SHIRAKAWA, Fukushima -- A "ramen database" at the new tourist information center in this northeastern Japan city is helping visitors find their favorite bowls based on their preferred soup flavors and noodle types and even telling them how to get to local eateries.
The wooden two-storied Shirakawa City Tourist Information center, which opened on April 29, is located east of JR Shirakawa Station. One of its most popular features is the "Shirakawa Ramen Database," a touch-screen device that allows visitors to search for their favorite Shirakawa ramen restaurants. They can search for 41 ramen eateries in the city that match their preferences in terms of flavor, such as "normal" or "rich," soup stock, such as "pork bone" or "chicken bone," and spiciness.
Megumi Yashiro, 46, a "castle enthusiast" was visiting the center from the east Japan city of Utsunomiya. "I am suspicious of restaurants' online review sections, but this is convenient," she said. "I'd love them to make databases on gyoza dumplings and natural river fish such as char." She then headed for a ramen shop she found on the screen.
The tourist information center, with a total floor space of about 290 square meters, showcases a 1/1,000-scale diorama model of the city center, which still retains the street layout from approximately 400 years ago, providing a view of the area within a 10-minute walk. It also has a shop for local specialties, and a local sake tasting corner.
The center was built by the Shirakawa Municipal Government to promote the city's famous landmarks, including the restored Komine Castle, a national historic site that can also be seen from in front of the train station, and the ruins of the Shirakawa barrier, which used to be the gateway to the Michinoku region -- roughly overlapping the present-day Tohoku region. It is expected to serve as a base for communicating the attractiveness of the city.
Shirakawa Mayor Kazuo Suzuki said, "The city of Shirakawa offers hospitality to tourists. We hope that visitors will make use of this facility to start their trip."
The tourist information center is open between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. except for the year-end and New Year's holidays. For inquiries, call the facility at 0248-21-6347 (in Japanese).
(Japanese original by Taichi Nemoto, Koriyama Local Bureau)