Ouchijuku, a historic little charming village in Fukushima prefecture, is the perfect destination to combine your snowy adventure with a spot of time travelling back to the Edo period (1603-1868). The former shukuba, a post station for travellers to rest along their journey, is located along the former Aizu-Nishi Kaido trade route which used to connect Aizu with Nikko in Tochigi prefecture.
The scenic attraction with its quaint little shops, restaurants, cafés and minshuku (traditional Japanese inn) is especially worth visiting in winter, when the thatched-roof houses are blanketed in thick layers of white snow. Plus, on the second weekend of February (8-9), locals celebrate the annual Snow Festival with handmade snow lanterns and igloos lining the main road.
In the day during the festival, you can enjoy taiko drum performances, join in a period costume contest, participate in a soba noodle-eating competition (at Ouchijuku you eat the local speciality with a leek instead of chopsticks), and fuel up on free amazake (non-alcoholic sweet drink made from fermented rice) and meat stew. Come nightfall, fireworks colour the clear winter sky. For the ultimate photo op, climb up the stairs at the end of the main road that leads to the Shoho-ji temple. From here you’ll have a splendid panoramic view of Ouchijuku.
Ouchijuku is about 3.5 hours from Tokyo. Travel from Tokyo Station to Koriyama Station via the JR Tohoku Shinkansen, and then change to the JR Ban-Etsusai line and alight at Aizu-Wakamatsu Station. Here, get on the local Tadami line for Yunokamionsen Station, from which Ouchijuku is a 15-minute taxi ride away.