Road Trip on Uetsu Line (Part 2)
An inn with baths surrounded by a bamboo grove, a roadside station full of local specialities, a glass studio and a shop selling Akita's shitogi rice cakes are among the places featured this week.
We continue our two-day trip along the JR Uetsu Main Line, travelling from Sakata to Akita. At the end of the first day, we manage to reach Ugohonjo Station in Akita Prefecture. We decide to spend the night at Anraku Onsen but as we made the reservation late, we have to find a place for dinner. We eat at Umai Ichiganzushi, a sushi restaurant recommended by one of the locals. It serves seafood from Hachimori Port.
We order saury, sweet shrimp, whole raw squid and Akita’s speciality, gibasa seaweed soup. We then head to Anraku Onsen, the only hot spring in Ugohonjo where people can stay overnight. It has hot spring baths surrounded by a bamboo grove. It opened in 1916 and has hot spring water which flows directly from the source.
The next morning, after a Japanese-style breakfast, we take the hotel’s shuttle bus to Ugohonjo Station. Our first stop today is Iwaki-Minato Station, 20 minutes away. The next train is at 11am, which gives us an hour to look around. We go to the Iwaki Library to ask about recommended spots. The head librarian suggests we check out the Iwaki roadside station, which is a five-minute walk away. It sells fresh seafood caught in the nearby sea and vegetables produced by local farmers. We buy some skewers with turban shells, sea snails, clams and scallops, which are grilled with a soy-based sauce. There is also a restaurant here, which serves dishes such as seafood rice bowl and Yurigyu beef.
After this, we advance to Shimohama Station, two stops away. We arrive after about 10 minutes and the next train departs at 1.10pm. We walk along the highway for a while, looking for people to talk to. We come across a young man and some other residents who tell us there are no popular spots in this area. So we decide to return to the station and take the train to Araya. We arrive at 1.20pm and aim to catch the 2.10pm train from here later. A local here recommends we visit the Akita Araya Glass Studio, where one can learn about glasswork. The facility conducts tours and workshops where visitors get to see how glass is manufactured. They can also purchase various glass products at the studio.
After this, we take the train to our final stop of this two-day journey, Akita Station. The train ride takes less than 15 minutes and we arrive at 2.10pm. A resident at the station tells us about Inaniwa, which is famous for its udon. However, it only opens at 5pm. So we continue asking other locals about recommended spots. A lady suggests we visit the Shimin Ichiba market, where seafood and vegetables are sold. We get to sample some salmon roe and buy some sandfish sushi.
Some students we speak to mention a soup restaurant called Soupholic. Unfortunately, it too is closed. So another local suggests we check out Ichinoho, a confectionery shop. It sells an Akita speciality, shitogi confections, made from rice flour. Its award-winning shitogi rice cakes have a thin dough and are filled with a paste made from black beans grown in Tokachi.
1) Visit Akita Araya Glass Studio to see how glass is made and also buy some glassware as souvenirs
2) Must-try delicacies of Akita Prefecture include gibasa seaweed soup and sandfish