Shirakawa city is located in southern part of the Nakadori region of Fukushima prefecture. It is about 188 kms from Tokyo and is close to the Nasu highland area. Its location gives the city a cool climate and beautiful nature. The city has been an important part of the history, having been the site of one of the biggest battles during the Boshin War of 1868.
Along with Nakoso near Iwaki city and Nesu, Shirakawa once served as an entrance to the Tohoku region. As such Shirakawa , once served as one of Tohoku’s important checkpoints.Around 5th century, a barrier was built to protect potential attacks. Today the place remains as a reminder of the past and is a popular place among visitors.
It is now known as Shirakawa Sekinomori Park. This was the first place that we visited in Shirakawa city.
The park consists of a big open ground, trees and trails, a playground and some “Visual houses”.
A long slide is the attraction of the play area, tempting even some adults to try it.
Small food joints serving freshly made soba are popular among visitors to the Sekinomori park.
We then drove to the Nanko park which is about 9 kms from the Sekinomori Park. This park is considered to be the oldest Japanese style park. It was built by Sadanobu Matsudaira, a lord , gardener and tea master.
The park covers a wide expanse lined by cherry, maple and pine trees.
A walking path along the Oike lake offers a good view.
The sunlight around dusk provided a golden hue to the lake, making it picturesque.
It is said that Nanko park’s look is transformed with every season. The Nanko Shrine stands in one corner of the Nanko park.
This shrine was built in 1922 and enshrines Sadanobu Matsudaira, the person who built the Nanko pak.
The Suirakuen garden is located closeby. This is a Japanese style garden and houses a Japanese style tea house called “Shusui-an”.
When we visited Nanko park, it was the peak of autumn and the autumn foliage was at it best.
We then drove to the Komine castle which is a short drive from Nanko park. The castle once served as an important part of history and is said to have been a home to seven clans. It dates back to 1340 when it was first built. It was rebuilt in Teikaku style in 1632. It was destroyed in 1868 during the Boshin war, only to be rebuilt in 1991.
The castle has been a symbol of Shirakawa city ever since. In the March 11th Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, the castle was destroyed again. When we visited, the restoration work was in progress and as such we could not enter the castle. The restoration work is expected to be completed by mid December 2011 when the castle will be opened to public again. We visited the Shirakawa Shuko-en gallery which stands on the castle grounds.
Various exhibits are on display here.
Shirakawa city is famous for many things. Apart from the part it has played in history, it has been a big contributor to Japanese culture and cuisine. The Daruma dolls of Shirakawa are famous for their unique style. The Shirakawa Daruma dolls are made without eyes. When wishes are fulfilled, people draw the eyes.
Soba, buckwheat noodles are a popular type of noodles in Japan. This noodle is consumed especially during the winter as it is believed to help endure the cold weather. Shirakawa is one of the four major Soba cities in Japan, the others being Morioka, Izumo and Shinshu.
Each soba shop has its unique style and way of making soba. The Shirakawa Ramen is also popular for the crunchy handmade noodles which are used in the dish.
Hundreds of noodle shops in Shirakawa vouch for the city’s unique Soba and Ramen culture. Nanko Dango, a local style of dumpling is a famous confectionary from Shirakawa.
Fukushima airport is about a 30 min drive from the city.
Shirakawa Sekinomori Park:
Entrance : Free
Nanko Park (Suirakuen): 0248-23-6888
Entrance to Nanko Park: Free
Entrance to Suirakuen Garden: Adult 310 yen and Students: 150 yen.
Timings: 9:00-17:00 . Closed on 2nd Wednesday of each month.
Shirakawa Komine Castle:
Entrance: Adults 310 yen, Children 100 yen.
Timings: 9:00-16:30. Closed on Mondays.