Skip to main content



Japan Hour

Road Trip on Sanin Railway (Part 1)

This week, we will travel on the JR Sanin Main Line, which connects Kyoto Prefecture and Yamaguchi Prefecture. The entire railway line opened in 1933 and it runs along the Sea of Japan coastline.

This week, we will travel on the JR Sanin Main Line, which connects Kyoto Prefecture and Yamaguchi Prefecture. The entire railway line opened in 1933 and it runs along the Sea of Japan coastline. During our two-day trip, we will head from Fukuchiyama City in Kyoto Prefecture to Tottori City. Our journey will cover 28 stations, spanning a distance of 141.8km across three prefectures - Kyoto, Hyogo and Tottori.

We first catch the 8.55am train from Fukuchiyama Station and head north to Kami-Yakuno Station. During the 25-minute journey, we enjoy the gorgeous autumn colours of the mountains. The train pulls into Kami-Yakuno at 9.20am and we have nearly 1.5 hours before catching the 10.40am train.

We speak to an elderly lady who suggests we visit the Yakuno Genbugan Park, where we can see a basalt rock. We walk along a highway for 40 minutes before finally reaching the park. The gorgeous terrain here was formed about 300,000 years ago due to the eruption of Mount Takura, Kyoto Prefecture's sole volcanic mountain. Molten lava eventually solidified into the formation of basalt rock, which looks like rows of pillars. It is also an officially recognised national monument of Kyoto Prefecture. Every year, concerts are held at a stage set up in front of the rock. The rock is also lit up at night until 9pm, creating a dreamlike atmosphere.

We return to Kami-Yakuno Station and go to Yabu, three stops ahead. We bid farewell to Kyoto Prefecture and enter Hyogo Prefecture. The train pulls into Yabu Station at 10.55am and our next train will depart at 12.10pm. We walk around Yabu City and meet a man who tells us about the beautiful autumn foliage at Yabu Shrine, one of the five related shrines of Tajima. However, we are unable to find the shrine, even after walking for about half an hour. We later find out from a passer-by that it is actually situated on the outskirts of the Yabu market district.

So we decide not to visit Yabu Shrine and instead head to another recommended spot, a carp shop called Futaba Fishery. The owner shows us the “Black Diamond”, a type of carp which is only found in Yabu City. It has black skin with gold scales. Its worth is based on the appearance and lustre of its scales and each Black Diamond carp can cost between one million and two million yen. Another rare carp is called Doitsu Ogon. Yellow in colour, it is known as the “human-face fish” because when one looks at it face-front, it resembles a man’s face with a moustache. There are many carp fisheries in Yabu City. The city's carp cultivation dates back to the 17th century. 

Our next stop is Ebara, two stations away from Yabu. We reach Ebara Station in Toyooka City after a 15-minute ride and we have until 2.15pm to explore the area. We want to have lunch so go to a restaurant a local has suggested, Taniyama Eatery. An elderly lady has been running it all by herself since her husband passed away years ago. She recommends the Chinese noodles, which are served in chicken soup topped with lots of bean sprouts. It comes with a large helping of homemade roasted pork cooked in locally produced soy sauce. We also order the pork bowl - a fried pork cutlet is placed on a bed of rice with onions and egg steamed in bonito and kelp stock.

After this, we go to Genbudo, three stations ahead. The train runs along the Maruyama River and pulls into Genbudo Station in 15 minutes. We plan to take the train which departs 1.5 hours later at 4.05pm. We want to visit the Genbudo basalt cave. It takes less than 10 minutes by ferry, but the ferry is not in service on this particular day. If we were to walk there, it would take around an hour. So we have no choice but to shelve the idea of going to the cave.

We drop by a diner to get recommendations and the owner advises us to go to Umi no Eki. The gift shop, which opened in 2003, has a snow crab corner. It procures a large quantity of snow crabs that have been caught at Shibayama Port. There is also a restaurant here where one can savour crab dishes, such as snow crab cream croquette.

We walk back to Genbudo Station and head to Kinosaki-Onsen Station, five minutes away. We want to spend the night in the hot spring district. Kinosaki hot springs have been around for 1,300 years. The area is also the backdrop of writer Naoya Shiga's famous novel, "Kinosaki nite". There are currently over 70 inns in the area which is characterised by its atmospheric rows of willow trees. There are seven hot spring facilities here, which are also open to non-lodgers.

We visit the Mugiwara Crafting Studio and another store to ask about recommended inns. Lodges such as Koman - which is over a thousand years old - Tajimaya, Matsuya and Kobayashiya are mentioned. However, when we call them to make a booking, the first three are fully booked for the night while the fourth is closed on this day.

We then meet another local who suggests we try our luck at Fujimiya. We are thrilled when we are told it has rooms available. Opened in 1962, it has four annexes and outdoor baths on a mountain behind the main wing. Our traditional Japanese-style room in the annex has a relaxing ambience. After taking a breather, we head to one of the outdoor baths. Its water is channelled from a natural wellspring and contains natrium, calcium and a high saline content.

1) A must-see item in Yabu City is the exquisite and highly valued Black Diamond carp
2) Some hot spring facilities at Kinosaki Onsen are open to non-lodgers


Also worth reading