Road Trip on Amagi Line (Part 1)

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ep40: Road Trip on Amagi Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Amagi Line (Part 1)

Our train adventure this week takes place along Amagi Railway’s Amagi Line, which runs from Amagi Station in Fukuoka Prefecture to Kiyama Station in Saga Prefecture. Nicknamed Amatetsu by the locals, this short railway line spans 13.7km across 11 stations. 

The railway was originally built to transport military supplies. The line was first established in 1939 by Japanese National Railways and reopened under a third-sector company called Amagi Railway in 1986. Bus parts were used for the original train cars. The local residents still call those trains "railbuses". 

Our-two day journey begins in Asakura City in Fukuoka Prefecture. At Amagi Station, we first buy a day pass before taking the 9.45am train to Tachiarai Station. The one-car blue train, Cosmos, only runs during the season of cosmos flowers. A passenger tells us that a popular attraction in Tachiarai is the Kirin Beer factory.  

We arrive at Tachiarai Station at 9.50am and ask a local resident for directions to the beer factory. He tells us it is located near a forest, adding that there is a cosmos field in front of the factory. He also mentions the ruins of what used to be an Imperial Japanese Army airport. It was one of the biggest in Asia and was even equipped with an aircraft factory. There was a major air raid in this area in 1945. Nearly 1,000 bombs were dropped here that year. The remains of the place have been preserved as a historical monument.  

We first head to the Kirin Beer Fukuoka Plant, which boasts a massive area of 560,000 square metres. Kirin Beer has nine factories in Japan and this plant is one of its largest. The products are sold in Kyushu and Okinawa, and are also exported overseas to countries such as Korea and Taiwan. The facility attracts around 100,000 visitors every year and its factory tours are very popular.

During the tour, we are first shown the raw materials such as malt, and germinated and dried barley. After this, we are taken to the preparation room where the raw materials are boiled then filtered, and where wort and malt juice are produced. We get to taste primary and secondary wort. Boiled and extracted malt is called primary wort. Hot water is added to squeeze out the extract, the secondary wort. We get to taste samples of the wort, which is sweet. We next go to another section, where yeast is added and it is left to ferment. 

We finally go to the tasting room. After the tour, participants can have up to three glasses of beer or soft drinks for free. After finishing our beer, we walk to the cosmos field across the factory. About 15 million cosmos flowers are planted here. Every October, around 200,000 people will visit the field to enjoy the stunning view. 

A free shuttle bus provided by the factory takes us back to Tachiarai Station. This time, we travel on a cosmos-coloured train which has been designed by local high school students. We alight at Yamaguma Station. We see an elderly woman working in a field and ask her to suggest a restaurant for lunch as we are hungry. She recommends Azumi, which is known for its handmade udon noodles and free side dishes. It often attracts long queues and up to 500 customers each day. We order the hot udon noodles with wild vegetables. We also try the side dishes such as macaroni salad and tofu. The udon noodles in Fukuoka are known to be softer than other noodles. The noodles at Azumi are not only soft but chewy also.

We return to Yamaguma Station and take the 1.20pm train to Nishitachiarai Station. A resident here recommends we visit a statue of Takemitsu Kikuchi, which is located in a park.  Takemitsu was a military commander from the Nanboku-cho period who ruled over Kumamoto and the rest of Kyushu. He became well known for the Battle of Ohara, which is described in the historical epic, Taiheiki. Takemitsu bravely chased after the enemies from Kumamoto to this area and won the battle. Legend has it that he washed his blood-covered sword in a creek here. 

Next, we ride on the 2.25pm train to Imaguma Station. A local here mentions a camphor tree which has been designated as a cultural property. It is about 30m high and around 350 years old. Lightning struck the tree in August last year. Its trunk and branches were badly damaged and pieces of the tree were scattered all over. But miraculously, nobody got hurt. So the locals believe that the camphor tree protected them. 

We want to find a place to stay the night and ask a gentleman who is walking his dog. He tells us there are no lodging facilities in this area and we have to go back to Amagi Station. He does, however, invite us to visit his weaving workshop and gallery called Sho-Kobo. 


Tips:

1)    A popular attraction in Tachiarai, Fukuoka is the Kirin Beer factory
2)    If you are planning to spend the night somewhere, do your research beforehand about possible lodging places 


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