Fukushima: The enduring samurai spirit and a legacy of beauty


In ancient times, the samurai of Fukushima cherished the “spirit of living a beautiful life.” This included adherence to values of living virtuously (righteousness), staying mindful (consideration of others), and being truthful (trustworthiness). This enduring mindset which has been passed down from the past to the present remains cherished by the people and is reflected in the urban and rural landscapes of Fukushima.

When the Boshin War broke out 150 years ago, the city of Aizuwakamatsu became a fierce battleground for one of the greatest conflicts of the samurai era. Having been devastated by the war, this castle town was restored by its survivors and their descendants, and they inherited that same samurai spirit. Since restoration, it has enjoyed continuous prosperity. Visitors to the city can get a close look at the history of the late Edo period and sense the atmosphere of the city’s old quarters. Aizuwakamatsu is recognized as one of Japan’s preeminent sightseeing destinations.

Its beautiful scenery shifting with the four seasons captivates the hearts of visitors from all over the world: in spring, the ancient Miharu Takizakura cherry tree is in bloom; it is one of Japan’s three greatest cherry blossoms; and in the autumn the resplendent leaves brighten up Ouchi-juku which retains the appearance of the old Edo era. It is also the home to a tradition of exceptional arts and crafts, such as Aizu lacquerware, Akabeko toy cows, Shirakawa Daruma figures and many others, all created by artisans who are devoted to their work, maintaining the essence of the Japanese aesthetic while giving a glimpse of a new era of beauty to come.

Fukushima, much loved by the samurai, still shines brightly and continues to inspire and excite the world.





The Land of the Samurai


An encounter with the samurai spirit and its culture

In the late Edo period, Fukushima Prefecture was home to 13 samurai clans, both large and small, but the history of the Aizu clan in particular, which boasted an income of 230,000 koku (a measure of rice production), can tell us much about the end of the Edo period. Its lord, Matsudaira Katamori, guardian of Kyoto, was devoted to the shogunate and this was the cause of great drama during the subsequent Boshin War. The names of the Katamori and the Aizu clans are known throughout Japan for being synonymous with samurai society.

Today, many historical sites relating to the Aizu clan, the Boshin War, and the land of the Shinsengumi still remain in the city of Aizuwakamatsu. Visitors to Fukushima can also brush shoulders with the legacy of the samurai at various festivals whose origins date back to the distant past, and bear witness to the enduring samurai spirit and culture which is all over Fukushima Prefecture.




Tsurugajo Castle

A previously impregnable castle that withstood the attacks of the new government’s army for a month during the Boshin War, it was destroyed in 1874, leaving only its stone perimeter walls, but with the help of donations from local residentsand from elsewhere, it was restored in 1965. In 2011, it became the only castle tower in Japan to display the distinctive red roof tiles from the late Edo period. It contains an exhibition room where visitors can learn about the history of Aizu.



Aizu Festival

This is the biggest festival in Aizu, held every year towards the end of September. Among its various events, the Aizu Clan Parade is a spectacular procession in which, following a ceremony held at Tsurugajo Castle, about 500 people march through the town dressed as warriors.




Soma Nomaoi

The Soma Nomaoi is held every year over the last weekend in July. This traditional equestrian event claims a history of more than a thousand years. It is a thrilling spectacle in which horses race one another, ridden by armored warriors wearing white headbands, competing at high speeds that overlap 1000 metres before reaching the finish line!




Beautiful scenery



This is where the urban surroundings and thatched roofs of a post station town from the Edo era still remain, giving a sense of  one slipping back in time. It is famous for its negisoba dish, in which soba noodles are eaten with a single stalk of green onion instead of using chopsticks.



Miharu Takizakura Cherry tree

This ancient weeping cherry tree, believed to be more than 1000 years old, is known as one of the top three cherry blossoms in Japan. When it is Illuminated at night, it has a magical appearance.



Shiramizu Amidado

The only National Treasure building in Fukushima Prefecture. Lotuses bloom here in summer, while in the autumn beautiful leaves reveal another face of this understated, elegant garden.



Tadami River Daiichi Bridge

A popular spot where trains run through Japan’s virgin landscape, a destination for photographers from all over the world.




Fukushima’s renowned wonderland of flowers—as well as the ubiquitous plums and cherry blossoms, flowering peach trees, forsythia, magnolia, and many others also bloom here.



Fukushima handicrafts


The evolution of traditional forms

Fukushima’s traditional craftworks and artifacts, fashioned by skilled and proud craftsmen who are able to make use of the prefecture’s rich natural produce, and have strong, long-standing and deep roots in local social and daily life. In recent years, in collaboration with contemporary artisans, new challenges have also emerged, adding new dimensions of design and creativity to traditional technology.




Aizu lacquerware

While using a diverse array of traditional techniques, such as raden inlay work, urushi-e painting, dry lacquer, maki-e metallic designs, hananuri lacquer work and other techniques cultivated over a period of some 400 years, local artisans also actively incorporate the latest technology and designs into their work.



Shirakawa Daruma figures

Boasting a history of about 300 years, these figures have eyebrows that represent cranes, pines and plum trees, turtles for moustaches, and bamboo beards. Rather than being simply decorative, they are considered lucky charms. Of these late colourful and quaint Daruma designs have become very popular.




These little dolls, which always return to an upright position whenever knocked over, are used as totems when praying for safe homes and physical health. They are symbols of perseverance and rebirth, epitomizing the Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”




Traditional crafts and local products created in collaboration with world-renowned designer Junko Koshino. Koshino’s innovative and contemporary designs have been added to the range of products making best use of the local characteristics and traditional techniques of craftsmen such as authentic Aizu cotton, Miharu papier mache, Aizu lacquerware, Japanese washi paper, knitwear, and so on, creating a new brand perfectly suited to diversifying lifestyles. As Fukushima evolves, these items, so full of new possibilities, continue to attract increased attention.



Aizu cotton & Nihonmatsu banko-yaki ceramics l 会津木綿・二本松万古焼

Miharu papier mache l 三春張子

Kamikawasaki washi paper l 上川崎和紙

Fukushima, Kingdom of Sake Breweries


Winner of most gold medals at the Annual Japan Sake Awards for the 8th time in a row!

Fukushima Prefecture is blessed with clear water and a perfect climate for rice production. The local history of sake brewing is very old, with some sake breweries still working after more than 300 years. There are more than 50 sake breweries in the Prefecture, each competing with its rivals to brew delicious liquor of outstanding quality while retaining its own unique character. These breweries also focus on teaching brewing skills to the next generation. Its sake breweries are the pride of the Prefecture and in 2021, for the 8th time in a row. Fukushima again won the greatest number of gold medals at the Annual Japan Sake Awards, the most traditional and prestigious of such awards in Japan.

全国新酒鑑評会 金賞受賞数8年連続日本一


Rich, sweet, mellow, and refreshing

In a few words, the sake of Fukushima is rich, sweet, mellow, and refreshing. The fruity aromas are born from Fukushima’s original sake yeasts. Utsukushima yume-kobo sake yeast has a wellrounded melon-like fragrance, and Utsukushima kirameki-kobo sake yeast has a clear strawberry like aroma. The delicacy achieved by low-temperature long-term fermentation and the intrinsic flavour of robust sake coming from a strong koji culture are very popular. Fukushima is also the head of research into suitable strains of rice for brewing sake, with its own original “Yume-no- kaori” and “Fuku-no-ka” rice variety, as well as high-quality being developed in the Prefecture. Sake brewed using the new rice, “Fuku-no-ka”, grown entirely in Fukushima, was released in 2020.



A perfect match for Fukushima sake


Enban gyoza dumplings

These crisp, juicy dumplings derive their unique name from being fried in a pan and arranged together into a circular shape, grilled side up.



Soba noodles

An ideal match for Japanese sake, the many varieties of Fukushima soba (buckwheat) include Shirakawa soba from the town of Shirakawa, known as one of the top areas for soba noodles in Japan, the tachisoba and negisoba noodles of the Aizu region, and other varieties.



Prefectural information

Located south of the Tohoku region, 200 kilometres from Tokyo, Fukushima Prefecture is the third largest prefecture by area in Japan. It is broadly divided into three regions—the Abukuma Highlands in the east, the Echigo mountain range in the west, and the Ou mountain range in the middle, with each region having its own unique landscape, culture, and climate. There are so many ways in which you can to enjoy Fukushima. In the Aizu district, dotted with historical sites of the Aizu samurai clan, winter sports are popular because of the excellent quality of the snow, the central Nakadori region is overflowing with beautiful flowers and fresh fruit, and the Hamadori region facing the Pacific Ocean. Another couple of major attractions are the many varieties of hot springs that can be enjoyed throughout the Prefecture.




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