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Japan Hour

Road Trip on Dosan Line (Part 2)

Our two-day journey on the JR Dosan Line - which runs through the prefectures of Kochi, Tokushima and Kagawa - continues. On the first day, we check into the Sunriver Oboke and stay in a railway-themed room. 

Our two-day journey on the JR Dosan Line - which runs through the prefectures of Kochi, Tokushima and Kagawa - continues. On the first day, we check into the Sunriver Oboke and stay in a railway-themed room. It was especially created about five years ago for railway fans. The interior resembles a train car and has several items related to trains. These include chairs, destination plaques, a diorama of a model of the old Dosan Line and timetables from 2013.   

Dinner is served at the hotel’s restaurant. We order the grilled beef and a set meal featuring items fried with ginger. Other Japanese set meals with mountain vegetables and freshwater fish are also available, but they need to be ordered in advance. After dinner, we soak in the hotel’s alkaline hot spring, while enjoying the fresh breeze from the ravine. If the time is right, guests can also see Dosan Line trains crossing the railway bridge. 

The next day, after a buffet-style breakfast of traditional specialities made from locally produced ingredients, we are driven back to Oboke Station. Our first destination on the second day is Awa-Ikeda, five stops ahead. We hop on the 8.30am train and arrive half an hour later. The next train from here leaves at 10.35am. We check out the shopping street, where we come across a Japanese confectionery shop which sells Atakaya sweet bean jelly. It is a speciality of the area. There are many varieties, one of which is a round sweet bean jelly called Chonta Chonpei. Named after twin brothers from a folk song of Awa-Ikeda, the outer layer would peel off by itself when you prick it with a toothpick. 

We ask the shop owner to recommend a famous spot. He tells us about the Historic Streets of Udatsu, where there is a Tobacco Museum. "Udatsu" refers to roof extensions used as wing walls between houses; their purpose is to prevent fires. They used to be a symbol of wealth in the past since they are expensive to install. At the back of one Japanese-style house here is the Tobacco Museum. It was a private tobacco factory from 1800 until 1905. From the late Tokugawa shogunate era until the Meiji Period, this region was used for harvesting tobacco leaves. The tobacco business flourished in this town and many private proprietors built factories here. There were up to 40 of them then. The merchants installed the roof extensions at that time to “compete” with each other. 

The Tobacco Museum displays about 100 tobacco-related artefacts, such as tobacco pipes from the past. The long pipes, for example, were used by geishas during the Edo Period. The heat of the tobacco cools faster with the long pipes and the flavour is said to be milder. We get to try some of the tobacco pipes while touring the museum.

We next head to Sanuki-Saida, four stations ahead. We bid Tokushima Prefecture farewell as the train enters Kagawa Prefecture. The train pulls into Sanuki-Saida Station after half an hour. Here, we get to see a tourist train called the Mid-Shikoku Thousand-Year Story. It travels for 2.5 hours from Tadotsu Station to Oboke Station. 

A local tells us about Gallery Toyonaka, which specialises in Sanuki Okamotoyaki, a traditional pottery style from Kagawa Prefecture. The pottery technique originated from China and Korea in the 7th century. Items made in a kiln include teacups, mugs and small sake cups. The kiln uses pine wood and since it takes a year for pine wood to dry, the kiln is used only once a year. During that time, 1,500 pottery items are “baked” over a week. Some rare Okamotoyaki wares are also used as utensils on the Thousand-Year Story tourist train. People have driven from Kansai or Kyushu just to buy Okamotoyaki pottery. A mug costs about 3,500 yen, while a jar is nearly 100,000 yen.

We decide to head to Kotohira, three stations away. The area is known for the Kotohira Shrine, which is also nicknamed Konpira. The ride lasts 15 minutes. We visit an extremely narrow store which has been selling a local dish, soy sauce beans, for a few decades. Soy sauce beans are made from dried broad beans and they are roasted on an unglazed tile called horoku and then seasoned with soy sauce. 

We want to have lunch and the shop owner recommends we try the authentic handmade Sanuki udon at Shohachi Udon. Opened in 2000, it is run by a father and son team. The father, Shigeru, has been making udon for 35 years and he uses his hands. The dough is prepared the day before and allowed to sit overnight. It is then made into udon using skilful techniques at 8am daily. We order the Yudame udon set meal, which comes with oden and a rice ball. The udon is rinsed once before being boiled again, giving it a doughy texture. The straight-from-the-pot Tenkama udon is first boiled for about eight minutes and is known for its chewy texture. 

Kotohira Shrine, which attracts four million visitors each year, is situated halfway up Mount Zozusan. We however decide to shelve our plan to go there as it is quite far and we may miss our train. We return to the station and ride on the 4.15pm train to the last stop at the end of Dosan Line, Tadotsu Station. 

We speak to a gentleman who tells us to visit Shorinji, a dojo - or a training place for martial arts - for Shorinji Kempo. We find out that this Japanese martial art originated in the town of Tadotsu. Shorinji Kempo was founded over 70 years ago by So Doshin. Incorporating various martial arts he learned in China, Shorinji Kempo was created as an art of physical and mental training. At Shorinji, we get to watch a Shorinji Kempo performance. Shorinji Kempo has 1.8 million enthusiasts in 40 countries. In local secondary schools, it is also taught in physical education classes. 


1) Atakaya sweet bean jelly is a speciality of Awa-Ikeda
2) Fans of Okamotoyaki pottery should visit Gallery Toyonaka in Kagawa Prefecture 


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