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Japan Hour

Road Trip on Enshu Line (Part 1)

This week, we embark on a train journey on the Enshu Railway Line. It runs through Shizuoka Prefecture’s largest city Hamamatsu, connecting Shin-Hamamatsu Station to Nishi-Kajima Station. 

This week, we embark on a train journey on the Enshu Railway Line. It runs through Shizuoka Prefecture’s largest city Hamamatsu, connecting Shin-Hamamatsu Station to Nishi-Kajima Station. The line was first built in the Meiji period and used to be called Dainippon Railway. Six public transportation companies merged in 1943 to become Enshu Railway. It is also called the Red Line because of the colour of the trains. There are 18 stations along the 17.8km-long railway line.

We begin our trip from Shin-Hamamatsu Station. After buying a day pass for 1,000 yen, we head to Dai-Ichi Dori, one stop away. From Shin-Hamamatsu right up to Kamijima Station, the railway track is elevated, allowing passengers to enjoy the beautiful landscape. At Dai-Ichi Dori, we decide to take the 10.25am train. We drop by a hair salon to gather information. The owner tells us about the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. However, when we reach the place, we find out that it is usually closed on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month. Opened in 1995, over 1,300 instruments collected from around the world are displayed here. They are organised by region and period. Yamaha was founded in Hamamatsu, which is also the home of many other instrument makers like Kawai. Visitors to the museum can also get to try out some of the instruments.

As we are walking, we pass by Solicia, a school for patissiers which opened in 1977. It currently has around 400 students and we ask one of them for recommendations. She mentions Hamamatsu Castle which is near Enshu Byoin. We have missed the 10.25am train so we hop on the 10.50am train at Dai-Ichi Dori and head to Enshu Byoin, which is one station away. We meet someone near the station who runs a Japanese restaurant, Yagi, with his wife. He gives us the directions to Hamamatsu Castle.  

Tokugawa Ieyasu lived at Hamamatsu Castle for 17 years from the age of 29. Though it was later passed on to other rulers, it is known as the birthplace of the shogunate. One of the rulers who rose in ranks was Ii Naomasa. When Naomasa was only 15, Hamamatsu Castle was passed to him. We head to the top of the castle, from where we can see Mount Fuji.  

We then go to Yagi for lunch. The restaurant serves a wide variety of items such as sushi and rice bowls. We order the recommended kuroten bowl and azuma bowl. The former features shrimp and mixed vegetable tempura topped with a sweet and dark sauce. The azuma bowl is a delicious arrangement of locally caught seafood which is served over rice with a special sauce.

We then take the train from Enshu Byoin Station to Sukenobu. The name of the station is said to have come from a swordsmith who lived in the area. We meet a resident at the station who is on her way to a karaoke bar called Kayo. She agrees to let us accompany her. Someone at the bar later suggests we check out a harmonica factory, Showa Gakki, near Hikuma Station. The family-run factory was founded in 1947 and the harmonicas are entirely handmade. We speak to someone at the factory who tells us there are only four harmonica makers in the whole country. We are shown a reproduction of a harmonica made in 1952, a Hamamatsu mini harmonica and a Miyata harmonica. From the more classic styles to the mini harmonica, there are 14 different types for sale at the factory. Harmonicas have recently become popular as souvenirs of Hamamatsu, which is also known as the city of musical instruments.

We return to Hikuma Station and travel two stops ahead to Jidosha-Gakko-Mae Station. The train ride takes less than five minutes. We drop by the Enshu Railway training school to ask about hotel recommendations. We are told to go to Kanzanji Onsen, where there are several hotels such as Kokonoe, Whale Season and Kanzanjiso. We call the first two hotels from the school but they only have one room available. So we try our luck with Kanzanjiso and are relieved that it has two rooms for us. A staff at the railway school offers to drive us to the hotel in Kanzanji Onsen. Kanzanjiso is located high up in the mountains and every room boasts a full view of Lake Hamana.

1) Music lovers should visit the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments, which displays instruments from around the world
2) Harmonicas are a popular souvenir in Hamamatsu


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