“Roadside stations,” or michi no eki, are centers in Japan where you can find local agricultural products and restaurants serving up regional fare. For Japanese drivers, these areas serve as both a local tourism spot and a place to relax.
You can find michi no eki all across the country that provide a peek into local Japanese culture, but one center located in Yamagata Prefecture is rumored to make visitors feel right at home in Korea.
Not knowing if the rumor was true or why, one of our Japanese reporters felt compelled to see the center for himself and embarked on a trip up north that led him to Tozawa Village.
After a two-hour drive from Yamagata Airport, our reporter reached the Michi no Eki Tozawa, where the kimchi and ramen flags flying outside immediately grabbed his attention. No doubt about it, the building definitely has a Korean look to it!
At some point this building was apparently named the Momokami no Sato Korea House. Tozawa Village then became known as a place fostering Japanese-Korean friendship and a michi no eki sprang up around it. Additionally in the past, the village recruited Korean women to fill a shortage of brides, and it seems like even today the area still boasts a large population of Korean women.
The second floor doesn’t house any local Yamagata souvenirs, but instead you’ll find Korean celebrity merchandise along with Korean food and snacks. Its selection rivals many of the Korean stores found in Tokyo’s Shin Okubo .
Although the village does have locally made Tozawa cold noodles, somewhere around 95 percent of the items offered up for sale are Korean.
However, as the village is designated as a local roadside rest and regional development facility, we have to wonder if it’s okay not to have any local items indigenous to the Tozawa area itself on display. if you get a craving for Korean food while driving through Japan’s Tohoku area, though, or are a Korean culture enthusiast, this could be the perfect spot to grab a bite and explore.
[ Read in Japanese ]