Aizuwakamatsu is a fascinating place steeped in Japanese history. Also known as the Samurai City, Aizuwakamatsu brings out the big guns (literally!) for the Aizu Samurai Festival (会津祭り) held every year around September 21-23. The people of Aizu will take you back in time to the Shinsengumi, the White Tiger Brigade, and Niijima Yae, giving you a glimpse into what it was like to watch Japanese warriors ride down the roads on horses, proud and ready for battle.
The main event, the Aizu Clan Parade, takes place on Monday Sept. 23 (a public holiday), but there are many other events leading up to the big parade. Saturday, Sept. 21 will be the lantern parade down Shinmeidori (the main street of Aizuwakamatsu) starting at 6pm, followed by the Aizu Bandai Bon Dance. On Sunday Sept. 22, there will be a Drum and Fife Parade/Nisshinkan Children’s Parade from 10am – 12:30pm, with more Bon Dancing in the evening at 7pm. The main parade will begin Monday around 9:30am and festivities will last until 4pm.
The festival is centered around Tsuruga-jo, the local castle and one of the biggest castles in Tohoku. I’m sure many of you have seen pictures of this famous castle, or you might have even walked the grounds and gone inside, but the Aizu Festival offers a rare opportunity! You can get a tour of Tsuruga-jo COMPLETELY IN ENGLISH! Volunteers from the Aizuwakamatsu International Association (including local ALTs!) will be giving tours of the castle in English for those who want to know more about the history that surrounds Tsuruga-jo and Aizu. If you’re interested, stop by the AWIA booth on the castle grounds on Monday to sign up. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and one that you shouldn’t pass up!
Aizu isn’t just limited to Tsuruga-jo though. Come and see Iimoriyama, Doctor Noguchi Street, Aizumura, and more! (I can go on and on, but I won’t.) So come out to Aizu and enjoy the samurai atmosphere that the locals are so proud of. Can’t you hear the delicious festival food already calling out to you?