Train Adventure to Mie Prefecture (Part 2)
A town associated with Japan's "Ama" divers, an aquarium with a dugong as a mascot and a temple which displays the famous Taira clan's red flag with deep historical roots are featured this week.
Join us as we continue our two-day Kintetsu Railway trip from Tsu Station to Kashikojima Station in Mie Prefecture. We earn money at each stop if the places and specialities we check out are included in a secret “list”, created based on feedback from those in the tourism industry. The fewer users a station has each day, the higher its value, while stations with more visitors command lower prices. Our goal is to collect 100,000 yen in total and reach Kashikojima by 6pm on the second day. At the end of Day One, we manage to reach Asama Station and head by taxi to Mount Asama. We have amassed more than 58,000 yen in total by this time.
After visiting Mount Asama, we take the same taxi and go to Isuzugawa Station along Kintetsu Railway’s Toba Line. We reach the station at 7.35pm. We then catch the train to Toba Station and start looking for a place to stay. The first hotel we come across charges 12,000 yen per person, which is above our budget. The hotel staff suggests we try our luck at a business hotel called Road Inn Toba. We make our way there and are relieved that it only costs 6,600 yen per person, without dinner. Our rooms are quite spacious and we later have dinner at a seafood restaurant called Ichiei. We order some raw fish, a set meal with tempura and a pork cutlet bowl.
The next day, from Toba Station, we catch the 8.20am train and head to Shiraki Station. This time, we are travelling on Kintetsu Railway’s Shima Line. The unmanned Shiraki Station sees just 34 users per day, but it is priced at 50,000 yen. We realise there are no places to visit in this area. However, a resident we meet recommends we go back one stop to Matsuo Station and visit the town of Osatsu, associated with Japan’s female “Ama” divers.
As we do not manage to visit any place near Shiraki Station, we are unable to win the “prize” of 50,000 yen. We depart from the station at 9.05am and go to Matsuo Station. About 150 people visit this station each day and it is valued at 30,000 yen. We manage to find a bus stop but the bus going to Osatsu will only come at 10.15am. As luck would have it, a motorist passes by and offers to give us a ride to Osatsu. We are pleasantly surprised when she tells us she is an Ama diver, and so are her mother and daughter.
During the ride, Ms Nakagawa, who has 20 years of experience as an Ama diver, tells us more about Osatsu. The town has around 110 people working as Ama divers, more than any other town in Japan. In fact, about half of Japan’s Ama divers work in Shima Peninsula. They catch treasures such as abalone, red sea urchin and oysters. Ms Nakagawa is kind enough to invite us to her house, which is also a hostel. At Ama's Hostel Nakagawa, we get to try some abalone she caught and also meet her mum.
After this, we take the 11.15am bus from Osatsu to Matsuo Station. As Osatsu is included in the “secret” list of specialities and places, we win 30,000 yen and have 41,000 yen in total now. Our next stop is Nakanogo Station, priced at 15,000 yen. We want to visit the surrounding islands so we make our way to the ferry terminal. However, the next ferry will only leave at 1.40pm and it takes an hour to reach the islands.
We thus change our plans and visit the recommended Toba Aquarium instead. We find out it is the only aquarium in Japan that has a dugong. The entrance fee per person is 2,500 yen. Toba Aquarium has more species on display than any other aquarium in Japan. A baby sea otter was born here, which was a first for Japan. We meet Serena, the 33-year-old dugong, who is also the mascot of the aquarium.
We eat at the aquarium’s restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal of omelette rice, udon noodles and deep-fried chicken. Including lunch, we have spent almost 10,000 yen at the aquarium. But as Toba Aquarium is in the list, we earn 15,000 yen. We now have 40,000 yen in our coffers. We take the train to Gochi Station, which is surrounded by mountains. It only has 20 users per day but commands the highest price of 60,000 yen.
Isobe no Omita, one of Japan’s most famous rice planting festivals that started in the Heian period, is held here every June. It has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural property. A local also recommends we visit the Fukujuji Temple. It is associated with the Taira clan and has the family’s red flag. However, since it is a cultural property, we need to seek permission from the headman in charge of the temple. We manage to get permission, thanks to the help of the Osugi family, which holds the key to the temple.
The Taira clan’s red flag used to be a single piece but it is now in two pieces. This town took in refugees of the Taira family in ancient times. During the Muromachi period, the refugees made this flag to show their power and keep their spirits high when they were defeated by the Minamoto clan. The flag has been passed down for generations and is now a treasure for the people in the Gochi area. Swallowtail butterflies, the Taira clan’s symbol, are drawn on the flag. The Fukujuji temple and the Taira clan’s red flag are included in our list of famous places and specialities. We have successfully won 60,000 yen and have met our goal of earning a total of 100,000 yen.
Thrilled with our achievement, we take the 3.45pm train from Gochi to Kashikojima in Ago Bay, our final stop. We reach the station at 4.10pm, way before our deadline of 6pm. Our reward for reaching our goal is a sumptuous dinner featuring luxurious ingredients from Ise-Shima.
1) No visit to the town of Osatsu is complete without meeting Japan’s famous female “Ama” divers
2) A must-see event in Shima City is the Isobe no Omita rice planting festival, held in June every year