Road Trip on Gono Line (Part 1)

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Japan Hour - Autumn
Road Trip on Gono Line

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Road Trip on Gono Line (Part 1)

This week, we will travel on the JR Gono Line in search of new and interesting sites. This local line links Aomori Prefecture and Akita Prefecture and offers stunning views of the Sea of Japan. The Gono Line opened in 1908 and used to be called the Noshiro Line. The line was completed in 1936. Covering a total distance of 147.2km with 43 stations, it is one of the most popular railway lines in Japan.

We start our two-day journey from Kawabe Station located in the Inakadate village in Aomori Prefecture. It is the first station on the Gono Line. We buy a two-day Gono Line Pass, which allows us to take unlimited train rides, and then travel to our first destination, Mutsu-Tsuruda. During the 20-minute ride, we enjoy the beautiful scenery of apple orchards, mountains and colourful rice fields - a work of art that is a famous tourist attraction in Inakadate.

At Mutsu-Tsuruda Station, we have two hours till our next train leaves at 12pm. We walk around the town and drop by a gas station to gather some information. We then walk for 10 minutes to Kakuju Bridge, which offers a majestic view of Mount Iwaki and Iwaki River. Along the riverbank is a park that has sculptures of cranes, a town symbol of Tsuruta. We want to visit another iconic landmark in Tsuruta, the Tsurunomai Bridge. Spanning the Tsugaru Fujimi Lake, it is the longest triple arched wooden bridge in Japan. However, we have no time so we make our way back to Mutsu-Tsuruda Station.

Our next destination is Ajigasawa, a coastal town. After a 40-minute scenic ride along the ocean, we arrive at Ajigasawa Station. Our next train will depart at around 3pm, two hours later. A local outside the station recommends a seafood restaurant Umi no Eki Wando where we can have lunch. However it is rather far from the station so we rent some bicycles and ride to the eatery. Located a stone's throw away from the ocean, it has a wide selection of fresh seafood from the Ajigasawa coast and locally sourced vegetables. Flounder from the Sea of Japan is a delicacy in Ajigasawa. Loved by the locals, it is usually marinated in soy sauce and served on a steaming bowl of rice. However, it is not available on this particular day so the proprietress recommends dishes with sea urchin, snow crab, shrimp, scallops, vegetables and noodles.

We return to the station and take the train to Senjojiki Station. We have to catch the next train from here an hour later at 4.15pm. Senjojiki means "a thousand tatamis", referring to the awesome rock formations here which resemble a huge stack of tatami mats. The area’s beautiful coastline was formed after an earthquake in 1792, which pushed the rocks up from the ocean floor. We check out a helmet-shaped rock, which was carved by the rough waves of the Sea of Japan.

After this, we take a fancy train called Resort Shirakami. Beech wood is used for its seats and interior. We alight at the last stop for the day, Fukaura, which is the 23rd station along Gono Line. We drop by a shop which sells sea snails and abalone to get suggestions on where to stay. The folks here tell us to consider Kanko Hotel, which opened in 1981. It is the only Western-style hotel in the area. The locals at the store are kind enough to call the hotel for us and arrange the hotel’s shuttle bus to pick us up from the station. 

Situated on top of a hill, the hotel has a hot spring, Benzaiten no Yu, and boasts a bird’s-eye view of the Sea of Japan. After checking in, we head out to the Okazaki Sunset Observatory, which is a five-minute walk from the hotel. We enjoy the stunning view of the sunset and then return to the hotel to relax in its open-air bath before dinner. For dinner, we feast on items like bluefin tuna, chawanmushi and grilled squid.



Tips:

1)    A must-see tourist attraction in Inakadate is its colourful rice field art
2)    Flounder is a delicacy and local favourite in Ajigasawa

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