Road Trip on JR Gono Line (Part 1)
Our next two-day train trip is along the JR Gono Line, which runs through Aomori and Akita prefectures. It started as the Noshiro Line in 1908 and was completed in 1936, when it was renamed as the Gono Line.
Our next two-day train trip is along the JR Gono Line, which runs through Aomori and Akita prefectures. It started as the Noshiro Line in 1908 and was completed in 1936, when it was renamed as the Gono Line. The popular railway line, which links Kawabe Station in Aomori Prefecture and Higashi-Noshiro Station in Akita Prefecture, boasts beautiful views of the rural landscape and the Sea of Japan. The local line spans 147.2km, with a total of 43 stations.
Our journey begins in Inakadate Village in Aomori. The highest peak of Aomori, Mt Iwakisan, can be seen from here. The village is known for tanbo art, which uses various types of rice to create giant pictures in rice fields. This attraction began in 1993 to revitalise the village. We buy a two-day all-access ticket at Kawabe Station before departing by train at 10.40am for Goshogawara Station. On the train, a lady we speak to mentions the Tachineputa Museum, which displays giant nebutas (festival floats).
We arrive at Goshogawara after half an hour and have slightly over two hours before our next train at 1.25pm. On the way to the museum, we pass by the Kimura Meat Shop, which is famous for its grilled pork. We meet 91-year-old Mrs Kimura, who tells us the shop has been around since 1950 and draws customers from all over Japan. After sampling some delicious and tender pork, we continue walking to the Tachineputa Museum.
Mr Kikuchi, the curator, shows us around the museum. He tells us the tachineputa floats are 23m tall and weigh 20 tonnes each. It takes a person about 10 months to make one tachineputa. Their shapes are made with wire and Japanese paper, after which they are painted. It costs about 12 million yen to produce each tachineputa. During the famous Goshogawara Tachineputa Festival, participants will pull these floats, while chanting the words “yattemare”, which means “go get them”. It is among three major Nebuta festivals in Aomori Prefecture in summer and attracts up to 1 million visitors each year. The other two festivals are held in the cities of Aomori and Hirosaki, during which “rassera” and “yayado” are chanted respectively.
At the museum, we come across someone eating a soft serve ice cream made from Goshogawara apples. What makes these apples unique is that not only are their peels red, their flesh is red too. We decide to buy this special ice cream for dessert at the museum later. Our next stop is a dry goods store which opened nearly 100 years ago. The lady at the shop recommends we eat lunch at Kamenoya, which serves scallop tempura - its speciality - with soba noodles. The scallops are baked in foil first and then dipped in batter and deep fried. The tempura is then added to noodles with a soy sauce-based soup. This soba shop has been around for more than 100 years. Initially fish from coastal waters was used in the soba dish. After the World War, the owners started using scallops as their mild flavour is said to bring out the taste of the soba better. .
We return to the museum to get the apple soft serve ice cream. We then catch the 1.25pm train to Senjojiki. It is 10 stations away and is located near the Sea of Japan. After riding for an hour, we arrive at Senjojiki Station. Our next train from here will leave at 4.15pm. The Senjojiki Coast is right outside the station. We notice several protruding broken rocks scattered over a distance of 10km here. They are the result of a large earthquake in the late Edo period. We drop by a restaurant-cum-inn near the sea, called Tanaka. It was established more than 50 years ago. We speak to its owner, who recommends we try the glossy wakame seaweed, a speciality of the Fukaura area. Local all-natural wakame is processed and made to look like vermicelli noodles, after which it is boiled with soy sauce and vinegar.
We walk back to Senjojiki Station and ask someone about possible places where we could spend the night. The person mentions the Fukaura Tourist Hotel. We call the hotel and it has rooms available. So we board the Shirakami Resort express train and head to Fukaura Station, which is 25 minutes away. While we wait for the hotel shuttle bus to pick us up, we enjoy the beautiful sunset by the sea.
After driving for about 10 minutes along the coast, we arrive at the Fukaura Tourist Hotel. Situated on a hill, the hotel built in 1981 offers gorgeous views of the Sea of Japan. After relaxing in its refreshing hot spring, it is time for dinner. The chef serves Pacific bluefin tuna from Fukaura with miso and ponzu - it can be eaten raw or lightly grilled. Other dishes include vinegared seaweed and smoked salmon featuring salmon raised in mineral water from the Shirakami Mountains.
1) Visit the Tachineputa Museum to see giant floats used during Goshogawara’s famous Nebuta festival
2) A local delicacy of the Fukaura area is glossy wakame seaweed