Road Trip on Amagi Line (Part 2)
A bakery selling "cute" cakes, a factory which produces roasted pork ramen cup noodles and a beautiful temple which is also called a lovers' sanctuary are among the places we visit this week.
Our two-day journey along Amagi Railway’s Amagi Line continues. The local line runs from Fukuoka Prefecture to Saga Prefecture. On the first day, we are unable to find a hotel near Imaguma Station in Fukuoka. But a resident invites us to his family’s weaving workshop and gallery. After graduating from a specialised weaving school in Tokyo, his wife started spinning yarn. Since then, she has been creating high-quality clothes and tapestries. For example, a tunic made by her sells for 75,000 yen, whereas a cardigan costs 58,000 yen. On the second floor of her workshop is a classroom, where she conducts weaving classes. Her students are housewives and working women, some of whom come from other prefectures.
She offers to drive us to Hanatateyama Onsen, where she recommends we spend the night. A 10-minute drive away, it is located on top of a mountain. Hanatateyama Onsen opened in 2014 and it is popular among the locals for its alkaline hot spring. A night’s stay with breakfast costs 5,600 yen. Each room comes with a private bath. After soaking in the relaxing hot spring bath, we have dinner at the Kiraku restaurant in the hotel. It offers a great view of the mountains.
The next morning, the hotel’s car takes us to Imaguma Station. We ask the hotel staff to recommend a place near our next stop, Matsuzaki Station. We are told to try the noodles at a restaurant called Taiho Ramen. We catch the 9.55am train and head to Matsuzaki. We walk around while waiting for Taiho Ramen to open at 11am. We go to a pond we had seen from the train. It is used for farming and also attracts different types of wild birds.
At Taiho Ramen, we order the recommended Mukashi ramen. Its Kurume ramen is considered to be the original pork bone ramen. Taiho first opened in 1953 as a food stand in the city of Kurume. Its special soup has been passed down for generations since then. Lard, pork rib meat and homemade bamboo shoots are added to the soup.
Later, from Matsuzaki Station, we head to Oitai Station by the 12.05pm train. The locals here, however, tell us there is nothing famous in the area. So we decide to advance to the next station, Ogori. Here, we drop by an optical store. The owner suggests we go to Patisserie Mignon. A small family-owned bakery, it is well known for its cute cakes. We buy a cheese tart with heart-shaped strawberries and a Mont Blanc cake, which uses three types of French chestnuts. We are also given a pudding and cream puff for free.
We ask the bakery owner to suggest a place near the next station, Tateno. He mentions Sanpo Foods, which produces roasted pork ramen cup noodles. We hop on the 2.05pm train and go to Tateno Station. This time, we travel on the Cosmos train again. The train leaves Fukuoka Prefecture and enters Saga Prefecture. We arrive at Tateno Station at 2.10pm.
The Sanpo Foods factory is located in front of the station. Its famous roasted pork ramen has a history of 40 years. It is also known for its pork bone soup and heart-shaped roasted pork. Besides roasted pork ramen, the factory also produces 20 other types of cup noodles. We are given special permission to enter the factory and see the manufacturing process. First, the dough is mixed with flour. It is then spread out on a sheet to make noodles which are just one millimetre thick. A rotating blade cuts the sheet of dough into noodles, which are then curled and steamed. After this, the noodles are deep-fried. Once the noodles are done, they are put in a container with other ingredients and packaged. They are then packed in boxes and shipped out. Each day, 130,000 servings of noodles are produced at this factory.
Next, we take an orange retro-style train to the last station along Amagi Line, Kiyama. A local at the station tells us to visit the Daikozenji Temple, which is known for its azaleas and autumn leaves. However, it is an hour away by foot as it located on a mountain. We decide to walk around to see if there is a bus going there. A resident we come across offers to drive us there. Once we arrive, we have to climb up 127 steps before reaching the temple grounds.
Daikozenji is believed to have been constructed during the Nara period. A fire once broke out here but the main temple building was left intact. In spring, 50,000 azaleas bloom here, creating a magnificent landscape. It is equally beautiful in autumn and the best time to see the colourful leaves is from mid-November till early December.
We speak to a priest at the temple who tells us about a mountain behind the temple, Chigiriyama. It is 400m high and is believed to be the place where a deity met a girl from the village and married her. Thus, the temple has been known as a lovers' sanctuary and it is now a popular spot for marriage proposals.
1) Patisserie Mignon near Ogori Station is known for its cute and delicate cakes
2) The scenic Daikozenji Temple is a popular spot for marriage proposals