Road Trip on Konan Tetsudo Line (Part 2)
We resume our two-day journey on Konan Railway’s Owani and Konan lines in Aomori Prefecture. At the end of Day One, we spend the night at Asobe No Mori Iwaki Manor. For dinner, we enjoy Tsugaru Kakayama dishes. They are prepared using ingredients from the ocean and mountains around Aomori.
We resume our two-day journey on Konan Railway’s Owani and Konan lines in Aomori Prefecture. At the end of Day One, we spend the night at Asobe No Mori Iwaki Manor. For dinner, we enjoy Tsugaru Kakayama dishes. They are prepared using ingredients from the ocean and mountains around Aomori. An example is a broiled fish dish featuring a type of shark. We also feast on Aomori beef and an original Iwaki Manor dish - crab-infused steamed egg on rice.
On Day Two, after a refreshing morning bath, we enjoy a breakfast which includes a type of Aomori rice called Tsugaru Roman and Jappa soup, which is miso soup with chopped fish. We then head to Hirosaki Station by bus. We ask someone if there are any apple pie stores near the station and are told about a cake shop at Art Hotel next to the station. However, the shop is not open when we go to the hotel.
So we ask a lady for souvenir ideas and she mentions a pie called Whole Apple which is sold at the hotel’s gift store. Made with a whole Aomori Fuji apple and dipped in syrup, it was first created in Sapporo. Whole Apple is its original name but it was renamed as the Curious Apple in this area. This pie has won a gold medal at a national sweets competition.
On the first day, we travelled on the Owani Line and on the second day, we will ride on the Konan Line. We buy all-day passes and take the 10am train to Nisato Station. Railways fans will be delighted to see a steam locomotive here. The 8620 type 48640 Steam Locomotive was running from Akita to Aomori on the Gonou Line until 1973. After its service ended in 2011, it was left at Nisato Station as an exhibition piece.
We next travel by train to Hiraka Station, which is two stops away. A lady at the station tells us there are many natural hot springs in this town. She recommends we go to a hot spring resort called Minamida Onsen Hotel Apple Land, which has a bath featuring floating apples, and also suggests we check out the largest Nebuta in the world. We decide to see the famous Nebuta - a float illustrated with samurai images - first. The Nebuta Festival is centred around Hirosaki in Tsugaru. In summer, many Nebuta floats are paraded through the town. The world's largest Nebuta was built in 1999. It is 11 metres tall, 9.2 metres wide and weighs 3 tonnes.
After this, we walk to the hot spring resort. The founder of the spa also operates an apple farm and guests who stay the night receive a local speciality apple. As for the apple bath, one can enjoy the sweet apple aroma while beautifying one’s skin with the natural hot spring water.
We then catch the 12.45pm train from Hiraka Station and go to Tsugaru-Onoe Station. We speak to a resident here who recommends we eat at Ogura Restaurant. We walk along a snowy path for 10 minutes before arriving at the restaurant which has been around for about 30 years. The popular dishes here are the miso chanpon noodles or the stir-fried noodles, both of which use curly noodles. The servings at the restaurant are huge and the noodles come with lots of vegetables such as bamboo shoot.
After lunch, we return to Tsugaru-Onoe Station and head to the final stop of Konan Line, Kuroishi Station. An elderly gentleman we meet tells us that Kuroishi is known for its small stores. So he suggests we check out Komise Street, which has also been named one of the 100 best roads in Japan. Built during the Edo period by the feudal lord of Kuroishi, the street has wooden walkways which shelter people from the sun and snow.
We drop by a sake store, Narumi Sake Brewery, which was established about 210 years ago. Natural water from Mount Hakkoda is used to make the sake. There are various types of sake here, such as Kikunoi Nouveau, made from rice harvested in the fall.
The gentleman at the brewery tells us about a place which makes something Aomori is known for, kokeshi dolls. He tells us we can even try our hand at painting the dolls at the Dream Workshop. However, we later find out that the workshop has since ceased operations. Another local resident mentions Miyuki Park, where snowmen are usually built by preschool children. We end our two-day trip along Konan Railway’s Owani and Konan lines on a fun note by making our own snowman.
1) Railway fans should drop by Nisato Station where they can see a steam locomotive
2) No trip to Kuroishi is complete without visiting Komise Street with its small stores