Road Trip on Sanin Main Line (Part 1)
A factory which makes traditional boiled fish paste, a hot spring bath shaped like a magatama gem, a roadside station overlooking the sea and a shop selling fig desserts are highlighted this week.
Our journey of enquiry and discovery this week takes place on the JR Sanin Main Line. The entire railway line spans from Kyoto Prefecture to Yamaguchi Prefecture, passing through the prefectures of Hyogo, Tottori and Shimane in between. However, for our two-day trip, we will travel from Yonago Station in Tottori Prefecture to Hamada Station in Shimane Prefecture, covering 37 stations and a total distance of 150.3km.
From Yonago Station, we ride for about 20 minutes to Iya Station in Shimane Prefecture. Our next train from Iya will leave at 10.45am. A resident tells us this area is famous for its noyaki, which is boiled fish paste. She suggests we visit Jutaka Kamaboko, which has been producing fish paste since 1926.
A traditional delicacy, noyaki is made by mincing flying fish called "ago". It is rolled and grilled on sticks. Noyaki was originally created as a preserved food. For ago-noyaki, Izumo Jidenshu, a traditional rice wine for cooking, is used. The rice wine adds a rich flavour to the noyaki. This product even received an award from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1995. We try grilled noyaki topped with fatty mackerel. Jutaka is the only place in this area which makes this item. Jutaka’s products are sold at the factory, local souvenir shops and even online.
We next advance to Tamatsukuri-Onsen Station, four stops ahead. The train passes by Lake Shinji, known for its freshwater clams. We arrive after a 20-minute ride and have until 12.55pm to explore the area. We ask someone for directions to Tamatsukuri Onsen and are told it will take half an hour on foot but that there is also a bus going there. Another resident we speak to recommends we go to a day-use hot spring called Yuyu, which also has a foot bath in front of it.
It takes us five minutes to reach Tamatsukuri Onsen by bus. It is considered one of the oldest hot springs in Japan and has appeared in a book compiled in the Nara period, called Izumo no Kuni Fudoki. In the past, minerals, including blue agate stones, used to be mined and made into magatama jewels. The stones are believed to have spiritual power and it is said that touching them brings a person good luck.
The Yuyu hot spring is designed to look like a magatama jewel. Even its indoor bath is shaped like a magatama gem. The foot bath in front of Yuyu is a popular spot for people walking along the Tamayugawa River. There are in fact two hot spring foot baths along the river and people can use them for free.
We return to the station and take the 12.55pm train to Izumoshi Station, five stops away. We arrive after half an hour and the next train will leave at 2.35pm. We ask a local to recommend a place for lunch. Izumo is known for its buckwheat noodles so the resident suggests we try the food at the Ippuku restaurant in front of the station. Popular dishes include the Okuizumo warigo and Goho warigo, which come with maitake mushroom tempura, wild vegetables and grated yam. Izumo’s buckwheat noodles are chewy and have a great aroma. The restaurant gets its buckwheat flour from local farms.
After this, we advance to Oda Station. A passenger on the train tells us that figs from Izumo are very famous and there are many fig farmers in Oda. We also find out there is a large roadside station by the sea, called Kirara Taki, and one can view the sunset from there. We arrive at Oda Station in 25 minutes. We walk to the roadside station, which opened in 1998 at Kirara Beach. This place has been chosen as one of the 100 best spots in Japan to see the sunset.
We drop by the roadside station, which sells about 40 products made with the town’s speciality figs. Popular items include fig wine compote, fig roll cakes, fig crepes and even fig soft serve ice cream. We head to the next station, Odashi, by the 4.20pm train. The train is decorated with images of Iwami Kagura, a traditional art form of Shimane.
The train ride to Odashi takes 20 minutes. We have to find accommodation for the night and we also want to visit Iwami Ginzan, a World Heritage Site. A person at the station recommends we stay the night at Sanbe-sou. It is located at Sanbe Onsen in the mountains. We call the hotel and manage to make a booking. It does not provide pick-up services so we have to take a bus to Sanbe Onsen.
1) The blue agate stones at Tamatsukuri Onsen are believed to bring you good luck if you touch them
2) The roadside station at Kirara Beach sells many sweet treats made of Izumo’s famous speciality, figs