Road Trip on Nanao Line (Part 1)
Highlights this week include a tourist train decorated with traditional Noto crafts, a town known for its building fixtures and an "unsatisfactory" restaurant which serves delicious omelette rice.
This week, our journey of enquiry and discovery takes place on Noto Railway’s Nanao Line. The railway runs along the scenic coastline of Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, offering magnificent views of the tranquil Nanao Bay. Noto Railway began operations in 1988 and the trains are sometimes decorated with anime characters. A short local line which overlooks the sea, Nanao Line spans just eight stations from Nanao Station to Anamizu Station, covering a total distance of 33.1km.
We begin our trip from Nanao City, which is surrounded by mountains and the sea. From Nanao Station, we take the train to Wakura Onsen Station. During the five-minute ride, we get to see Lake Akauragata. It is a popular fishing spot for pond smelt and crucian carp.
We arrive at Wakura Onsen Station at 9.35am and speak to some locals. One of them tells us about Notojima Bridge, which is a 20-minute walk from the station. It is 1,050m long and its curved design was inspired by Nanao Bay and its gentle waves. After this, we head to Wakura Onsen, a hot spring town. On the way, we come across a store selling sea cucumber products such as Kuchiko, which is sea cucumber roe. It is a local delicacy which can cost about 8,500 yen.
Opened 1,200 years ago, Wakura Onsen comprises 20 hotels along the beach. The hot spring water, believed to have been discovered by an egret bird, originates from the sea. A famous hotel at Wakura Onsen is Kagaya. After seeing the hotel, we head back to the train station. Along the way, we meet a resident who recommends the omelette rice at Haidarui near the station. At the restaurant, where we find out the term Haidarui is a Noto dialect word which actually means “something boring" or "unsatisfactory". The restaurant opened in 1981 and its omelette rice features Koshihikari rice produced in Noto.
Our next stop is Tatsuruhama Station. This time, we ride on a tourist train, Noto Satoyama Satoumi, which runs several times a day. Reservations are required on weekends, but on weekdays, anybody can ride on it by paying an additional 300 yen. The interior of the train is decorated with traditional Noto crafts and passengers can purchase original products and drinks on board. The train attendants double up as tour guides. The relaxing countryside scenery keeps us occupied and we reach Tatsuruhama Station in about five minutes.
We go to a store called Daikoku Sushi to enquire about famous spots. The owner mentions a temple called Toreiji. We walk there and speak to the chief priest, who shows us a unique tree, called the Lusterleaf Holly. In the past, people would write at the back of the leaves and use them as postcards.
The temple itself was built about 370 years ago. It is a symbolic building of Tatsuruhama and is located at the centre of the town. The temple is dedicated to Tsuratatsu Cho, a feudal lord who controlled this area in the past, and also served Nobunaga Oda and Toshiie Maeda. When this temple was built, a woodworker from Owari was invited to construct all the sliding doors, transom windows and partitions.
The woodworker taught his techniques to the people of Tatsuruhama and his skills have been passed down through the generations. For that reason, people say Toreiji is where Tatsuruhama's building fixtures originated. Tatsuruhama is now known as a “town of building fixtures”. There are currently about 50 woodworkers living here.
After this, we catch the 2.20pm train and head to Kasashiho Station, five minutes away. We go to a restaurant near the station. This area is famous for oyster farming and the eatery’s owners have their own oyster farm and serve them at the restaurant. A set of 10 oysters costs about 1,100 yen. We find out that the farming of oysters in Nanao Bay started around 1887. We try some freshly grilled Noto oysters, which are known to be thick and flavourful.
We return to the station and travel on the Noto Satoyama Satoumi tourist train again to Noto-Nakajima Station. There is a Noto Theatre in this town and at the station, we notice several posters featuring the plays of theatrical company Mumeijuku. The company is led by actor Tatsuya Nakadai and has produced several great actors such as Koji Yakusho. Every year, Mumeijuku holds its training camp in this city and also stages a play here.
We then drop by a store called Nakajima Station Marche near Noto-Nakajima Station. We enquire about places to stay and are told about a hotel called Noto Omakidai. It is operated by the local government and is located near the next station, Nishigishi. We call the hotel but it is fully booked for the night. So the owner of the store recommends a guesthouse. It is run by a couple who also own the restaurant beside it, Yuho. It is also situated near Nishigishi Station.
1) Reservations are required if you wish to ride on Nanao Line’s tourist train on weekends
2) Check out the Lusterleaf Holly tree at Toreiji, for its leaves which were used as postcards in the past