Road Trip on Chizu Kyuko Railway (Part 2)
A roadside station selling Tottori's specialities, a pink station which is a "love spot" and a rich merchant's mansion which is now an important cultural property are places visited this week.
Our two-day journey along Chizu Express’ Chizu Line continues. On the first day, from Kamigori Station in Hyogo Prefecture, we manage to advance to Awakura-Onsen Station in Okayama Prefecture. We spend the night at Kokumin Shukusha Awakuraso. Former prime minister Naoto Kan has stayed at this lodge before. A room with two meals starts from 8,000 yen and the rooms come with a nice view of the mountain village and its surroundings.
Dinner is not provided so we ask the hotel staff for suggestions. We are told to check out either a buckwheat noodle shop called Ogonsen or the Awakuland roadside station where we can get a variety of dishes and local specialities. We decide on the second option. The roadside station has about 1,000 different kinds of local products. The store is filled with fresh agricultural products and handmade goods. For dinner, we order six dishes including deep-fried Daisen chicken, Tottori’s speciality tofu chikuwa, dumplings with boar meat and grilled landlocked salmon.
The next morning, for breakfast, we are served a Japanese-style set meal using local ingredients. Once again, we ask for recommendations. The staff tells us about the famous pink-coloured Koi (love)-Yamagata Station, which we decide to visit later. We take the 9.50am train from Awakura-Onsen Station and head to the next stop, Yamasato Station. The train leaves Okayama Prefecture and reaches Yamasato in Tottori Prefecture at 9.55am. The next train from here is two hours later.
Residents we speak to recommend we visit the former Yamasato Elementary School, a restaurant called Omusubi Kororin and a temple near Koi-Yamagata Station called Saikoji. We head to the site of the school, which was built in 1997 using local Chizu cedar. The school closed down in 2012 and the building was transformed into a community space, R373 Yamasato, for locals about four years ago. It is now used by local mums who make lunchboxes for elderly people living alone. Other activities such as concerts and English lessons are also held here. Furthermore, there are rooms for people to have tea together or enjoy a game of mahjong. After this, we visit Omusubi Kororin, where we have some coffee. The restaurant serves locally grown vegetables.
From Yamasato Station, we catch the 11.55am train to the Koi-Yamagata Station. We reach in five minutes and have until 2.20pm to explore the “love” station and the area. The unmanned station is full of hearts and other love-related symbols. On the platform, there is a bell which is believed to help love blossom, as well as votive pictures to pray for success in love. The station was supposed to be named Inaba-Yamagata but it was changed to Koi-Yamagata following residents’ feedback. About five years ago, everything at the station was painted in pink, from the name board to the trash bin. People then started associating the station with love and it became famous. This “love spot” attracts visitors from all over Japan.
We then walk to Saikoji Temple. During the Kamakura period, Emperor Go-Daigo who was exiled to Okinoshima Island supposedly stayed here on his way back to Kyoto. One of his great supporters was the leading figure of the Muromachi government, Enshin Akamatsu, who we heard about on the first day of our trip. We visit the main temple building, where we talk to some people. We tell them we are heading to the goal of our two-day journey, Chizu Station, after this. A lady recommends two eateries in that area - a ramen shop, Tokkotokoro, and Tanoshi, an Italian restaurant. We make our way back to Koi-Yamagata Station and travel by train to the last stop along Chizu Line, Chizu Station. The train ride takes about five minutes. When we reach the Tokkotokoro ramen shop, we find out that it closes at 2pm.
We then drop by a dry cleaning store to enquire about more famous spots. The owner mentions the Ishitani Residence, the house of a wealthy merchant which is now an important cultural property. On the way to the place, we pass by the Italian restaurant Tanoshi. It is located in a 136-year-old house which was renovated. It features speciality dishes made from locally produced ingredients. Examples are spaghetti bolognese with deer meat from Chizu and homegrown maitake mushrooms, and ajillo with garlic oil, shrimp and maitake mushrooms. We also order soy milk cream pasta with Chinese cabbage and sausage.
We end our trip by going to the Ishitani Residence. The impressive mansion was constructed between the Edo and Showa periods. The house boasts a fusion of various aesthetics styles and is a great example of Japanese architecture at its finest.
1) Visit the Awakuland roadside station near Awakura-Onsen Station to try Tottori’s specialities
2) The Ishitani Residence is a must-visit spot when sightseeing in Chizu
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