As there was not much to see in Niigata, we took a scenic train to the east – Niigata is famous for being ‘countryside’, and growing rice. We saw lots of rice fields.
Our destination was Aizu-Wakamatsu [会津若松], a ‘samurai town’ famous for Tsuruga castle and the story of the Byakkotai [白虎隊], a troop of young soldiers who fought during the Boshin war. Back then the ‘Aizu warrior spirit’ was a very important thing, and 19 youths committed ritual suicide when they thought the castle had fallen. This is called the Tragedy of the Byakkotai.
On the other hand, the town’s mascot is a cartoonish phantom red cow. Because why not?
We headed out to the castle first and foremost. Tsuruga Castle [鶴ヶ城] or Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle [会津若松城]. If you google it, you might think it’s pink. So did we. We were a bit on the amusedly disappointed side (≧∇≦).
But we made-do with some awesome (and ice-cold) Aizu Coke-bottles.
Within the castle grounds we found Tsuruga-jo Inari Jinja [鶴ヶ城稲荷神社]
And Kasama Inari Jinja [笠間稲荷神社].
After the castle it was lunch time so we went to have lunch in the ‘old samurai town’ which to be honest does not feel too old. On the way we stopped by Shinmei Jinja [神明神社], which was rather on the empty side, but still nice.
We ate lunch in a place called Mitsuta-ya [満田屋] to eat miso dengaku [味噌田楽]. We had a course of skewers consisting on two konjac (one with salty and one with sweet miso), fried tofu, mochi (rice cake), sweet potato, shingorou (some kind of rice croquette) and smoked herring. All these were grilled just in front of us, which was on the one hand really cool to see, and on the other, bloody hot because hey, there was a fire burning in front of us. We were told that this was typical samurai food, because it could be prepared and eaten ‘on the go’. Who knows whether it is true, but it was fun and yummy.
Once we had eaten we had to make a run to the station so we could catch the train – as the following one was two hours later – and we made it with three whole minutes to spare despite google maps saying we were too far away. And thus we were off to Koriyama [郡山], which… we had not really heard of before this whole thing? (≧∇≦). There we took the Tourist Office by surprise when we asked what we could see even if it was already ‘late’. Map in hand, we headed off to see Asakakunitsuko Jinja [安積国造神社], which was a little on the creepy side.
Then we saw Nyoho-ji [如宝寺].
And continued to Hayama Park [麓山公園, Hayama Koen], where we saw the waterfall.
And the so-called Of the 21st Century Memorial Park Hayama Forest [２１世紀記念公園 麓山の杜, 21seikiki nenkouen Hayama no Mori].
Finally we headed back to the station area, where we checked out the Observatory in the Big-i building.
And finally caught a shinkansen back to Tokyo, we had dinner on the go and crashed in bed when we got home.