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Japan Hour

Road Trip on Sanin Main Line (Part 2)

Places visited this week include a sand museum which boasts the world's largest "one-year" hourglass, a park with Shimane's longest slide, a branch of Izumo Taisha Shrine and Hamada Castle Ruins.

Our two-day journey along the JR Sanin Main Line continues. On the first day, we manage to find accommodation at Sanbe Onsen. At 5.50pm, we take the bus from Odashi Station and ride for 40 minutes along the dark mountain road to the lodge, Sanbe-sou. Opened in 1960, it is located at an altitude of about 450m and is surrounded by nature. Mount Sanbe, an active volcano with six peaks, is found nearby within a national park. Sanbe-sou attracts many mountain climbers in summer. Occasionally, the hotel also hosts Shogi tournaments and famous player Yoshiharu Habu has visited the lodge a few times.

We have dinner at the lodge’s Iris restaurant. Recommended items include buckwheat noodles and seafood. So we order the sashimi course meal with a bowl of Sanbe noodles, made with buckwheat harvested in the Sanbe plateau. The noodles, which are quite thin, are made with spring water every day. The sashimi set includes greater amberjack, sea bream, shrimp, scallops, squid and salmon.

While eating, we discuss our itinerary for the next morning. We realise that since we plan to the take 10.15am train from Odashi Station, we will not have the time to visit the World Heritage Site, Iwami Ginzan, as it is located on a different bus route. 

The following day, we start the morning with a hot spring bath. The muddy hot spring water flows directly from the source. The facility has 17 types of outdoor baths, such as a barrel bath, a rock bath and a steam bath. We then take the bus at 8.20am and head down the mountain back to the city centre. We hop on the 10.15am train at Odashi Station and advance three stops ahead to Nima Station. The ride takes about 10 minutes and we have 2.5 hours before the next train. 

A man at the station recommends we visit the Sand Museum. Opened in 1991, its exterior is designed to look like a pyramid. Nearly 100 hourglasses and various sand-related objects are displayed here. Its main attraction is the world’s largest “one-year” hourglass, which is installed at a height of 8m. The hourglass itself is 5.2m long and 1m wide. It holds 1 tonne of sand. Every day, 2,740g of sand flows down continuously for one year. To maintain the exact amount of the fall, the hourglass is fully controlled by computers. Once a year, the hourglass is flipped as it takes 365 days for all the sand to fall through a nozzle which is about 1 millimetre wide.

After this, we head to another recommended attraction, the longest slide in Shimane. It is located at the Nima Kenko Park. Installed in 1997, the colourful rolling slide is 121m long. We then return to Nima Station and travel seven stops ahead to Gotsu. The train ride takes half an hour. The next train from here will depart 1.5 hours later. A resident near the station suggests we visit the agricultural cooperative to try akaten, a local delicacy made from fish paste. Minced walleye pollack meat is mixed with chilli peppers, covered in bread crumbs and deep fried. We buy some akaten and eat it at the station while waiting for our train to Hamada Station, the goal of this journey.

At Hamada Station, a resident tells us about the ruins of Hamada Castle. He also suggests we check out the Iwani branch of Izumo Taisha Shrine, which comes on the way to the castle. So we first visit the branch shrine, which is 10 minutes away from the station. It is called Izumo Taisha Iwami Bunshi. Part of the spirit of the deity Okuninushi of Izumo Taisha is enshrined here. Izumo Taisha is famous for its matchmaking deity so more than 11,000 couples have tied the knot at this branch shrine. 

After visiting the shrine, we make our way to the ruins of Hamada Castle. The place boasts a wonderful view of the sea and the mountains. Hamada Castle was built on a hill overlooking the sea as the base of the fief in the Edo period. It served as the frontline fortress of the shogunate army. Currently, the ruins have been designated as a cultural property of Shimane Prefecture. We end our two-day trip along the JR Sanin Main Line by enjoying the beautiful sunset from the castle.

1)    A must-see attraction near Nima Station is the Sand Museum, which boasts the world’s largest “one-year” hourglass 
2)    A local delicacy of Shimane is akaten, featuring a spicy fish paste

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