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Kitakata, which is north of Aizuwakamatsu in the northwestern part of Fukushima.


Kitakata, which is north of Aizuwakamatsu in the northwestern part of Fukushima, derives its name from its location: kita is the Japanese word for "north" and kata the word for "direction." It has long been known as a center of sake rice wine and miso (soy bean-paste) production, and it once produced such an abundance that it was called "Kitakata Hachiman-goku," (a goku is a measure of consumable materials and hachiman-goku (80,000 goku) is equivalent to over 14,000 tons) and many storehouses were built there. Today, about 4,100 storehouses still exist in the city and some of them are now being used in different ways, such as for a museum, an art gallery, and a restaurant.

The city extends northward from JR Kitakata Station. Most of the sites of interest to visitors are concentrated in a relatively small area, so they can be reached easily on foot or by rented bicycles. Visitors can also take a 90- minute sightseeing tour by horse-drawn carriage.

As well as being known for its storehouses, Kitakata is famous for ramen noodles, which are said to have been introduced to the area long ago by young Chinese venders who sold them from open-air stalls. Kitakata ramen noodles are characterized by its curly noodles and rich soy sauce-based soup, but the noodle at each restaurant has a different flavor and color. Currently, there are over 100 ramen noodle restaurants in the city, and there is fierce competition among them, with each restaurant trying to serve even more delicious ramen noodles than the other.

Lacquerware and Paulownia woodwork represent another popular aspect of Kitakata. The city is home to the Aizu Lacquer Art Museum, where visitors can see Aizu lacquer craftwork and artwork and a lacquer- painted Japanese-style room, the Paulownia Museum, and the Aizu Paulownia Craft Museum, where visitors can see how 'geta' (clogs), furniture, and other items are made. In summer, Kitakata holds an energetic Kitakata Summer Festival that includes a fireworks display and Aizu-Kitakata- Shosuke-odori Dance, as well as an Aizu-Kitakata- daiko drum performance and the Kyodo-Geino Festival showcasing various forms of entertainment.