Shared room in the Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

To My Guesthouse

To My Guesthouse In Aizu-Wakamatsu

Guesthouses at

I had traveled by Shinkansen from Tōkyō to Kōriyama, then on the Ban-Etsusai Line through five other stops to Aizu-Wakamatsu.

I had reserved a room at Mooi Guesthouse through, so it was time to make my way there from the station.

It was a very nice place to stay and it was conveniently located, about twenty minutes' walk from the station. I realized later that I could have saved a kilometer's trek by waiting a short time for a local train from the main Aizu-Wakamatsu Station to Nanukamachi-eki, the small unstaffed station on Nanuka-machi dori, Nanukamachi Street, a short distance from the guesthouse. However, that would have bypassed the extremely helpful Tourist Information Center in the main station's lobby.

Akabeko at the Station

It worked out well that I walked to the guesthouse from the main station, instead of staying within the station to take a local train to the small station near my guesthouse.

I noticed the Tourist Information Center just off the main lobby in the station and visited it when I first arrived. They were very helpful, giving me two local maps, a map of the Mount Bandai area, bus and train schedules, and further information. I also bought a two-day pass good on all regional trains and buses, and verified some schedules since this was the beginning of the major holiday period of Golden Week, Japan's biggest holiday period.

Aizu-Wakamatsu Station entrance.

A statue of the legendary cow Akabeko stands outside the main station entrance.

The monk Tokuichi was supervising the construction of the Enzō-ji temple in Yanaizu, a town 18 kilometers west of here, in 807 CE.

The legend is that Akabeko, whose name means "Red Cow", became quite obstinate about remaining inside the temple. When the temple was finished, the monks simply could not get Akabeko out of the temple. Akabeko became the permanent temple cow, and became a symbol of zealous devotion to the Buddha. Some versions of the legend say that Akabeko surrendered her spirit to the Buddha and turned to stone.

Akabeko statue at Aizu-Wakamatsu Station entrance.

Warlords called the shōgun ruled Japan from 1185 until 1868. The Emperor was believed to be directly descended from the gods and therefore stayed in Kyōto and carried out various Shintō rituals, while the warlords ran things.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a samurai and daimyō. He became a high-ranking advisor of Oda Nobunaga, then the effective ruler of much of Japan. One of Nobunaga's generals attempted to assassinate Nobunaga in the Honnō-ji Incident in 1582. It was an unsuccessful assassination, but its nature of betrayal led both Nobunaga and his heir to perform seppuku or ritual suicide.

Hideyoshi's young son was unable to hold onto power and Tokugawa Ieyasu was declared shōgun in 1603, beginning the Tokugawa shōgunate that lasted until 1868.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control, and became the effective ruler of much of Japan by the mid 1580s. However, he never reached the level of being proclaimed the shōgun.

Hideyoshi sent Gamō Ujisato to be the daimyō or warlord controlling Aizu in 1590. The Aizu domain was along the northeastern edge of the territory controlled first by Nobunaga and then by Hideyoshi.

Ujisato heard stories about Akabeko, and directed his court artisans to create what may have been the world's first bobblehead doll. The same design remains the same, papier-mâché finished with paint and then lacquer. The head and neck are hung by a cord within the opening at the front of the body. When the doll is moved, the head wobbles up and down and side to side.

The large Akabeko figure at the train station is built the same way with a fiberglass body and a wobbling head.

It's more than the search for kawaii, although some of the small Akabeko charms and figurines are certainly kawaii. People came to believe that an Akabeko figure would ward off smallpox and other diseases. Red amulets were already believed to be effective against smallpox. Then the people around Aizu began to believe that they were noticing a trend in which children who owned Akabeko figures did not catch smallpox.

Some belief in red Akabeko figurines as disease-preventing charms continues today.

A capsule machine at the station sold Akabeko figures. Maybe you should get one just to be safe.

Capsule Station selling capsules with Akabeko figures, at the Aizu-Wakamatsu Station.

From the Station to My Guesthouse

I headed south from the station with a useful supply of maps, transportation schedules, and traditional smallpox-prevention tips. South to the intersection with the cemetery monument company on the narrow point, then down the street to the right.

Street from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station to Mooi Guesthouse.

I crossed Nanukamachi-dori and continued to the third street beyond that. Turning to the right, I was looking down the street to my guesthouse.

This is Japan, there might be a railing next to the sheer drop at the intersection, but continuing down the street it's the responsibility of the pedestrian or driver to not fall into the drainage channel. But almost no one does.

Street leading to Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu, near Nanukamachi-dori, a historic street.

During four weeks in Japan, I didn't see a single car with a broken taillight, dysfunctional headlight, damaged body panel, or other visible damage. Back home in the U.S., many of the cars I see daily have obvious unrepaired damage.

At the Guesthouse

Guesthouses at

I had reserved a room at Mooi Guesthouse through Their app's built-in map function provides vague directions, but it ties into Google Maps. If all else fails, the booking record includes GPS coordinates — in this case, N 37° 29.869', E 139° 55.278'. It's three streets south of Nanuka-machi-dori. three streets to the east of Nanuka-machi Station. The sign is subtle.

Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu, near Nanukamachi-dori, a historic street.

I asked about the name "Mooi". I was thinking that it was because that was what Akabeko says. No, the Japanese say that the cow says モーモー or something close to "moh-moh". "Mooi" is a Dutch name, my innkeeper had studied in Amsterdam.

Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu, near Nanukamachi-dori, a historic street.
Shoes left at the entry to Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

As usual, leave your shoes at the outer door.

I had a private room with a futon on a tatami mat.

My room at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.
Hallway from my room to the toilet at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

The shared bathroom was just down the hall.

The large shared room had a kitchen in one corner. These pictures are deserted because I took them around 0630 in the morning. I was the only person up at the time, still waking up early because I had crossed ten time zones from Chicago to Tōkyō only two days before.

Shared living room at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

There was great Wi-Fi connectivity and comfortable seating.

Shared living room at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

The shower and laundry room was off to the side.

Shower and laundry room at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.
Sink at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

The main electrical panel was beside the staircase leading to the upstairs rooms. I was struck by the building having a 30 amp main circuit breaker. Japanese electrical power is 100 volts AC, so that means 3 kilowatts for the entire place. Appliances in Japan are designed to not need large amounts of electrical power.

Electrical circuit breaker panel at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

The plug standards are NEMA 1 and NEMA 5 in the U.S. and JIS C 8303 in Japan.

U.S. and Japanese plugs and sockets are not exactly the same, but they're close enough that you can simply use a U.S. power cord in Japan, and vice-versa. The blades on Japanese plugs are very slightly shorter.

I wouldn't expect you to carry any electrical equipment that doesn't have a switched-mode power supply — You will definitely have smart-phone chargers, maybe a laptop computer, and possibly a chargeable razor. All those have switching power supplies, which accept a broad range of voltages and frequencies. Japan uses 100 V AC at either 50 or 60 Hz (NE vs SW of Tōkyō), the U.S. uses 120 V AC at 60 Hz, and those are trivially different to a switched-mode supply.

The one source of possible trouble with electricity is that Japanese outlets are all polarized (one blade slightly wider than the other), but only a few are grounded with a third pin. I needed a grounded-to-ungrounded adapter for my laptop, and I had forgotten about this since my last visit. No real problem, I had a full day in Tōkyō at the start of the trip and had planned to go to Akihabara anyway. I bought one there.

Electrical outlet and hot water heater control at Mooi Guesthouse in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Making Plans

The map of the area around Bandai-San was pretty straightforward.

Map of Mount Bandai area.

The bus and train schedules, however, were overwhelming. Other than route numbers and times, they were almost entirely kanji, very little of the phonetic hiragana characters. I had only just barely kept track of which schedule was for the bus and which was for the train. Yes, read down a column to follow one run, but what are the stops?

Train schedule for the Aizu-Wakamatsu and Mount Bandai area.
Bus schedules for the Aizu-Wakamatsu and Mount Bandai area.

As soon as I got settled in, I went into the shared room and talked to my innkeeper. He helped me to label a few of the columns and rows. The first of these is the Banetsu West Line train schedule.

In the column topped "220D", I would take the 0735–0805 train from the main Aizu-Wakamatsu Station to Inawashiro. That's train 1226M. I could have boarded train 222D at the nearby Nanukamachi-dori station at 0716 and ridden about four minutes to the main station, but I wasn't confident enough this early in the trip. I just walked the twenty minutes to the main station. I was in Japan, there was plenty to see along the way.

Scan of annotated train schedule for the Aizu-Wakamatsu and Mount Bandai area.

Then, the bus schedule. See the left-most column in the upper (east-bound) table. I would arrive on the train at 0805, and take the bus leaving Inawashiro Station at 0815 and arriving at the west end of the Five-Colored Lakes trail at 0846. My innkeeper had recommended that I walk the trail from west to east, that was excellent advice! "Mus." marks the line with the stops at the art museum. I'll ride past it on the way there, and leave from there on the way back.

Scan of annotated bus schedule for the Aizu-Wakamatsu and Mount Bandai area.

Nearby Ramen

Katakana &

The NEO ramen shop along Nanuka-machi-dori was a short walk away. Great food, no English on the menu but we managed. I got dinner there on three of my four nights in Aizu-Wakamatsu. Here's tonkotsu ramen and gyoza. Both of those are Chinese names for Chinese dishes, so they tend to be written in katakana as ラーメン and ギヨーザ making them a little easier to find in a menu.

Until, that is, you arrive in a smaller and more traditional town, where they're in hiragana as らーめん and ぎよーざ.

Ramen at the NEO shop along Nanokamachi Street in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Sitting at the counter, there will be a water pitcher nearby. Also a small tray with oil with chili pepper and soy sauce.

Pepper, hot chili oil, soy sauce, and toothpicks at the NEO ramen shop along Nanokamachi Street in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Even the toothpicks are made with attention to detail in Japan.

Pepper, hot chili oil, soy sauce, and toothpicks at the NEO ramen shop along Nanokamachi Street in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

This is a different ramen choice on a different night.

Ramen and gyoza on another evening at the NEO ramen shop along Nanokamachi Street in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

This is Kitakata ramen, from the nearby town famous for its twisted noodles.

Twisted Kitakata style ramen at the NEO ramen shop along Nanokamachi Street in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

In the morning I left by train to Inawashiro Station then by bus to the Five-Colored Lakes. While there, I would also visit the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art and see some of its Salvador Dalí collection.

Next❯ To the Five-Colored Lakes

Other topics in Japan:

Prehistoric Yamato
Amazon 1839059796
Fodors Japan
Amazon 1640975438
Tōhoku region, northern Honshū — Nikkō, Aizu-Wakamatsu, Mount Bandai, Yamadera, Mount Haguro
Kansai region, central Honshū — Kyōto, Nara, Kōya-san, Ise, and Ōsaka
Inland Sea — Takamatsu, Naoshima and the art islands, Hiroshima
Kyūshū — Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Sakurajima, Oita, Mount Aso
Kantō region — Tōkyō and nearby
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