Road Trip on Shinetsu Honsen and Shinonoi Line (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Shinetsu Honsen and Shinonoi Line (Part 1 & 2)

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Road Trip on Shinetsu Honsen and Shinonoi Line (Part 2)

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We resume our two-day journey on the JR Shinetsu and JR Shinonoi railway lines. On the first day, after relaxing in the hot spring bath at Sheen Garten, we enjoy a dinner of fried chicken and barbecued goat meat which has been marinated in a five-spice sauce.  

On Day 2, the hotel shuttle bus takes us back to Hijiri-Kogen Station. We then catch the train to Nishijo, where we have about an hour before taking the 10.25am train to our next destination. We drop by a shop near the station to ask for recommended spots. The person suggests Nishijo Shrine, which is called Tezuka by the locals. The Nishijo area once flourished as a stopover town for people going to Zenkoji Temple. The Nishijo Shrine overlooks the town and boasts wonderful scenery of the surroundings.

After this, we travel two stops ahead to Tazawa Station in Azumino City. It is known for growing wasabi and has many wasabi fields such as the famous Daio Wasabi Farm. We come across a lady gardening and she tells us about a restaurant called Chinese Cuisine Wade. It has terrace seats which command a nice view of the Northern Alps. She and her husband tell us to try either the tanmen or mapo tofu set. The spicy tofu set also comes with ramen while the tanmen is loaded with local vegetables.  

We catch the 12.20pm train and ride for 10 minutes before getting off at Matsumoto, the second-biggest city in Nagano. Here, we transfer trains and head to Hirata Station. Once we arrive, we ask a local to suggest a place worth visiting. We are told about Yoshikawa Park, which spans 3.9 hectares. It is popular among children and adults alike, with a “water road” running through the park.

We return to Hirata Station and head by train to the next station, Murai. There is a main street with several shops near the station. We go to Murai Photos to ask for recommendations. The lady at the shop suggests a bakery called Dunk which is known for its really soft bread. Opened in 1984, it supplies bread to schools and hospitals too. Its owner used to play basketball and currently teaches the sport to the local kids. Yoghurt is one of the ingredients used to make the bread, which explains why it is so soft.  

We head back to the station and take the 4.05pm train to the final stop, Shiojiri. Here, we meet some locals waiting at a bus stop near the station. They tell us that grapes for wine are famous in Shiojiri. They recommend a shop called Goichi Wine in Kikyogahara. We have to walk quite a distance to reach the winery. The founder, Hayashi Goichi, began his business in Kikyogahara over 100 years ago. He started growing grapes and other fruit and later started distilling wine with his grapes. We get to try an ice wine made with Shiojiri grapes and are also introduced to a dessert wine made from Niagara grapes.

Tips:
1) Wasabi is a famous product of Azumino City
2) Try some Niagara grapes when visiting Shiojiri


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