Road Trip on Kisuki Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Kisuki Line

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Road Trip on Kisuki Line (Part 1)

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Join us on a two-day journey along the JR Kisuki Line, which links the Shimane and Hiroshima prefectures. It offers stunning views of the region’s mountain forests as the train travels alongside the Hii River from Shinji Station in Shimane to Bingo Ochiai Station in Hiroshima. There are 18 stations along this local line which spans 81.9km. Kisuki Line originated as the Hinokami Railway, running from Shinji Station to Kisuki Station. The route was subsequently nationalised and extended to become today's Kisuki Line.

Our journey begins in the city of Matsue in eastern Shimane Prefecture. Shinji Station is situated near Lake Shinji, a tributary of the Hii River which is a symbol of the ancient Izumo Province. We catch the 9.10am train to our first destination, Kamonaka, which is two stops away. The ride takes about 15 minutes and we have two hours till our next train departs from Kamonaka.

We speak to a local at the station who tells us about the area’s famous “dotaku" bronze bells, which have been registered as a national treasure. They are located on top of a hill and the resident offers to drive us to the Kamoiwakura Ruins. We then have to climb for 200m before reaching the spot with the bronze bells. They are believed to have been used during festivals in the Yayoi period. In 1996, nearly 40 bronze vessels were discovered here during construction work. The majority of these bronze vessels have miniature bells within them.

We are given a ride back to Kamonaka Station and we head by train to Unnan city’s Kisuki Station, four stops ahead. After admiring the idyllic scenery for 20 minutes, we arrive at the station and have till 2.35pm to explore the area. We are hungry so we ask someone at the station to suggest a place for lunch. We are told to check out Okui, which serves a local delicacy, mackerel sushi. However, when we arrive at the restaurant, we find out it is closed on this particular day. So we decide to go to another recommended eatery called Okageya to try its omelette rice. Unnan is a centre for poultry production, with nine poultry farms producing six million eggs per year. The Unnan Tamago Project is a campaign that started five years ago to encourage the consumption of local eggs. Eighteen restaurants here serve their own variation of omelette rice. The omelette rice at Okageya, for example, is filled with chicken and onion.

We want to visit one more attraction here so we ask another local for recommendations. She suggests a confectionery named Hikamido. Founded in 1948, it specialises in Western sweets and other desserts such as castella sponge cake. It is famous for its pudding made from locally-sourced eggs and milk produced in Kisuki.

After trying the silky smooth speciality pudding, we take the train to Shimokuno, two stops away. The train heads deep into the mountains of the Chugoku region and pulls into the station after 20 minutes. Interestingly, the station has its own garden where things like onions and corn are grown. A resident tells us there used to be two train tracks here. One track has since been removed and the space was developed into a garden in 2008 to revitalise the station and the surrounding community. Visitors can harvest and pick vegetables at the garden for free. A small team mans the station, with local women from the community taking turns to sell train tickets. They also provide tea and snacks to visitors.

The local community has also planted a strawberry field which is a 10-minute walk from the station. Every year in May, Shimokuno Station hosts a strawberry-picking event. We try some of the strawberries before walking back to the station.

From Shimokuno Station, we take the 5.05pm train to Izumi Minari, the 11th stop on the Kisuki Line. We pass through the Shimokuno Tunnel - the longest on the Kisuki Line - spanning 2,241m. We reach Izumo Minari Station after about 20 minutes and ask some locals to suggest a place where we can spend the night. One of them mentions Cycling Terminal. It opened in 1993 as part of Okuizumo's efforts to promote cycling tours of the town’s famous landmarks. The hotel has rental bicycles, offers rooms at reasonable rates and even has a hot spring. For dinner, we order the yakiniku dinner set, featuring grilled meat and lots of maitake mushrooms grown in Okuizumo.


Tips:

1) Check out the “dotaku” bronze bells at Kamoiwakura Ruins
2) Shimokuno Station hosts a strawberry-picking event in May every year


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