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Japan Hour

Road Trip on Oito Line (Part 2)

Recommended places visited this week include a farm that makes organic jams, an eatery that serves exquisite buckwheat noodles and water-filled rice fields that reflect the beautiful Northern Alps.

Our three-day journey along the JR Oito Line, which connects Nagano Prefecture and Niigata Prefecture, continues. On the first day, we manage to find five famous spots recommended by the locals. We spend the night at Ryokusuitei Keisui in the hot spring town of Omachi Onsenkyo. 

The next morning, after enjoying a hearty breakfast buffet featuring 30 Japanese and Western dishes, we take the bus back to Shinano-Omachi Station. We catch the 10.30am train to Inao Station, three stops ahead. We arrive after a 10-minute journey and the next train from Inao is at 12.30pm. We first check out Kizakiko Lake near the station. The circumference of the lake is about 6.5km. It is a popular spot for various water sports such as water skiing and fishing.

After this, we speak to a farmer who tells us about this area’s unique farming method to reduce the use of pesticides. Ducks help to eat weeds and harmful insects so that the rice plants are protected. His farm, for example, has about 80 ducklings. 

We then head to a village near Inao Station. A resident here recommends we visit Kitayamatoen, where organic blueberry jam is made and sold. It is located in a 120-year-old house which has been renovated. Besides blueberry, other flavours of jam produced here include rhubarb, apple and apricot. Around 450 blueberry plants are planted next to the house. From end-June till August, visitors can also pick blueberries. We get to sample some of the handmade blueberry jam. 

We return to the station and advance to Kamishiro, five stations ahead. We arrive after half an hour and the next train from here will leave at 3.40pm. As we are hungry, we ask around about well-known restaurants. A local resident suggests a family-run buckwheat noodle shop called Yamato. Established in 1988, its speciality noodles are made with buckwheat flour from Hakuba and Kitaazumi. We order cold noodles with yam and cold noodles with mushrooms, both of which are served on trays.  

After lunch, we continue to enquire about other popular places. A local mentions Hakuba Village, where horseradish is grown on land instead of in water. We manage to find the horseradish farm, which opened in 2016, after walking for 15 minutes. We are shown the land horseradish which is grown underground. We find out that land horseradish grows best in humid and cool places. Hakuba Village is located at a high altitude and the temperatures stay low, so the horseradish can be harvested all year round. Compared to horseradish which grows in water, there is less cost and effort required to grow land horseradish. The latter’s leaves and stems are used for pickles. In addition, grated land horseradish is not very spicy and has a slight sweetness. 

We visit another place recommended by a local. It is a scenic spot where the beautiful landscape, Hakuba’s mountains and the snow-covered Northern Alps are reflected on water-filled rice fields. After enjoying this breathtaking view, we head by the 3.40pm train to Hakuba, about five minutes away from Kamishiro. With the Northern Alps as a backdrop, Hakuba is located at an altitude of 700m. During the 1998 Nagano Olympics, various kinds of competitions took place here. We drop by a store, Kojitsu Sanso, to ask about hotels. The owner recommends we stay at Sierra Resort, which has a hot spring. We call the resort to book our rooms and the hotel offers to pick us up from Kojitsu Sanso.


1)    Kizakiko Lake near Inao Station is a popular venue for water sports
2)    The Kitayamatoen farm near Inao Station makes and sells organic jams 

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