Road Trip on Abukuma Express (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Abukuma Express (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Abukuma Express (Part 1)

Join us as we travel on the Abukuma Express Line, which connects Fukushima Station in Fukushima Prefecture and Tsukinoki Station in Miyagi Prefecture. Originally called the Marumori Line and run by Japanese National Railways, its ownership was transferred to AbukumaExpress and it began operating under its current name in 1986. Most of the railway line runs along the Abukuma River and it is also known for offering beautiful views of the countryside. There are 24 stations on the local line, covering a total distance of 54.9km.

We begin our two-day trip from Fukushima Station. We catch the 9.40am train and our first destination is Fukushima-Gakuin-mae Station, two stops ahead. A man on the train tells us to check out the boats at a lake near Takakonuma, which used to be an amusement park. It is located close to Takako Station. Our train arrives at Fukushima-Gakuin-mae Station in less than 10 minutes. We are hungry so start enquiring about restaurants. A local suggests we go to Toraya, which serves pasta. However, upon reaching the place, we find out it only opens at 11am, so we return to the station. We ride on the 10.25am train and speak to a passenger, who recommends we eat at an Italian restaurant called La Wasabi. Opened in 2002, it is situated near Hobara Station, which is two stops after Takako Station.

We reach Takako Station after five minutes and ask a family for directions to Takakonuma. We also ask them about famous spots in this area and they suggest Takako-so, in front of Takakonuma. After a 15-minute walk, we reach the lake, which is connected to famous warlord Masamune Date. In the past, the surrounding area was used to mine gold. When a samurai known as Hideyoshi Toyotomi seized the land from feudal lord Masamune Date, the gold mine was submerged by Masamune in the lake to hide it from Hideyoshi and other feudal lords. 

Next, we go to Takako-so, a lodge with a cafeteria which opened in 1948. We order its popular miso ramen set meal and fried rice. At 12.20pm, we travel two stops ahead to Hobara Station. This time, the one-car train is blue, with a design featuring local anime series Masamune Datenicle. We reach Hobara in less than five minutes. A resident in front of the station suggests we visit a mansion inside Hobara Total Park, near the next station, Oizumi. We first go to La Wasabi, which was recommended to us earlier. However, as it is lunchtime, it is rather crowded so we decide to head back to Hobara Station.

At the station, an elderly lady tells us about Kimama Cafe, which serves coffee and desserts in homemade wares. We walk for 20 minutes to the cafe, which has an adjoining pottery classroom. We try the freshly baked chiffon cake and cheese tart. The owner, who started taking pottery lessons as a hobby in his late 40s, opened this shop about 11 years ago. We ask him about the mansion in Oizumi. He tells us we can walk to the place directly, instead of going back to Hobara Station and taking the train to Oizumi.

After walking for half an hour from Kimama Cafe, we reach Hobara Total Park. The beautiful mansion, built in 1904, was the former residence of the Kameoka family. Recognised for its historical value, it was registered as a national important cultural property in 2016. It looks like a Western-style house from the outside but has a Japanese-style interior. We are shown the master bedroom, called the Keyaki Room. It is said that zelkova trees from a town called Marumori were cut down to make the room’s pillars. The trees were cut horizontally, instead of vertically, to show huge growth rings, which are believed to be a sign of wealth. Another unique feature in the mansion is the presence of “black spots” on the ceiling, which are actually tree nodes. They are not usually used for regular houses when making ceiling boards. The patches resemble gold coins and hence the term "money hailing ceiling" came about.

Next, we catch the train departing at 3.35pm from Oizumi Station. After about 10 minutes, we reach Yanagawa Station. We want to look for lodging and drop by Hyakuman Bariki, a venue for live shows, to ask for recommendations. We speak to Mr Yokoyama, who tells us about the Kunimi Roadside Station. It is, however, rather far and he advises us to call the place first. Mr Suzuki from the roadside station agrees to pick us up and drive us there.

Tips:

1) Always check a restaurant’s opening hours before heading there
2) If your inn is too far from where you are, try calling the place to ask if someone could pick you up


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