Road Trip on Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Part 1)
Delicious white miso ice cream served in a wasanbon sugar waffle cone, a museum for high-quality Aji stones and a treasured mountain temple along a famous pilgrimage route are featured this week.
Our next journey of enquiry and discovery takes place along the Shido Line and Nagao Line in Kagawa Prefecture. They are both operated by Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad, which connects six cities and towns. We will travel from Shido Line’s Kotoden-Shido Station to Nagao Station on Nagao Line, covering 31 stations which span a total distance of 27.1km.
We start by taking the train from Kotoden-Shido Station in Sanuki City to Fusazaki. We arrive at 9.45am and start enquiring about famous spots in the area. A local recommends we go to the roadside station called Genpei no Sato Mure. Opened in 2006, its spacious store sells udon noodles, fresh vegetables and even soft serve ice cream. The ice cream is made from jersey milk or even white miso milk. It is served in waffle cones made from wasanbon sugar. The jersey milk soft serve ice cream uses milk from a local farm, while the miso-flavoured one is made with white miso paste from a local miso shop.
In Kagawa Prefecture, they often eat white miso soup served with pounded rice cakes with sweet bean paste filling. About two years ago, the roadside station launched a dessert inspired by the soup, which became popular. They also started selling the miso-flavoured soft serve ice cream.
We then board the 11.45am train at Fusazaki Station. We speak to some high school students on the train and they recommend a self-serve udon noodle shop called Tonbo, located near Omachi Station. Kagawa is in fact known for its udon and is sometimes called Udon Prefecture. The train pulls into Omachi at 11.50am and the next train will leave an hour later. We walk to Tonbo, which has six affiliated shops in Kagawa Prefecture. Their noodles are homemade and nearly 1,000 servings are sold on a busy day. We order the curry udon noodles and curry rice. Soup stock made with dried sardine fish is added in the curry. Their chicken tempura and side dishes such as fries are popular too.
While walking back to Omachi Station, we meet a college student who tells us that the town of Mure is known for its high-quality stones called Aji. One can learn about the history of Aji stones at the Takamatsu City Stone Museum. It is located near Yakuri Station, two stops away from Omachi Station. We catch the 12.50pm train from Omachi Station and head to Yakuri. We reach at 12.55pm and rent some electric bicycles near the station. It costs 500 yen to rent them for three hours. We ask the staff of the rental shop for directions to the stone resource centre. We ride for about 10 minutes before reaching the place. From here, we can see the Aji stone quarry.
Produced in the mountains of Yakuri Gokenzan, the stones are mainly used for creating tombstones and lanterns. The resource centre was established about 20 years ago to pass down the drilling technology to later generations. The centre is an Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property. Nearly 800 drilling tools, which were created at the beginning of the Showa period, can be found here. Processing the Aji stones requires advanced technology. Because of that, Aji stones make up only one per cent of gemstones in the market that are drilled.
We next travel by the 2.35pm train from Yakuri Station to Kotoden-Yashima Station, two stops away. We arrive in five minutes and have until 3.40pm to explore the area. A local suggests we visit the Yashima mountain, which is accessible by bus. It was an independent island until the Edo period, when the land was filled up to make a salt farm. We also find out that the mountain has an aquarium and a temple. The Yashima temple is the 84th temple along the famous Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage route.
We hop on the 2.45pm bus and ride for 10 minutes to Yashima’s mountain top. We visit the temple, which has been designated as an Important Cultural Property. It was built by a Chinese monk called Ganjin Wajo in the Nara period and was later transferred to its present location by Japanese priest Kobo Daishi. The principal temple has an Irimoya-style structure.
After this, we walk to the Shin-Yashima Aquarium. About 200 species of fish and amphibians are displayed in 70 tanks of various sizes. Out of the six American manatees in Japan, two of them are kept here. Dolphins and penguins can also be seen here.
After checking out the temple and aquarium, we start looking for lodging for the night. We happen to meet a group of retirees and their local guide, Mr Oshima. They tell us they are staying at the Aji Tourist Hotel, situated near the sea. We manage to book rooms for ourselves and the hotel staff agrees to pick us up from Kotoden-Yashima Station.
1) The roadside station near Fusazaki Station sells unique miso-flavoured soft serve ice cream
2) Udon noodles are a must-try item of Kagawa Prefecture