Fukushima Aizu with a twist.
By Mark Andrews
Tokyo Classified. Issue 344 27/10/2000
“Ah ramen” came Taka’s response after I mentioned Kitakata. To many Japanese this is the most famous thing in the area. However there is far more to the Aizu distirct of Fukushima prefecture than just noodles. Lying just two and a half hours away from Tokyo by shinkansen, it also makes a great long weekend break featuring mountains, colorful lakes, swamps, and a castle.
Kitakata is famous for two things: ramen and kura (traditional storehouses). As you leave the station it is the smell of ramen that initially hits you. With 120 noodle shops it seems as if every other shop that lines the main street is a restaurant and they all blatantly promote the do-it-yourself packs of ramen as omiyage (gifts). Wavy noodles, designed to catch more of the broth, are what distinguishes the town’s take on a national obsession. News of the noodles spread fast after the chairman of Mitsui visited the town in the 1980s. Having tried the wiggly noodles, he was quickly converted and went on to proselytise their virtue as a superior slurp.
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