Two pairs of travellers continue their three-day relay journey on the Uchibo and the Sotobo railway lines around Boso Peninsula, Chiba Prefecture. On the second day, the first pair of Gitan Otsuru and Jun Shibuki meets up with Mami Kumagai and Taku Suzuki from the next team at Uchibo Line’s Chikura Station. Four of them visit a vegetable store near the station to ask about recommended spots. A lady tells them about Takabe Shrine, the only shrine in Japan that worships a deity of cooking. She also suggests a roadside station called Shiokaze Okoku in Minamiboso, where there is a flower field.
The teams first visit Takabe Shrine. It is dedicated to Iwakamutsukari no Mikoto, who used to work as the emperor’s head chef in the past. The shrine is believed to have been built before the Heian period and there is a monument called Hochozuka on its grounds. Many people such as cooks would come to this place from all over Japan in the hopes of improving their cooking skills. During the annual Hochoshiki “knife ceremony” held here, a fish is cut with only a knife and chopsticks, without using one’s hands.
The travellers then go to Shiokaze Okoku, where an array of colourful flowers greets them. The field has stock flowers, poppies, cornflowers and pot marigolds. Due to the Kuroshio Current, the town of Chikura has a warm climate with no frost even in mid-winter. Many types of flowers are grown outdoors and they bloom between late December and mid-March. Visitors can even pick flowers for a small fee.
The four team members then take a bus back to Chikura Station and take the train to Awa-Kamogawa Station, where the Uchibo Line ends and the Sotobo Line begins. Here, Ms Kumagai and Mr Otsuru will pair up, with Mr Suzuki and Ms Shibuki teaming up. The first pair of Mr Otsuru and Ms Kumagai speak to a resident, who mentions the Chokyu seafood restaurant. They order the sashimi set meal, which comes with namerou. However, they have to wait for the chef to order the ingredients such as horse mackerel, amberjack and grunt.
The other team of Mr Suzuki and Ms Shibuki ask a group of students, who recommend a Baumkuchen shop and a sushi shop next to it. So they first walk to Marufuji, a conveyer belt sushi shop which opened in 1999. It owns fishing rights so makes sushi with its speciality fresh fish which is caught locally. It serves 80 different kinds of sushi, including horse mackerel, Japanese halfbeak, red bream, whole spear squid, salmon and tuna. The pair then goes to the Baumkuchen shop, called Kamogawa Baum. Opened in 2018, it uses high-quality milk from Minamiboso and fresh local eggs. Its Kamoba cheese Baumkuchen made with special cream cheese is popular. It also sells other types of Baumkuchen, including one with ice cream.
The other team of Ms Kumagai and Mr Otsuru, meanwhile, is observing how Chokyu’s chef prepares namerou using grunt, Japanese amberjack and horse mackerel. After removing the skin and bones from the fish, it is cut into bite-sized pieces. The restaurant’s original blended miso is added, together with spices, ginger and fresh onions. The fish is then minced, after which some lemon is added for flavouring. After enjoying some sashimi and namerou, Ms Kumagai and Mr Otsuru return to Awa-Kamogawa Station. Ms Shibuki and Mt Otsuru bid farewell to the other two travellers here.
Mr Suzuki and Ms Kumagai take over the second portion of this three-day journey. They travel on the Sotobo Line from Awa-Kamogawa and their first stop is Ubara, five stations away. The train ride along the coastline takes about 25 minutes. They have an hour till their next train. A resident they speak to tells them about Ubara Risokyo, where there is a mystical white torii of the Ubara Yasaka Shrine on the beach. At the local shrine’s annual festival in July, a portable shrine is carried through the torii to pray for good luck.
The pair heads to Ubara Risokyo, where there is also a scenic spot called Tasogare no Oka. At about 30m above sea level, it boasts a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. In the Taisho era, this area was planned as a holiday home area with a great view. It was thus called Risokyo, which means "utopia". Many writers such as Akiko Yosano have visited this place, fascinated by the beauty of the blue water and the cliffs.
Mr Suzuki and Ms Kumagai then board the 4.15pm train and head to Katsuura. They start asking around about accommodation. Katsuura Hotel Mikazuki is suggested by a resident and the travellers manage to secure two rooms. Opened in 1961, this resort hotel in front of the ocean has a hot spring and its rooms come with a panoramic view of Katsuura Bay.
1) Cooking enthusiasts should visit Takabe Shrine, dedicated to a deity of cooking
2) Look out for a mystical white torii gate at Ubara Beach in Katsuura City