Road Trip on Chokai Sanroku Line in Akita Prefecture (Part 1)

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Japan Hour - Autumn
Road Trip on Chokai Sanroku Line in Akita Prefecture

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Road Trip on Chokai Sanroku Line in Akita Prefecture (Part 1)

This week, we will travel along the Chokai Sanroku Line, operated by Yuri Kogen Railway, in Akita Prefecture. The Yuri Kogen Railway, which began in 1985, is also called "Yuritetsu". The railway line runs through the skirt of Mt. Chokaisan, a famous mountain in the Tohoku region. There are 12 stations along the line, which covers a total distance of 23km. Passengers get to enjoy beautiful views of the quiet countryside when travelling on this local line. During the two-day trip, we will visit various local attractions recommended by the locals.

We start our journey from Ugohonjo Station in Yurihonjo city, located in the southwest of Akita Prefecture. We first head to Koyoshi Station, two stations away. After admiring the peaceful autumn view of rice fields, we arrive at the station and have over an hour to spare till the next train. We ask the locals about interesting places worth visiting. They tell us about a Hachiman shrine nearby so we decide to check it out. It was built in the mid-Edo era and the current building was renovated in the Taisho era. There are “creatures” known as Rikijo on each corner of the roof; they serve as the guardians of the shrine.

We return to the station and take the train to Ayukawa Station. The locals recommend we visit the former Ayukawa Elementary School. From the station, we walk for about half an hour to the old school. The modern Japanese-style building was constructed in 1954 and was one of the biggest wooden buildings in Akita. After the school was closed down, the place became a registered Tangible Cultural Property in 2013. The place is well-maintained and we notice that Akita cedar was used for the floors. We also go to the Music Room, where a piano still stands. We drop by the Nagomi Cafe, located in the library of the school. Tea and snacks such as biscotti are available here, while fresh wild vegetables and homemade cakes are also sold at reasonable prices.

After this, we travel by the 1pm train to Magarisawa Station, which is two stations ahead. We have about two hours to kill till the next train leaves at 3pm. So we ask some locals about a nice viewing spot to see Mt. Chokaisan. We are advised to go to the junior high school. From the school, we are treated to a gorgeous view of the snow-covered mountain, which is 2,236m above sea level. Mt. Chokaisan is also called "Dewa Fuji" by the locals.

We are hungry so ask the residents to suggest a good restaurant. We are told to go to a place called Yuriemon. Built in 2002, it has a day spa, rest area and a restaurant. We order the zaru udon or cold noodles. Powdered lily bulbs are added to the dough of the udon to make the town’s unique lily bulb udon.

Our next stop is Maego Station and after asking around, we decide to drop by a pie shop called Grandpa Grandma. It opened five years ago and sells handmade pies using apples from Akita. Its apple pies are a popular snack among the local children. We ask several people if there is a hotel around the station where we can spend the night but they tell us there is only a motel. The closest hotel is in Yurihonjo city, where ironically we had started our journey. So we have to go back five stations to Yakushido Station, which we had passed in the morning. From the station, we walk for 15 minutes to Anraku Onsen but unfortunately the hotel is fully booked. We are then told to try our luck at Tsurumai Onsen. So we walk for 10 minutes to the place but find out its lodging facility shut down over 20 years ago. So once again, we have to ask the residents for suggestions and they tell us to go to Hotel Iris, which is half an hour away by foot. We are thrilled that there are rooms available for the night. Hotel Iris is one of the biggest in the city with 128 guest rooms. The Sky Restaurant on the top floor is popular as a dating venue. It offers spectacular views of the town and also serves delicious Yuri beef.

Tips:

1) Order the unique lily bulb udon in Yuriemon
2) If your kids like apple pie, get some from the “Grandpa Grandma” shop near Maego Station

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