There was supposed to be a gyoza party at Ling Ling’s this afternoon. Unfortunately for her, she caught herself a cold from Frisbee. Fortunately for the Aoki’s and I, we had an entire free day. Apparently, Ruu had wanted to go to an old samurai town in Fukushima for quite some time, so that’s what we did!! What would normally cost 3000-yen (~$30) for a 3-hour drive on the express way now costs only 1000-yen on the weekends with an ETC (like an I-pass)!! Sweet deal.
Into the mountains and fog we drove, to a place where Samurai used to stop on their way to a further away town. Flourishing during the Edo period (1602~1868), Ouchi-juku was a post station town, located on the West Aizu Highway that connected Aizumakamatsu, Nikko, and Edo(Tokyo). After the Meiji Restoration, national roads and modern vehicles replaced foot traffic through Ouchi-juki. The town was deserted, but preserved; then later designated a Traditional Architectural Preservation District of Japan, and restored into what it is today. Traditionally thatched Japanese roofed houses line the long dirt road. The grass roofs provide mega-insulation against the brutal mountainous winters.
Of course the main reason we went to Ouchi-juku was to eat the famous negi-soba, or Japanese buckwheat noodles with a fat green onion. It seems like every Japanese mountain town is famous for it’s soba noodles. I feel like I’ve been to plenty of mountain towns to taste a range of soba to be allowed to say that the negi-soba from Ouchi-juku was by far the BEST soba I have EVER had. While taking small bites of your only utensil, a thick green onion, you slurp up the delicious hand-made soba noodles. Though, it got a bit more difficult to eat as our utensils got shorter and shorter.
After Ochi-juku, we stopped by a tourist spot known for its beautiful view of the Abukuma River. We had fun jumping on a suspension bridge and walking along a natural cutout path in the bordering gorge until it started to rain. But then we were given awesome miso-soup for free before we made a run for it back to the car – well Futoshi did while Ruu and I waited to be picked up – thanks Futoshi!!