Ouchijuku: A Quiet, Snowy Village in Japan

By Abi King | Asia

Feb 03

 (Abigail King)

Ouchijuku Village, Japan

For some reason, these photos look calm. Yet in reality, a blizzard raged and the muted glow of the snow-plough’s headlights provided just enough light to let me capture this scene: fragile, snow-cloaked candles beneath an otherwise relentless black sky. Sleet assaulted our eyes, abraded our cheeks and hounded our cameras, while our voices had long since been swept away.

Snowfall in a thatched village in Japan

This street, a beautifully preserved row of thatched cottages from Japan’s Edo Period, is only 300 metres long.

Walking it under these conditions, felt like 300 years. Which is handy, really, since that’s roughly how old the place is.

Ouchijuku Village used to be an important staging post on the route between Imaichi and Aizu Wakamatsu. Over time, the world grew faster and its importance faded away. Yet it kept its character and today provides a delicious taste of traditional life in Japan.

As does this photo of a woman waiting for us as we arrived at our hotel. Total and utter dedication. And possibly frostbite. I shiver at the thought.

 (Abigail King)

Disclosure: I visited Japan in 2011 as a guest of the tourist board. As ever, I have complete editorial freedom.



About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com

Terumi February 3, 2012

Wow-this must have been amazing. You have phenomenal photos, but it does look a bit cold;)

    Abi King February 4, 2012

    I only wish I’d managed to get a few more…But the sleet and snow kept getting in the way! The village is incredible, though…

Lisa February 4, 2012

The photos are beautiful! It looks so cold – that young woman must be freezing as she is hardly bundled up for the snow!

    Abi King February 4, 2012

    I still feel cold just looking at her. All in the name of hospitality…Brrrrrrrr! and rrrr for luck!

Sonja February 4, 2012

It’s funny, but I hardly ever imagine Japan with snow. Just seems like a warm place to me, but of course it isn’t always (or everywhere) there.

    Abi King February 4, 2012

    I used to think the same…Perhaps because we see so many more pictures of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto. Yet the country spreads over several climates…From these snowy parts in northern Honshu to the tropical islands of Okinawa in the south (have a sneaky peek at http://www.insidethetravellab.com/tag/okinawa/ if you want to warm yourself up!)

dtravelsround February 5, 2012

The more I read about Japan, the more I want to go! I just got back from skiing, and for me, even being in the snow like that, was cold. This looks absolutely freezing!

    Abi King February 5, 2012

    Oh, I absolutely love Japan. Such an interesting place. Usually, as long as I have the right (reinforced!) equipment on I’m fine in the cold… I think it was the wind that really chilled us down to the bones. Still, at least I managed to wear more than the girl who had to wait for us…Brrr! Hope you enjoyed skiing…

Marina K. Villatoro February 7, 2012

Whenever I read articles about Japan they have pictures of Gorgeous gardens. It was great to see beautiful photos of it when it snows.

I also love how well preserved the town looks.

    Abi King April 15, 2012

    Yes, it’s a country that pays a lot of attention to presentation and detail.

Mike February 21, 2012

Beautiful picture! Did you try the soba noodles you eat with a green onion for a chop stick while you were their?

    Abi King April 15, 2012

    No, but I wish I had! I had something that looked suspiciously like a testicle that I had to cook myself over a kind of bunsen burner…Your suggestion sounds better!

Katie Martin April 5, 2012

I don’t know a lot about Japan, but I can imagine it is very beautiful in its tranquility and simplicity. This town seems to give off such an old world feeling. It seems that visitors could either feel very accepted or very separated from this place, depending on the attitude you come in with. The woman in the picture is so beautiful, and brave to be wearing so little in the snow! Do the cottages stay very warm in that cold climate?

    Abi King April 15, 2012

    Yes, the houses were deliciously warm. I tend to feel the cold easily but that wasn’t a problem indoors in Tohoku. On top of the good central heating, there are also plenty of volcanic springs or onsen to bathe in…They really warm you up and it is so atmospheric to soak in scalding water while snowflakes fall around you. Wonderful.

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