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Japan Hour

Local Bus Trip To Gunma Prefecture - Part 1

A morning market in Hakodate - a popular tourist destination which boasts 250 stores and attracts 1.5 million visitors each year for his high-quality seafood - is among the places visited this week.

This week, “fugitives” and “demons” will participate in a local route bus transfer race in Gunma Prefecture, while playing “tag”. The role of the “fugitives” is to run away from the “demons”. The “demons” must stop the “fugitives” and tag them by taking a photo of them to switch roles. The “fugitive” team will try not to get tagged while completing 10 missions at 10 different checkpoints. The team that reaches Takasaki City Hall, the finishing point, as “fugitives”, wins. The teams can only travel by bus or walk. However, the “demon” team can take a taxi once every two days. For every mission completed, the team will win 500 yen as taxi money. 

Team Tagawa and Team Matsumoto will start the tag game at 9am from the Murota branch office, a bus hub in Takasaki City. Team Tagawa will be the “fugitives” first, while Team Matsumoto will be the “demons” and have a one-hour delayed start. The first checkpoint is Tonyamachi Chuo Park. The nearest bus stop is Tonyamachi Centre Iriguchi and it is about 14km away from the Murota branch office. Team Tagawa first goes to the bus information centre. They are told to take the bus bound for Takasaki Station at 9.10am, transfer to a bus leaving for Aeon Mall Takasaki and then go to Tonyamachi Chuo Park. However, the team finds out that it will be faster to alight at the Tonyamachi Chuo bus stop instead of Tonyamachi Centre Iriguchi and then walk to the checkpoint. So they board the 9.10am bus bound for Takasaki Station. After making enquiries on the bus, they decide to get off at Motomachi Sanchome, five stops before Takasaki Station, and then transfer to the 10.20am bus heading to Aeon Mall. 

At 10.10am, Team Matsumoto leaves for Takasaki Station to get to Tonyamachi Chuo Park.

Team Tagawa takes the bus bound for Aeon Mall and alights at the Tonyamachi Chuo bus stop. They walk to Tonyamachi Chuo Park, which is about 200m away. At the park, they see Takamaru, a local mascot character of Takasaki Daruma. Takasaki City produces approximately 80 per cent of all the daruma dolls in Japan. The team’s mission is to find five Takasaki Daruma dolls hidden in different areas of the park. They complete the mission fast and win 500 yen. The opponent team is informed that Team Tagawa has completed the mission.

The second checkpoint is announced to both teams at the same time. They must now head to Yawarajuku Cafe in Misatomachi and the nearest bus stop is Renjakucho. There are two bus stops with the same name and Team Matsumoto alights at the wrong bus stop instead of the Renjakucho bus stop in Misatomachi. The distance between the two bus stops is nearly 11km. 

Team Tagawa takes the 11.25am bus from Tonyamachi Chuo and heads to the Misato branch office, near the checkpoint, via Aeon Mall. They find out that the bus they are on will become a Misato-bound bus when it reaches Aeon Mall. It will leave for Misato at 11.55am.

Team Matsumoto, meanwhile, discovers a bus route that goes directly to the Misato branch office, near the second checkpoint, Yawarajuku Cafe. From the wrong Renjakucho bus stop they alighted at earlier, they walk 700m to a bus stop called Motomachi Sanchome and then take a Misato-bound bus. They arrive at the Misato branch office first.

Team Tagawa reaches Aeon Mall and then leaves by the same bus to the Misato branch office at 11.55am. The “fugitives” arrive at Misato two minutes after Team Matsumoto, the “demons”. As a result, they are tagged by the “demons” who take a photo of them. Now the teams are switched, with Team Tagawa becoming the “demons” and Team Matsumoto taking on the role of the “fugitives”. It is now 12.15pm and Team Tagawa must wait for an hour before they can continue the race. 

Team Matsumoto walks to the Yawarajuku Cafe to do the mission as “fugitives”. It is located in a renovated old Taisho period folk house. The team’s mission is to eat everything on the menu. The items include coffee, tea and Japanese snacks such as perilla buns. They complete the mission and win 500 yen which they can use for taxis only when they are “demons”. 

The teams are told that the third checkpoint is Shibukawa Hachimangu in Shibukawa City. The nearest bus stop is called Hachimanmae. To gather information, Team Matsumoto heads back to the Misato branch office, where Team Tagawa members have been waiting to be “released”. Team Tagawa earlier found out they can take an Ikaho-bound bus leaving at 1.30pm to a bus stop called Jizogawara. From there, they can take a bus bound for Shibukawa Station. So Team Tagawa will take the west route via Ikaho to reach the third checkpoint.

Team Matsumoto, however, decides to take the east route. They will board a Takasaki-bound bus at 1.10pm, then transfer at Oiwake to go to Shibukawa. They arrive at Oiwake at 1.35pm and transfer to the 1.45pm bus bound for Shibukawa Station. 

Team Tagawa members, now the “demons”, take the Ikaho-bound bus 20 minutes after Team Matsumoto has left. They alight at Jizogawara, wait for half an hour and then hop on the bus leaving at 2.05pm. They get off at Irisawa, which is five minutes away from Shibukawa Hachimangu on foot. 

Team Matsumoto arrives at Shibukawa Station just as Team Tagawa reaches the Irisawa bus stop. The “fugitives” find a direct bus going to Shibukawa Hachimangu, while the “demons” are walking to the checkpoint. 

Team Tagawa arrives at the checkpoint first. Shibukawa Hachimangu, which was built during the Kamakura period, is one of the most famous shrines in Gunma Prefecture. It is known for a certain animal deity that is associated with winning. Only “fugitives” can take on the mission here. So Team Tagawa plans to tag Team Matsumoto at the entrance so that the teams can switch places and Team Tagawa can be eligible for the mission instead.

Team Matsumoto arrives at the bus stop by the checkpoint and soon gets tagged by the other team. Now, members of Team Tagawa are the “fugitives” and Team Matsumoto members become the “demons” and must wait for an hour. Team Tagawa can carry out the mission, which is to pray for victory to Kachigaeru - a frog-shaped stone - at Shibukawa Hachimangu. Team Tagawa finishes the mission and wins 500 yen again. They have completed two missions so far and won 1,000 yen.

The fourth checkpoint is La SCENE du REVE, a mysterious store in Maebashi City. The nearest bus stop is called Jido Bunka Centre and it is 18km away from Shibukawa Hachimangu. Team Tagawa plans to go to Shibukawa Station and then head in the direction of Maebashi from there.


Tips:

1)    Takasaki City is known for its daruma dolls
2)    Shibukawa Hachimangu is one of the most famous shrines in Gunma Prefecture

Source: CNA
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