Road Trip on Shinano Railway Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Shinano Railway Line (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Shinano Railway Line (Part 1)

Join us as we embark on a two-day trip of discovery on the Shinano Railway Line in Nagano Prefecture. The 65.1-kilometre local line with 19 stations connects Karuizawa Station in the historical town of Karuizawa-machi with Shinonoi Station in Nagano City. It was originally part of the JR Shinano Main Line until 1997, when the Hokuriku Shinkansen opened and the train line began operating as Shinano Railway. 

We begin our journey from Karuizawa Station. Adjacent to the station is the old Karuizawa Station building from the Meiji Period, which has been restored. We hop on a two-car train at 9.35am and our first destination is the Naka-Karuizawa Station, one stop away. The ride lasts less than five minutes and we decide to take either the 11.10am or 11.50am train from this station later. 

The locals we speak to suggest several places we could visit. One of them is Harunire Terrace, a commercial facility managed by Hoshino Resort. One can find many shops and restaurants here. There is also a library at the station which is run by the town, but it is closed on this particular day. Another spot is the Nagakura Shrine, but we later find out we need to make an appointment first to go there. A gentleman near the shrine recommends we check out Yukawa Promenade, named after the popular Yukawa River. We head to the promenade; it is an ideal path for a stroll, with its beautiful view of Karuizawa.  

We return to Naka-Karuizawa Station and happen to find out that there is an all-day pass for the Shinano Railway Line. We buy one and catch the 11.50am train to Komoro Station, which is four stations ahead. We arrive at 12.10pm and aim to make it back in time for the 1.45pm train. We want to have lunch and ask around about recommended eating spots. A lady advises us to try our luck at Kinoko No Mori Fuwariya, which is located at Takamine Cherry Park in the highlands. It is rather far from the station so she offers to give us a ride. However, much to our dismay, it is closed so she drives us back to Komoro Station. 

We continue asking the locals near the station to suggest a restaurant for lunch. One resident mentions Kameya, a soba shop near the station which makes noodles using buckwheat flour. The person also highly recommends we order the deep-fried sweet buns. At the restaurant, we order its popular tenzaru soba, cold soba with mountain vegetables and deep-fried sweet buns, which have been popular since 1952. The sweet buns with chunky red bean jam inside are deep-fried with tempura batter. They are popular as souvenirs during the Obon holidays. 

We head back to the station and speak to another local, who tells us to go a gardening store, which has a cafe inside. Volunteers regularly help to look after the plants and flowers here. The cafe serves dishes and desserts made of local ingredients. We try the wild sesame soft-serve ice cream. We then take the 3pm train to Shinano-Kokubunji Station. A resident suggests we visit the Shinano Kokubunji Temple. 

During the Nara Period, Emperor Shomu built Tendai sect temples all over the country. This Shinano Kokubunji Temple is one of 74 other Kokubunji Temples in Japan. One can see many lotus plants and flowers at the temple. 

We return to Shinano-Kokubunji Station and head by train to Ueda Station. Ueda City is linked to the samurai lord, Yukimura Sanada. His story was made into a TV series few years ago and the show has attracted more visitors to Ueda. A local here tells us about a fish restaurant called Tsukeba Hut, Koinishi. Located along Chikuma River, it specialises in freshwater fish. As it is currently the season for sweetfish, it has dishes such as sweetfish grilled with salt or sauce. We order sweetfish ramen, one of Nagano’s specialities. Tsukeba Hut is only open from early summer until autumn. 


Tips:

1) Yukawa Promenade near Naka-Karuizawa Station is an ideal spot to take a walk 
2) Sweetfish ramen is one of Nagano specialities 


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