Road Trip on Flower Nagai Line (Part 1)

Japan Hour (Synopsis Only)

Japan Hour - Autumn
Road Trip on Flower Nagai Line

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Road Trip on Flower Nagai Line (Part 1)

This week, we will travel on Yamagata Railway’s Flower Nagai Line in winter. Running through the south of Yamagata Prefecture, it has 17 stops from Akayu to Arato and covers a distance of 30.5km. The train line was built in 1913. In 1988, Yamagata Railway took over and named it the Flower Nagai Line. Passengers travelling on this local line can enjoy the view of beautiful flowers which bloom in different seasons.

Our journey starts from Akayu Station in Nanyo City. We catch the 8.50am train and head to our first destination, Miyauchi. Our next train leaves at 10.55am, over 1.5 hours later. We roam around and visit a kindergarten. We find out that the children's song of Miyauchi was composed by Yuki Oshio, who hails from this town.

Someone at the kindergarten suggests we visit the 1,200-year-old Kumano Shrine, which is a 15-minute walk from the station. A highlight of the shrine is a carving above the shrine’s hall.  Legend has it that if you manage to find the three rabbits carved into the sculpture, you will have good luck.  

After visiting the shrine, we walk back to the station to meet "Mocchi", a special station master who is a rabbit. He became the station master seven years ago. Then, we take the train to Ringo, two stations ahead. We arrive at the station at 11am and have until 12.40pm to catch the next train. We visit a tofu shop near the station. It has been around for 60 years and its tofu is made from local ingredients, including Yamagata’s “secret recipe” beans. We try the shop’s sieved tofu, which is soft and delicious.

The shop’s owner recommends we visit the Ringo Elementary School, which has received a national award. In 2013, the school started a food education and management programme called Nobinobi Farm. The primary school kids run a farm, growing things such as cabbage and radish in an abandoned construction site. The produce is sold in the morning market and distributed to stores also, with the revenue generated being donated to the community. The farm is managed by a company set up by the students who are given titles such as President of Business and Sales, President of Processing, President of Production and President of Promotion.

We ask the students to recommend a place for lunch and they suggest a family-run restaurant, Maruta. It opened in 2000 and its most popular dish is the seafood bowl. Costing 860 yen, it consists of tuna, yellowtail, cod and five other types of fish.

After this, we take the train to Minami-Nagai Station. On the train, we chat with a passenger who mentions a sake brewery called Suzuki at Yotsuya. The brewery is a 10-minute walk from the station. Its director shows us around the facility. The company used to be called Toyo Sake Brewing and was originally located in Fukushima. After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the previous owners quit the business and sold the building. The current director bought the company and restarted the business in Yotsuya. During our tour of the brewery, we learn about how the sake is made. We later get to sample a bit of sake and also buy some as a souvenir. 

After visiting the sake brewery, we start looking for a place to spend the night. We ask a passer-by who mentions Hagi-en, which also has a hot spring. We call the hotel, which arranges a shuttle to pick us up from the brewery. Hagi-en has a classic rock bath and there is also a traditional bathhouse beside the hotel. In addition, the hotel has a Hagi Garden, where 15 types of Japanese clover bloom in autumn. After checking out our room, we go to the hotel’s electric-powered hot spring bath. The bath made from a hollowed bedrock weighs 30 tonnes.

Tips:

1) People say that if you find the three rabbits hidden in a carving at Kumano Shrine, you will be blessed with good luck

2) The best time to view the Japanese clover at Hagi Garden is end-August till mid-September


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