Road Trip on Gono Line (Part 2)

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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 2)

We continue our journey on the JR Gono Line in search of interesting spots recommended by the locals. On the second day, after a breakfast of natto beans and Chanchan-Yaki hotpot with lots of vegetables at Kanko Hotel, we take the shuttle bus to Fukaura Station. We then catch the 7.35am train to the first destination of the day, Henashi in Aomori Prefecture. It's the furthest point on the coast and the westernmost stop on the Gono Line. After a 10-minute scenic ride, we arrive at Henashi Station. The name Henashi was coined over a millennia ago. A foreign vessel arrived in town with a damaged stern and the villagers repaired the boat. Thus the town was called "Henashi" to refer to "shipbuilders".

We check the train schedule at Henashi Station and realise the next train only leaves six hours later at 1.50pm. So we decide to walk to the neighbouring station, WeSPa-Tsubakiyama, to catch the rapid train service at 11.15am. It is about 2km away from Henashi and we speak to some locals along the way. They tell us to go to Furofushi Onsen, where there are several oceanfront open-air baths. These baths are only open from sunrise to sunset and are famous for offering beautiful views of the sunset.

After relaxing in one of the hot spring baths, we continue walking to WeSPa-Tsubakiyama Station. We meet another resident on the way who recommends we visit a glassblowing workshop near the station. Shirakami Glass Studio displays and sells glass artwork based on UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakami-Sanchi's natural splendour and local specialities unique to Aomori Prefecture. In addition to hands-on glassblowing sessions, visitors can also observe the skilled craftsmen at work.

We head back to WeSPa-Tsubakiyama Station and take the train to Juniko Station, which is three stops ahead. This time, we travel on the Resort Shirakami "Kumagera" train which has been in service since 2006. As the train nears the station, Shirakami-Sanchi comes into view. In the Western portion of Shirakami-Sanchi is a series of lakes surrounded by a beech forest. When viewed from Mt. Kuzureyama, 12 lakes and ponds are visible and the area was thus named "Juniko", which means "Twelve Lakes". Our next train from Juniko Station leaves 2.5 hours later at 2.10pm so we have lots of time to check out this recommended spot. It is a 15-minute bus ride from the station. So we take the 11.35am bus to the top of the mountain. A highlight of Lake Juniko is a mysterious dark blue pond called Aoike. It looks different depending on the angle and the season.

We head back to Juniko Station and visit a coffee shop nearby. Its owner Akio retired from his office job few years ago and opened this cafe. He entertains customers by singing Tsugaru folk songs.

Our next destination is Akita-Shirakami Station. After crossing the border, the train enters Akita Prefecture. We have about an hour in Akita-Shirakami before our next train departs at 3.55pm. We drop by a gift shop to enquire about where we could have lunch and we are told to try a restaurant called Genki Awabi Don. It is located at the Hachimori Isaribi Hot Spring Hatahata-Kan hotel directly across the station. The 80-seat restaurant serves the area’s famous sandfish and abalone.

Next up is the final stop on the Gono Line, Higashi-Noshiro Station. After admiring the last stretch of ocean scenery along the line, we arrive at the station at 4.40pm. We speak to someone at the station who tells us about Sasayasu Shoten, a producer of rope made from intertwined rice straw. The straw is said to be stronger than synthetic rope and the dragline is used for fixed-net fishing in Toyoma Bay. This concludes our two-day journey through Aomori and Akita prefectures on the JR Gono Line during which we discovered 10 interesting local attractions.


Tips:

1) Furofushi Onsen is a popular spot to view the sunset
2) A highlight of Lake Juniko is a mysterious blue pond called Aoike

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