Road Trip to Shizuoka (Part 2)
Popular tourist spots featured this week include a scenic station surrounded by hundreds of flowering peach trees, a restaurant located in an old express train car and a famous copper mine.
Our two-day “detour” trip on local railway lines continues. On the first day, we started from Chichibu Station in Saitama Prefecture and travelled all the way to Ashikagashi Station in Tochigi Prefecture. We spend the night at a hotel near the station. Meals are not provided so we have dinner at a restaurant called Benkyotei Honten. We order the fried horse mackerel set meal and fried cutlet rice bowl. By the end of day one, we have about 11,000 yen in our travel budget left. The goal of this trip is to stop at “highly-priced” stations, visit famous spots around them and earn a total of 113,400 yen by the end of the second day.
The next morning, we travel on Tobu Railway’s Tobu Isesaki Line, catching the 7.55am train from Ashikagashi Station. A passenger suggests we check out Gunma Children's Land, a hidden theme park surrounded by great nature. We alight at Ota Station, buy some rice balls from a convenience store for breakfast and then ride on the Tobu Kiryu Line towards Gunma. We alight at Sammaibashi Station at 8.45am. This unmanned station is visited by around 620 people a day, so it is worth 10,000 yen.
We try walking to Gunma Children's Land but end up taking the wrong route, so we have to skip visiting the recommended spot. We decide to take a gamble and try our luck at the Kiryu boat race, which is held near Shinkiryu Station. We take the train to Shinkiryu and use the free taxi service to reach the site of the boat race. We bet 10,000 yen on the boat race which starts at 10.45am. During the event, racers will circle around a 600-metre course three times. We pick No. 4 as first place and No.5 as second. Unfortunately, the result is 1, 3 and 4. We are disappointed as we could have won 38,000 yen. On top of that, we also end up losing most of the money we had in our travel budget.
After this, we ride the train from Shinkiryu and alight at Aioi. From here, we switch to the Watarase Keikoku Line, which runs along the Watarase Valley. In spring, one can admire various flowers blooming along the railway track. A commuter recommends we visit the famous Ashio Copper Mine. It is located near Tsudo Station, which is valued at 50,000 yen. We also find out that flowering peach trees near Godo Station are another must-see attraction.
We alight at Godo Station first. On average, about 200 passengers visit it a day, so it is priced at 20,000 yen. The area boasts around 300 peach trees. It is a popular spot among train enthusiasts who would snap pictures of trains against a backdrop of the peach blossoms. The station has even appeared on the cover of the Watarase Keikoku Railway pamphlet. We ask a local to suggest an eatery and he mentions Seiryu, a train restaurant. It uses an old express train car called Kegon. The Hanagata Express train used to run between Asakusa and Nikko Kinugawa Onsen. Seiryu is famous for its Yamato pork lunch box. A special sauce made with locally produced soy sauce adds a great flavour to the dish.
After filling our tummies, we head by train to Tsudo Station. We visit the Ashio Copper Mine, which played a huge role in Japan’s industrial development. It attracts 120,000 visitors every year. We are unable to take the 50-minute trolley tour around the mine due to time constraints. But we do manage to take a quick look around the mine in 15 minutes. The tunnel inside spans 1,234km.
By now, we have earned more than 64,000 yen. Our next destination is Haramuko, which is valued at 100,000 yen. We plan to visit a kiln near the station. A local tells us that pottery from Ashio is famous. There were several kilns in this area in the past but now there are only four. We walk to the place with the kiln but much to our disappointment, it has already closed for the day. As we do not get to see the kiln, we have to forfeit the 100,000 yen. As a result, we fail to meet our target of earning 113,400 yen over the two days, and do not get to stay at a luxurious hot spring hotel and enjoy an extravagant meal.
1) Godo Station's peach trees are a must-see in spring
2) Set aside an hour to take the trolley tour around the Ashio Copper Mine