Road Trip on Chizu Kyuko Railway (Part 1)
Spots featured this week include a place dedicated to war commander Enshin Akamatsu, an eatery selling fluffy and creamy croquettes and a house where legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi grew up.
Our next two-day journey of enquiry and discovery takes place on Chizu Express’ Chizu Line. It connects three prefectures - Hyogo, Okayama and Tottori. The railway line has 14 stations and covers a total distance of 56.1km. We will travel from Kamigori Station in Hyogo Prefecture, pass through Okayama Prefecture and end our trip at Chizu Station in Tottori Prefecture. We buy a one-day pass before catching the 10.25am train at Kamigori Station. On the train, a passenger tells us about a butcher shop near Sayo Station which sells delicious handmade croquettes.
The train runs along the Chikusagawa river. We decide to first alight at Konohara-Enshin Station, two stops away from Kamigori Station. We have about 1.5 hours until our next train at 12.05pm. We start exploring the town and meet a lady harvesting vegetables in a field. She suggests we visit Enshinkan, which is dedicated to warrior Enshin Akamatsu. He was born in this area and was famous shogun Takauji Ashikaga's right-hand man. Enshin is seen as Kamigori’s hero who contributed to the establishment of the Muromachi shogunate government. Four statues of Enshin and his family are preserved and displayed at Enshinkan.
We head back to the station and travel to Sayo Station, 15 minutes away. We plan to take the 1.30pm train later. We go to a store in front of the station which is actually a co-working space for freelancers. One of them tells us about a popular dish of Sayo, grilled innards udon noodles. On the way to the restaurant called Fukumori Seinikuten, we actually find the butcher shop recommended to us earlier. The croquettes have not been fried yet so we place an advance order and tell the owner we will pick them up later.
We then continue walking to the grilled innards noodle restaurant. It attracts customers from other cities too. Innards from cows raised in the area are cooked with vegetables and noodles from a local noodle-making factory. A secret broth is added, after which the noodles are steamed. The dish comes with miso and soy sauce. The restaurant recommends mixing the sauces and adding citron and garlic to enhance the flavour.
After our meal, we go back to the butcher shop and pick up our croquettes. The croquettes have been popular since the store opened in 1963. Potatoes are mixed with milk and then crushed into a paste, resulting in a fluffy, runny and creamy texture. The croquettes are filled with lots of ingredients such as beef and onions.
Next, we head by train to Miyamoto Musashi, three stops away. The station is named after a legendary swordsman. A group of girls on the train recommends we visit Musashi’s house. The train leaves Hyogo Prefecture and enters Okayama Prefecture. We arrive at Miyamoto Musashi Station at 1.55pm. The first thing we notice is a statue of Musashi in front of the station.
We drop by a store to ask for directions to Musashi’s house. We finally manage to find the two-storey house where he was born in 1584 and where he grew up. The house is vacant so visitors can only look at the exterior. The house used to have a thatched roof but it got damaged in a fire during the early Showa period. The house was later rebuilt with tile roofing.
We also find out that many of the locals here start taking lessons in Kendo - a Japanese martial art - at a very young age. There is a training hall and a place called Musashi Budokan. During the spring and winter breaks, students would stay here for training. A resident suggests we check out a stadium specifically for Kendo. It was built in the year 2000 and many international Kendo matches are held here, attracting players from all over the world. The ceiling of the stadium is round and has been designed to resemble the hand guard of a sword. This martial arts stadium was built with the aim of making Musashi’s birthplace a Kendo capital.
We next head by the 3.15pm train to Awakura-Onsen Station, three stops away. We arrive at 3.30pm and ask a lady at the station to recommend an inn for the night. She mentions Awakura-sou, a resort hotel. We call the hotel and manage to book our rooms.
1) A popular dish of Sayo in Hyogo Prefecture is grilled innards udon noodles
2) Kendo fans should visit famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi’s birthplace in Okayama Prefecture
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