Road Trip on Ichibata Electric Railway (Part 2)

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Road Trip On Ichibata Electric Railway (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Ichibata Electric Railway (Part 2)

Our two-day trip of enquiry and discovery on Ichibata Electric Railway’s Taisha and Kita-Matsue lines in Shimane Prefecture continues. At the end of the first day, we spend the night at Tsukiyo no Usagi in Izumo. It is in fact located near Izumo Taisha-mae Station, where we began our journey earlier in the day. The dinner buffet boasts more than 50 different dishes, including fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan, such as local speciality red snow crabs, seared Spanish mackerel and turban shell. The buffet also has beef steaks and spare ribs.

 The next morning, the breakfast buffet offers 80 dishes, the most popular being a seafood bowl featuring salmon roe, salmon and shrimp. After this, we resume our train journey from Taisha Line’s Izumo Taisha-mae Station. We take the 9.10am train to Kawato, from where we change to the Kita-Matsue Line and head to Ichibataguchi Station by the 9.25am train. On the train, a passenger tells us we can see a switchback being done at Ichibataguchi Station.

From Izumo Taisha-mae Station, it takes 35 minutes to reach Ichibataguchi. The conductor switches the driver's seat to do a switchback, which refers to a train changing directions to climb up a steep slope. However, at this station, the switchback is done on flat ground. There used to be a line connecting Ichibataguchi Station to Ichibata Station. But the line went out of use in 1944. Both the station and the rails were removed. However, Ichibataguchi Station was kept at the same location. So the train performs a switchback to change directions, even though the railway line is on flat ground.

After seeing this rare switchback, we ask a resident about famous spots near Ichibataguchi Station. He tells us to visit Ichibata Yakushi Temple, dedicated to a deity of eyes. It is 4km away by foot as it is located on a mountain. As we are walking there, a car stops beside us and the driver offers to give us a ride to the temple. We reach in less than 10 minutes and speak to the temple’s chief monk. He teaches us how to pour some special tea on a Healing Buddha statue before visiting the temple.

Ichibata Yakushi Temple was founded in the Heian Period. A fisherman discovered the Healing Buddha statue in the sea and ensconced the statue in the temple. It is said that the fisherman’s mother, who had problems with her vision, regained her eyesight subsequently. Since then, the statue has been worshipped as a deity of eyes. 

Later, we take the 11.50am train from Ichibataguchi Station to Aikamachi Station, five stops away. The train reaches the station after about 15 minutes. We explore the area and come across a roadside station. A resident here suggests that we try a local delicacy, basket clams curry, at a restaurant called Four Seasons on the second floor. It has a nice view of Shinji Lake. We order the recommended basket clam curry with a small clam soup. After our meal, we check out the souvenir section, where basket clams from Shinji Lake and ready-made basket clam curry are sold.

Our next stop is Matsue English Garden Mae Station. After travelling for nearly 10 minutes from Aikamachi Station, we arrive at 2pm. A local tells us about an English-style garden nearby. The garden was built on the site of a junior high school. It was constructed nearly 20 years ago at the same time when the Louis C Tiffany Garden Museum was built. Bricks and stones used for the decoration were all imported from England. The museum closed about 11 years ago, but the garden was kept intact and now boasts about 500 types of plants from different countries.

Our next stop is Coffee Kan, situated in a retro Western-style building next to Shinji Lake. It is quite far away, so we decide to borrow some bicycles. It takes us 10 minutes to cycle to the coffee shop. We order some coffee and a Mont Blanc Cake, which is made of chestnut cream.  

After this, we travel by the 4.30pm train to the last station along the Kita-Matsue Line, Matsue Shinjiko Onsen Station. We arrive at the station in five minutes and ask a local about a famous spot in this city. The person suggests Matsue Castle, a national treasure. We go to the fifth floor of the castle, from where one can enjoy a beautiful view of Shinji Lake.

The castle was built by Horio Yoshiharu, a military commander who served Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is one of the very few castles where the original castle tower is still preserved. In autumn, one can see lanterns floating on the outer moat and the castle tower will be beautifully illuminated at night. 

 

Tips:

1) Railway fans should visit Ichibataguchi Station, where a switchback is done on flat ground

2) A must-visit attraction near Matsue Shinjiko Onsen Station is national treasure Matsue Castle


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