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Otakijuku Abandoned Village – part 1

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廃村 大瀧宿 パート1

Otakijuku in autumnJust off of Route 13 between the cities of Fukushima and Yonezawa lies the village of Otakjuku. In the early 20th century, the main road between Fukushima and Yamagata used to pass through the village, and it was a convenient place for travelers to stop and get something to eat, or even spend the night. It was a small peaceful mountain village, and although it was never very wealthy, business was pretty good for a while. The population reached a peak of 266 in the 1930s. In a local history photo exhibit, I saw some pictures of it from the 1960s. They showed a road lined with houses and inns. However, even by that time, people had started leaving the village to find jobs in other places. In 1966 the highway was widened and rerouted around the village, and the road going through it became a dead-end. In 1979, Otakijuku was… I’m not sure what the correct word is. Maybe “decommissioned” or “disincorporated?” In 1979 it ceased to exist as a village. For a while, the former residents tried to revive it, advertising it as a traditional Japanese hotel and resort complex. They weren’t very successful, but even as late as 2000 a couple of the restaurants were still trying to make a go of it. Today, everything is closed and the population is zero. Otakajuku is very convenient to get to if you’re driving between Yonezawa and Fukushima. I go there one or two times a year to look around, and try to imagine the village as it used to be. These photos were taken over a period of 3-4 years, in spring, summer, and autumn.

Access Road 大瀧宿への脇道

There is a sign on Route 13 which tells you where to turn to go to Otakijuku. There is a nice wide spot in the road here, and if you don’t mind doing a little walking, it’s a good place to park. To walk from here to the far end of the village takes about 20 or 30 minutes, if you don’t stop anywhere. If you want to stop and look around, then of course it will take longer.



Buildings on route 13

At the turnoff on Route 13 is this group of buildings. What are they?


From the sign above the door, it looks like the one on the right used to be a restaurant or teahouse or something. As you can see, it’s a little difficult to go inside right now.


Teahouse  P1080808_640

Otakijuku was also famous for natural spring water. The water is still available here, for free, for anyone who wants it. Please help yourself! And while you’re waiting for your container to fill up, you can enjoy these Buddhist statues and ornaments.



After the group of buildings above, the road curves around and passes under the main highway (route 13). The road doesn’t receive much maintenance, but it’s still OK to drive on. In the right lane under the bridge there is a big hole in the road. It’s been there for years, and I don’t know if there are any plans to fix it or not.


After the underpass, we come to an open area and another group of buildings.


The Momiji restaurant is 280(?) meters ahead.

Off to the left, you can see this group of buildings (below). What were they used for? I don’t know.


Bridge Area 橋の周辺

This bridge is the main gateway for visitors to the village. Welcome to Otakijuku!


P1080262 I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back in time and have lunch at one of these restaurants.


Below is a view of the bridge and restaurants from the opposite direction.


The building on the left has a sign by the door that says “Open for business.”


“Open for business.” Really? The door is locked, and if you look in the window you can see some big holes in the ceiling.


Next we come to an inn where travelers can relax and spend the night. At least, that’s what I think this building was.



There is a group of small buildings behind the inn. Were they cabins for guests to stay in? The path leading to them has some holes and pieces of broken glass and rusty metal. If you want to see them, it’s best to go in April when the grass is short and you can see what you’re stepping on.

Here is what those small buildings looked like in April last year.


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The buildings have holes in the walls, and some of the windows have fallen off, so it’s easy to look inside. I wonder how long those books and magazines have been there.

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Let’s go back to the main road.

Looking down the road in front of the inn, you can see that there is not much traffic today.



When visiting a resort town like this, most people will need to use a restroom at some point. You may be wondering, “Are there any public toilets in Otakijuku?” Of course there are! Just keep walking down this road, and you’ll see a public restroom on your right.



It’s free and open to the public, although you may need to climb over a few things to get to the toilets!

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On the left side of the road, you can see this structure (below). Was it a hot spring bath or something?



Unfortunately the fire has fallen. It happened in early 2013, I think. Maybe due to the weight of the heavy snow in winter.


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  Let’s stop here and take a break. We’ll look at the rest of Otakijuku in part 2.


Written by hobara09

2015-03-31 at 10:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized