Road Trip on Kisuki Line (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Kisuki Line

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Road Trip on Kisuki Line (Part 2)

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We continue our two-day journey on the JR Kisuki Line, travelling from Shinji Station in Shimane Prefecture to Bingo Ochiai Station in Hiroshima Prefecture. On the second day, we have breakfast at the Cycling Terminal lodging facility. The meal includes the locally farmed Nitamai rice, which has received the prestigious “Special A” ranking.

As we have enough time before our train departs at 10.50am, we rent some bicycles at the facility and head downtown. One local suggests we go to a famous spot, Oni no Shitaburui. The granite here was carved out by the rapid river currents, leaving depressions in the stone which look like little basins. The “ogre's tongue rock formation” is a nationally designated natural landmark. The monument's name comes from a tale about a shark who was afraid of the enormous rocks in ancient times and flicked its tongue rapidly in fear.

We make our way back to the Cycling Terminal to return the bicycles and then go to Izumo Minari Station. We take an open-carriage train called Okuizumo Orochi to the next stop on the line, Kamedake. It is the 12th stop on the Kisuki Line. This sightseeing train operates on weekends from April to November. It is named after Yamata no Orochi, an eight-headed serpent mentioned in ancient fables of the Izumo region. The train snakes alongside the Hii River which is said to resemble the shape of the mythical beast.

We arrive at Kamedake Station at 11.05am and our next train will leave at 12.40pm. We are hungry so have lunch at a soba restaurant at the station. The proprietor's ancestor was the station manager. He started making soba as a hobby and opened the restaurant in 1973. We order the Izumo region’s famous warigo-soba and also the kama-age soba. The region’s soba is made from unhusked buckwheat; this gives the noodles a distinct colour and strong aroma. For kama-age soba, freshly boiled soba is drenched in broth and topped with seaweed and bonito flakes. At the restaurant, we also find out that Kamedake Station became famous after it was mentioned in Seicho Matsumoto's well-known novel "Castle of Sand".

We then board the train and after a 10-minute scenic ride, arrive at the next stop, Izumo Yokota Station. We have three hours to spare before catching the train at 3.50pm. We speak to some residents who recommend we visit Inada Shrine, about 2km away. They tell us we can rent bicycles from the chamber of commerce nearby.

Inada Shrine was built in the late Edo period. It is dedicated to Princess Imada. According to legend, the princess was tormented by Yamata no Orochi, the eight-headed serpent. She was saved by Susano no Mikoto, a powerful Shinto deity. He plied Yamata no Orochi with potent sake then vanquished the drunk serpent with his sword. It is said that Susano no Mikoto was fascinated by the Izumo region and built a castle here with the princess. So the shrine is popular among couples who want to pray for a happy marriage. What also makes the shrine unique is that there is a soba restaurant called Yukari-an in the shrine office. Its noodles are made of 100% buckwheat grown at the shrine itself.

We return to Izumo Yokota Station, which is also famous in its own right. It was built in 1934 as a replica of the iconic main hall of Izumo Grand Shrine - a national treasure and symbol of the Izumo region. The station is decorated with sacred ropes. One of the large ropes, said to be constructed by the locals over six months, mimics the one at the Izumo Grand Shrine.

We want to visit one more recommended spot here so we speak to some more locals. One of them tells us about the Abacus and Craft Museum where an abacus workshop is held. Okuizumo is a major abacus producer and abacuses are nationally designated traditional craft products. We try our hand at making an abacus, which we get to keep as a souvenir. We then take the train to Bingo Ochiai Station, the last stop on the Kisuki Line. It is five stops ahead and the ride takes an hour. However, three stops before the final station, the conductor navigates a triple switchback at the Izumo Sakane Station. The inclines are too steep so the train must repeatedly change directions to successfully traverse the steep 160-metre mountain incline.

The train stops at the next station, Miinohara Station. At an elevation of 726m, it is the highest station out of all the stations serviced by the West Japan Railway Company. After this, the train crosses the border and enters Hiroshima Prefecture. We arrive at our final station, Bingo Ochiai. We drop by a drive-in diner to try a local delicacy where udon is served in udon soup. The dish also contains beef, egg and deep-fried tofu. However it is sold out by the time we reach the restaurant.

We also want to visit Suzuran no Yu, a hot spring facility which opened in 2005. However, it is quite far away and we have run out of time, so we decide to end our two-day journey on the Kisuki Line, during which we discovered nearly 10 popular spots.


Tips:

1) Kisuki Line’s Okuizumo Orochi sightseeing train operates on weekends from April to November
2) Izumo Yokota Station is a miniature version of the Izumo Grand Shrine


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