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Japan Hour

Road Trip On Gakunan-Densha - Part 2

Places visited this week include a park with abundant drinkable spring water, a tea shop which has its own human mascot character and the only shrine in Fuji which has imperial chrysanthemum crests.

Our journey of enquiry and discovery on the Gakunan Electric Train company’s Gakunan Railway Line in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture continues. On the second day, we take a bus from the Yoshiwara Chuo bus station at 9.55am and go to Gakunan-Harada Station, 10 minutes away. We then board the train leaving at 10.30am and head to Hina Station. 

A student we speak to suggests we visit Suwa Shrine, where festivals are frequently held. Near the shrine is a pond called Maruike with drinkable spring water. In summer, kids would often come to this 100% spring water natural pool to play. There is also Yusui Park, the town's oasis with abundant spring water. 

After this, we ride on the 11.35am train to Gakunan-Fujioka Station. We want to have lunch so ask around about restaurants. An elderly resident suggests an eel restaurant called Unagiya, which opened before the Meiji era. We enjoy a delicious meal of eel rice boxes before catching the 1.40pm train to Sudo Station. Here, a local tells us about “Charao”, who can be found at a tea shop called Yamada Seicha. We go to the store and meet this human mascot character who carries a basket of tea leaves on his back. He tells us that in the past, many people could not remember the name of the tea shop. He then decided to be a human mascot to promote the store and the tea brand from Fuji City. In 2013, national department stores held a contest on mascot characters and Charao was selected to represent Fuji. 

Charao is in fact the second-generation owner of the tea place. He and his wife spend about a year growing fresh tea leaves. At the end of April, they start manufacturing the tea. We learn that the tea-producing process depends on the weather. If it gets too cold and there is frost, the leaves could get damaged and die overnight. We get to try some cold brew tea made by his wife. 

After this, we travel on the 2.40pm train and advance to the terminal. Gakunan-Enoo Station. On the train, someone recommends a cafe called Hanamizuki. It is situated in a renovated old house and is known for its curry and homemade desserts. Unfortunately, it is closed during this season. We arrive at the last stop after a 10-minute ride. A lady we speak to tells us about the Iizuna Shrine. 

The shrine is known for its three chrysanthemum crests. Built in the middle of the Edo era, it was related to the imperial family in the Northern and Southern Dynasties. During that time, the shrine made several contributions to the Southern Dynasty and was thus allowed to place the imperial chrysanthemum crest. No other shrines in Fuji City have the chrysanthemum crest.  


Tips:

1)    Look for human mascot Charao at the Yamada Seicha tea shop near Sudo Station
2)    Iizuna Shrine near Gakunan-Enoo Station is known for its rare chrysanthemum crests 
 

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