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Japan Hour

Local Bus Trip In Ibaraki, Tochigi And Fukushima Prefectures - Part 2

A steak restaurant serving Tochigi Wagyu beef and a modern Japanese-style inn with a natural hot spring are among the places featured during the "tag" game between the Tagawa and Matsumoto teams.

Team Tagawa and Team Matsumoto continue their bus transfer race across three prefectures while playing “tag”. From Hitachi-Daigo Station in Ibaraki Prefecture, both teams are taking separate buses to Morinomae near the prefectural border to Tochigi Prefecture. Team Tagawa, the “fleeing” team, reaches Morinomae first and then takes a taxi towards the Unganji bus stop in Tochigi. Their taxi money is not enough so they alight at the end of a tunnel when the fare reaches 2,000 yen and then walk 2.5km to Unganji. 

Team Matsumoto, the "it" team, arrives at Hitachi-Daigo Station and finds a treasure chest. It contains 2,000 yen which can be spent on taxis. They then catch the bus to Morinomae and travel by taxi to cross the prefectural border. After alighting from the taxi, they run to the nearest bus stop, which is 1.2km away. They then board the 3.40pm bus going towards Nasukogen. 

Team Tagawa walks to the bus stop and decides to hide in case Team Matsumoto is on the bus which is arriving at 3.45pm. They see that the other team is not on the bus so they can make their way to the third checkpoint, Watanabe Farm. 

Team Matsumoto arrives at Nasukogen and then transfers to the Nasushiobara-bound bus at 4.20pm. They make enquiries about going to Iguchi Kogyo Danchi Iriguchi, the nearest bus stop to the checkpoint. They find out that they will arrive at Nasushiobara Station around the same time the bus bound for Iguchi Kogyo Danchi Iriguchi leaves at 5.20pm.

Team Tagawa reaches Nasushiobara Station and must wait for half an hour for the 5.20pm bus to Iguchi Kogyo Danchi Iriguchi. Team Matsumoto also arrives at Nasushiobara Station and runs to catch Team Tagawa to “tag” them and switch places. However, they fail to do so.

Team Tagawa successfully gets away from Team Matsumoto and is on their way to Iguchi Kogyo Danchi Iriguchi. They arrive at the bus stop and go to Watanabe Farm, a steak restaurant which serves Tochigi Wagyu beef. The mission is to correctly answer a few questions related to Tochigi while enjoying Wagyu beef dishes. They can eat one dish for every correct answer and the mission is complete when three consecutive questions are answered correctly within one minute each. For example, they correctly guess that Tochigi Prefecture is the top producer of Tochiotome strawberries and that Utsunomiya Station has a gyoza statue. After completing the mission, the team wins 2,000 yen for taxi rides. The teams are told that the fourth checkpoint is Kakuraku, near Kuroiso Station, and the nearest bus stop is Iki-iki Fureai Centre-mae. 

Team Tagawa takes the 6.30pm bus from Iguchi Kogyo Danchi Iriguchi to the nearest bus stop of the checkpoint. Meanwhile, Team Matsumoto catches the 6.35pm bus from Nasushiobara Station to Bansuikyo near the checkpoint. They manage to reach Kakuraku first and get to “tag” Team Tagawa when they arrive. Now the teams switch roles and Team Matsumoto becomes the “fleeing” team. They thus get to do the mission at the fourth checkpoint, Kansuien Kakuraku. Serving seasonal dishes using locally grown vegetables and Tochigi Wagyu beef, it is a modern Japanese-style inn with a 100 per cent natural hot spring from the inn’s private source. For the mission, the team leader must soak in the hot spring, while guessing what three things the other two team members are drawing. The team completes the mission at around 7.45pm and wins 2,000 yen in taxi money.

The fifth checkpoint is Taiko no Bo in Shirakawa City. It is about 22km away and both teams must cross the prefectural border from Tochigi to Fukushima Prefecture. The route, surrounded by mountains, is difficult with few buses. This time, there are two treasure chests with money for taxi rides inside. One is at Kurodahara Station in Nasu Town, Tochigi Prefecture, while the other is at the Kutsuishi bus stop.

Team Tagawa, the “it” team, gathers information during the waiting time imposed after being tagged. They find out that to go to Fukushima Prefecture, they should take a bus to Oiwake, near the prefectural border. It is the same bus route as the one to Kutsuishi, which is one stop before Oiwake.

The first day of the race ends at 8pm. The next morning, Team Matsumoto will start at 7am, while Team Tagawa, the “it” team, can only start after the remaining waiting time is completed. 

At 7am on the second day, Team Matsumoto, the “fleeing” team, wants to first go towards Kutsuishi. But they are unable to find the bus stop to take the town bus. So they decide to catch a Nasuyumoto-bound bus leaving at 7.20am and then transfer buses at Ikkenchaya to go to Kurodahara Station, where the treasure chest is. They can then ride a taxi to pass the prefectural border and enter Fukushima Prefecture.

Team Tagawa starts the second day from Kakuraku at about 7.35am. They choose to give up on the treasure chest at Kurodahara Station and go for the one at Kutsuishi instead. They take the 7.55am bus from the Bansuikyo bus stop and head towards Oiwake. They alight at Kutsuishi and manage to find the treasure chest, which has 1,000 yen inside. The team spends 2,800 yen to cross the prefectural border by taxi and reaches Shirakawa no Seki in Fukushima Prefecture. However, there is no bus until the evening so they opt to walk about 9.2km to the fifth checkpoint, Taiko no Bo.

Team Matsumoto reaches the Ikkenchaya bus stop at 7.55am and finds out the bus to Kurodahara Station is only at 10.20am. So they visit a store to have buckwheat noodles for breakfast. They then take the bus to Kurodahara Station and reach at 10.40am. The team finds the treasure chest and this one has 3,000 yen inside. They now have 5,000 yen in total to spend on taxis. So they take a taxi to cross the border to Fukushima Prefecture and head towards Shirakawa Station. 


1)    Strawberries are a must-try item when visiting Tochigi Prefecture
2)    Check out the gyoza statue at Utsunomiya Station

Source: CNA


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