Road Trip on Sanriku Railroad in Iwate (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Sanriku Railroad in Iwate


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Road Trip on Sanriku Railroad in Iwate (Part 1)

Our adventures to visit tourist sites along local railway lines continue and this week, we will travel along the Sanriku Railway Kita-Rias Line. Also known as Santetsu, the local line with 16 stations runs along the seashore and through the mountains in Kita Sanriku, Iwate. It covers a total distance of 71km from Kuji to Miyako stations.

Sanriku Railway began operating in 1984. Its lines were badly damaged by the tsunami following the 2011 earthquake but have since resumed normal operations. Since Sanriku Railway appeared in a drama series "Amachan", it has become popular among tourists.

We begin our journey from Kuji city in Iwate. We board our first train of this trip at Kuji Station and head towards Rikuchu-Noda Station. We chat with a passenger who suggests we try the Noda salt soft ice cream at the station. The train pulls into Rikuchu-Noda Station after about 15 minutes. We check the train schedule and have 1.5 hours till our next train leaves at 12.30pm. We head to the recommended ice cream shop and are told the ice cream will only be ready after 11.30am.

So we ask around and the locals tell us to visit the Asia Pavilion. It is 15 minutes away by car from the station but a resident is kind enough to drive us there. It is located in a huge traditional Japanese building which is between 150 and 200 years old. This typical Japanese house is called Nambu Magariya. An Asian ethnologist found this house with a thatched roof similar to the houses in Thailand. So he remodelled the building and opened it as the Asia Pavilion. About 300 items and costumes from 18 countries are displayed here. Visitors can try ethnic costumes of the Asian countries for free.

We return to the Rikuchu-Noda Station and finally get to try the Noda salt ice cream at the Roadside Station Noda. Salt has been widely produced in Noda since the old days. This soft ice cream was invented to revitalise the town. Edible chrysanthemum is used as a secret ingredient in this tasty sweet treat.

We next take the train to Horinai, two stations away. The train goes along the coastline of Kita Sanriku and passes by a bridge over Akkagawa River. The Akkagawa Bridge, which is 302m long and 33m high, offers a nice view of the surroundings. We arrive at Horinai Station and have till 2.40pm to explore the area. After speaking to some locals, we walk for about 1km to the Ushio restaurant. It serves lunch sets such as seafood ramen and a bowl of rice with fresh sea urchin, and seafood ramen and rice with salmon roe. Lots of local seafood from Kita Sanriku can be found in the soup and ramen.

We return to Horinai Station and travel by train to the next station, Shirai Kaigan. This time, we come across the Osawa Bridge, which spans 176m and is 30m high. The station surrounded by nature is named after Shirai Beach, which is famous for sea urchin. The next train leaves about two hours later at 4.40pm so we walk to the beach at the opposite side of the station. However, it is not a beach for swimming. People come here to fish, take pictures of birds or listen to birds singing. We chat with one of the locals who is fishing here. We ask him to suggest a hotel at our next destination, Tanohata. He mentions Ragasou, situated by the sea.

We take the train to Tanohata Station, located right in the middle of the Kita-Rias Line. The train ride takes 15 minutes. We make enquiries about Hotel Ragasou at a kiosk in the station. The lady at the kiosk calls the hotel for us. As we have not made a reservation, the hotel needs time to prepare our room. So we walk around and ask a bus driver to recommend a spot worth visiting. He tells us to look out for the 20-tonne “Tsunami stone”, which was moved 400m from the seashore by tsunami waves 120 years ago.

After seeing the stone, we make our way to Hotel Ragasou, which is located in front of Raga Bay. It is popular among tourists who visit Kita Sanriku. It was damaged during the 2011 earthquake and has since been renovated. We stay in a Japanese-style room, which comes with a wonderful view of the sea. For dinner, we get to try Ichigoni - a traditional dish in the Sanriku area, featuring soup with abalone and sea urchin. We are also served sashimi, scallops, Iwate beef shabu-shabu and barbecued abalone, a speciality dish of the hotel which is seasoned with butter. After dinner, we relax in the hotel’s spa.

1) Try the Noda salt soft ice cream near the Rikuchu-Noda Station in Iwate
2) Barbecued abalone is a speciality dish of Hotel Ragasou