Road Trip on Toyama Chihō Railway Main Line (Part 2)
A mineral spring which helps boost fertility, the last surviving lacquerware shop in Uozu, a cafe known for its Instagram-worthy fluffy pancakes and a beer factory are featured this week.
Our journey of enquiry and discovery along the Toyama Chiho Railway Main Line in Toyama Prefecture continues. On the first day, after visiting the firefly squid museum, we start looking for accommodation. A local, Ms Kuriyama, tells us about Kintaro Onsen in Uozu. She calls the inn but it is fully booked for the night. She suggests another lodge, Ganso Niemonya. Its baths use water from the famous Kitayama Kosen, which is believed to help with fertility issues. We manage to secure a room at the hotel.
We then travel by the 5pm train from Namerikawa Station to Dentetsu-Uozu Station, where we are picked up by the lodge’s eighth-generation owner, Mr Kiyokawa. After a 15-minute drive along the mountain road, we reach the inn. It has been around since the third year of the Keio era, before the Meiji Restoration.
This traditional hot spring lodge was established by Niemon Kiyokawa. His wife was ill after giving birth and he used to visit a Shinto shrine nearby daily. Then a deity appeared in his dream and told him to use the mineral spring water near the shrine, boil it and mix it in the bath. He followed the deity’s advice and his wife got better. That is how the mineral spring water became famous and got associated with fertility.
This family-run lodge charges 13,000 yen for a night’s stay with two meals. Our luxurious and spacious Japanese-style room called Suzuran comes with an open-air bath which uses water from Kitayama Kosen. There is also a public bath called Kusabue no Yu. After our bath, we feast on delicacies from Toyama’s sea and mountains.
The next morning, after breakfast, Mr Kiyokawa drives us to Dentetsu-Uozu Station. He recommends we visit a lacquerware shop, Takayasumi Shikki-ten, located in Uozu’s shopping district in front of the station. It is owned by a lacquerware craftsman Mr Takayasumi. Opened in 1921, it is the only lacquerware shop which still exists in Uozu. There used to be more than 180 Uozu lacquerware craftsmen at this shopping district during the Taisho period.
There was a big fire 10 years after the war, during which many traditional lacquer tools were burnt. They needed to be made from scratch and so it was difficult to find successors to take over the trade. Mr Takayasumi shows us some of the traditional tools he uses. One of them is a lacquer brush which has a core of human hair. It is used for painting and costs hundreds of thousands of yen. We later buy some non-slip chopsticks as gifts from the store.
We then speak to a group of high school students and they suggest we check out the A-Cafe near Dentetsu-Kurobe Station. It is famous for its Instagram-worth fluffy pancakes. We catch the 11.25am train and head to Dentetsu-Kurobe Station, which is 15 minutes away. At A-Cafe, we order the plain pancakes earlier recommended by the students. Rice flour and eggs from Toyama are used to make them. We learn that the key to making the pancakes fluffy is to beat the egg white until it becomes like meringue.
We return to Dentetsu Kurobe Station and hop on the 1.40pm train. A student we speak to on the train tells us about Unazuki Beer-Kan, a roadside station with a beer factory and a restaurant. We alight at Oritate Station and walk to the place. At the factory, the beer is made from Kurobe’s water and locally grown barley. Three different kinds of Unazuki beer are produced here and sold at the restaurant. Jujikyo has a nice aftertaste, Torokko has a rich flavour, while dark beer Kamoshika has a mellow flavour.
After this, we go to the Museum of Historical Folklore nearby. Here, we learn more about Aimoto Bridge, which is considered one of the three unique bridges in Japan. In the early Edo period, the 63-metre-long bridge was built over Kurobe River. The river's flow was too strong to set the bridge piers, so the builders used wooden materials called Hanegi which stuck out diagonally from both banks and were connected in the centre.
We walk back to Oritate Station and take the 3.40pm train to the final stop along the Toyama Chiho Railway Main Line, Unazuki Onsen Station. We arrive after a 15-minute ride and drop by a cafe to ask about recommended spots. The owner tells us to go to a hot spring fountain near the station. There is a free scenic footbath called Omokage behind it. It was built to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Unazuki Onsen. We soak our feet in the relaxing footbath while enjoying the beautiful view of the snowy landscape. It is a fitting end to our two-day journey along the Toyama Chiho Railway Main Line.
1) Lacquerware shop Takayasumi Shikki-ten in Uozu is a good place to buy souvenirs or gifts
2) Visit the A-Cafe near Dentetsu Kurobe Station for its Instagram-worthy fluffy pancakes
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