Road Trip on Koumi Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Koumi Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Koumi Line (Part 1)

Join us as we take a two-trip along the JR Koumi Line, which connects Komoro City in Nagano Prefecture and Hokuto City in Yamanashi Prefecture. This local line was built in 1915 by the Saku Railway Company. In 1987, it was reopened as the JR Koumi Line and was extended to go around Yatsugatake. Now, there are 31 stations along the 78.9km track. The local line runs through the highland, offering magnificent views of the Chikuma River and Yatsugatake.

Our journey starts from Komoro Station and we take the train six stops ahead to Sakudaira Station. We arrive at Sakudaira at 9.35am and have until 11.20am to explore the area. A local we speak to near the station tells us to try the ice cream bread at Kikyoya. It is a 15-minute walk from the station. Built in 1916, the bakery sells over 40 varieties of bread. We chat with its friendly proprietor and find out that besides the fried ice cream bread, the regular bread is also a hot favourite. We try some freshly baked bread with butter from a local ranch, before sampling the fried ice cream bread. Forty years ago, the bakery’s second owner made it for students in the summer as a frozen snack. The popular treat is made by first frying frozen bread, so it is hot on the outside. The bread is filled with whipped cream, which stays frozen like ice cream to add a cold sweetness.

We head back to Sakudaira Station and ride the train to Kita-Nakagomi, two stops away. We arrive after five minutes and our next train will depart at 12.20pm. A resident recommends we check out Cafe Kuka, which serves various types of tea mainly from Taiwan. It was opened about four years ago by a couple who moved here from Tokyo.

We return to the train station and head to Tatsuokajo in Nagano Prefecture’s Saku city. We enjoy the view of the mountains during the 15-minute ride. We have two hours to spare at Tatsuokajo. A local resident tells us about the five-sided fort of Tatsuoka Castle, which has an elementary school inside. During the Edo period, the local lord Matsudaira Norikata built this fort; the wall is shaped like a star. After the Meiji Restoration, its demolition took five years. The Saku Municipal Elementary School now stands in its midst.

Our next stop is Usuda Station, one station ahead. It is almost 3pm by the time we arrive and our next train will leave at 4.25pm. We haven’t had lunch so we drop by an electronics store to get recommendations about restaurants. The shop owner suggests a place called Wakadori Mushiri no Segway, which serves “rubbed chicken”. Along the way to the restaurant, we see the Inari Shrine, which was constructed in the Heian period. It is located on Mount Inari, which has a space travel-themed park. At the top is a rocket-shaped observatory called Cosmo Tower, from where one can see the entire Saku city.

We finally reach the restaurant, which has been selling its famous chicken since 1959. The grass-fed chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper first, after which it is thoroughly grilled for an hour to bring out the savouriness. After lunch, we head by train to Koumi Station, seven stops away. The train pulls into Koumi Station after 25 minutes. We need to find a hotel for the night. One of the residents near the station mentions Miyamotokan, situated by the lake. We call the hotel to make a reservation and are delighted when the hotel offers to pick us up in 15 minutes.

Tips:

1)     Try the unique fried ice cream bread at Kikyoya, which is hot on the outside and frozen on the inside

2)     After deciding on your accommodation for the night, do call the hotel first to check if there are rooms available

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