the reconstructed Tsuraga-jo Castle, as well as the old samurai residences and Nisshinkan. Tsuruga Castle was built in 1384 and changed hands many times between the different rulers of the Aizu region. It was destroyed after the Boshin War of 1868, a rebellion against the newly formed Meiji government, which had taken over control from the Tokugawa shogun and put an end to Japan’s feudal era. Tsuruga Castle was one of the last strongholds of samurai loyal to the shogunate.
While the castle has been rebuilt in the 1960s, the garden’s walls and moats are original. Climb to the top floor of the castle keep and look out onto the surrounding city. The inside of the building is an interesting museum with attractive displays about the history of the castle and the samurai lifestyle.
The castle is surrounded by the immaculate Tsuruga Castle Park, filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees. A visit to the castle is especially worthwhile during the cherry blossom season in early April when the gardens are alive with vibrant white and pink colors. Be sure to take a relaxing break at Rinkaku Teahouse in the park. After you view the beautiful historic teahouse, you can enjoy some great traditional tea in the same spot where feudal lords once had tea ceremonies.
The above tours of Aizu-Wakamatsu are featured on our newest small group tour “Tohoku Trails”.