Road Trip on Ōarai Kashima Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Ōarai Kashima Line (Part 1)


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Road Trip on Ōarai Kashima Line (Part 1)

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This week, we embark on a 2-day overnight journey to create a unique Ibaraki Prefecture Travel Guide. It will contain 10 curated entries based entirely on local recommendations. Our sojourn will take us through all 16 stations of the Kashima Rinkai Railway’s Oorai Kashima Line, finishing at the prefectural Office in Mito Station. The Kashima Rinkai Railway was originally created to transport cargo but after a Japanese National Railways (JNR) takeover in 1985, it eventually reopened to transport passengers.

Our journey begins at 10.20am at the Kashimajingu Station. En route, we manage to catch a quick glimpse of Kashima Soccer Stadium, the home of the Kashima’s team – the Kashima Antlers. We alight just 9 minutes later at our first destination: Koyodai.

We make plans to catch the 11.18 train to Mito – which gives us a little over 45 minutes to explore Koyodai. We ask a lady for recommendations and she suggests a Hawaiian restaurant. It’s further down the line at the next station – Chojagahama Hamanasu Koenmae; the station with the longest name in Japan. We make plans to head there for lunch and continue asking around for inspiration. A local suggests Hamanasu Park, also located in the vicinity of Koenmae. We set off.

Returning to Koyodai Station, we board our train, alighting 3 minutes later at Chojagahama Shiosai Hamanasu Koenmae Station. However, the house where the restaurant should be is empty. We ask around and are informed that it’s permanently closed – however, we receive directions to Tachibana, an eel restaurant. It’s a distance away through Route 51 and takes us half an hour by foot. Tachibana was established some 27 years ago and specializes in eel rice boxes. It becomes the first entry in our travel guide.

We finish our lunch at 1.30pm and are too late for the 1.57pm train. We decide to make a quick trip to Hamanasu Park. It is home to a series of attractions, including a giant 154-metre long slide, a star-filled Planetarium and a 48-metre tall observatory that provides an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park becomes the second entry in our guide.

We leave the park at 2.21pm – barely make our train, and arrive at our next destination, the cheery-sounding Taiyo Station in 12 minutes. We have about 2 hours to wander before our next train at 4.48pm. We ask a lady near the station for a must-visit and she suggests Top Sante, a hot spring facility. It’s too far to walk and as we deliberate on the best way to get there, picks up on our predicament, offering a ride. We accept, and arrive in 15 minutes – to our surprise, our benefactor also graciously says she’ll pick us up an hour later.

Top Sante Taiyo was built to promote the health of the locals and includes a heated pool and a gym; however, the greatest draw of the facility is its hot springs, with a superb view of the Pacific Ocean. The natural marine chloride springs run black and have an excellent moisturizing effect. Top Sante Taiyo makes the cut as the third entry in the travel guide.

We arrive back at Taiyo Station at about 5pm – missing our train by just a hair. We wait another 30 minutes for our transport to the next stop – Shin-Hokota Station. The time now is 5.33pm. Then sun has just begun to set and the sky is ablaze in gold. Spellbound, we impulsively alight at Kitaurakohan Station – we simply must get more of the view. From the platform, we lay eyes upon shimmering, splendid Lake Kasumigaura, the 2nd largest lake in Japan. Alas, we can’t register a place that we’ve discovered on our own. This has been a futile detour.

It is 6.26pm when we finally arrive at Shin-Hokota Station. Hokota City is the largest producer of melons in Japan and we get a complimentary taste of their produce at Hotel New Aso – where we also secure accommodation for the night. Our most pressing issue dealt with, our thoughts turn to food. A gentleman suggests Chinese cuisine at Tsubakiya and specially recommends their egg-topped wood ear. We call ahead and minutes later, a van from the restaurant arrives to pick us up.