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Japan Hour

Road Trip on Watarase Keikoku Railway (Part 2)

Our two-day trip on the Watarase Keikoku Line continues this week. At the end of Day One, we spend the night at Kambai-kan.

Our two-day trip on the Watarase Keikoku Line continues this week. At the end of Day One, we spend the night at Kambai-kan. The next morning, after a breakfast of fried eggs, salmon and natto, we return to Kami-Kambai Station. We head by train to Undo-Koen Station, 20 minutes away. We reach the station at 9.30am and go to an eatery recommended by a local, Kororin Dumplings. Potatoes, onions and starch are used to make the dumplings, which are steamed like dango, resulting in a texture similar to mochi.

After trying the regular and curry dumplings, we go to another recommended spot, Ito Cafe. The building it is located in is between 100 and 200 years old and was originally a house. We order some cake and the cafe’s famous coffee, which is made from beans purchased directly from growers. We then ride the train to the neighbouring station, Aioi. We reach the station at 12.35pm and have until 2.50pm to explore the area.

A passerby tells us about the Iwajuku Museum, which displays the Iwajuku remains along with other Stone Age artefacts. It is a 30-minute walk from the station. The museum director agrees to take us around the place, which has been around for 25 years. The oldest historical period in Japan is said to be the Jomon, 15,000 years ago. However in 1946, a history student Aizawa Torihiko discovered artefacts in this area dating back 20,000 years. His discovery had a massive impact in the field of ancient history, suggesting that people lived in the area before the Jomon era. Thus, the Iwajuku remains at the museum are designated as Japanese cultural artefacts.

We walk back to Aioi Station and head to the final stop of the Watarase Keikoku Line. Kiryu is the largest city in Gunma Prefecture, with a population of at least 110,000. After talking to some locals, we first make our way to Yurinkan, a very old building which has a sake distillery inside. In 2012, the distillery was registered as an important cultural property. It is regarded as a symbol of Kiryu which draws people from all over the country.

Unfortunately, we are not able to enter Yurinkan as a drama is being filmed inside on this particular day. However, we find out that a nearby store, Yanoen, used to be part of Yurinkan. So we decided to check it out instead. At 300 years old, Yanoen is Kiryu's most well-established store. It sells a variety of sake and groceries from around Japan.

After this, we end our two-day trip on the Watarase Keikoku Line by eating at an eel restaurant, Izushin. It opened nearly 190 years ago and was often patronised by Sakaguchi Ango, a writer who lived in Kiryu. It serves only one item, eel on skewers which are topped with a secret sauce and then grilled to perfection



1)     History buffs should visit the Iwajuku Museum

2)     A store worth going to in Kiryu is Yanoen, the city’s most well-established shop


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