Road Trip on Tarumi Railway (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Tarumi Railway (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Tarumi Railway (Part 2)

Our two-day journey on the Tarumi Line in Gifu Prefecture continues. On the first day, after soaking in a refreshing bath at the Japanese inn Tachibanaya, we are served a fancy dinner. It includes sake, fish, seasonal mountain vegetables, pickled plum tempura - the inn’s original creation - tender Hida beef steak and deep-fried shiitake mushrooms.

The next morning, our first stop is Kegon-ji Temple. We speak to the chief priest who tells us that the Eleven-Faced Kannon is enshrined here. The temple is also the last stop of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage to 33 Kannon temples in the Kinki region. We perform the altar circumambulation, which is said to help fulfil one's wishes. As this Buddha is never unveiled, worshippers have to search for the padlock hanging from her hand in the dark. So we walk down a long winding path before finally locating the lock with our hand.  

We later ask the chief priest to recommend a popular spot along the Tarumi Line. He mentions a roadside station called Oribe-no-Sato. It is near Oribe Station and visitors can experience making soba noodles at a restaurant called Wabi-an. So we go to Tanigumiguchi Station and catch the 10.55am train to Oribe, two stops ahead. On the train, a passenger tells us that a famous local product of Oribe is Oribe-yaki pottery.  

The train pulls into Oribe Station in less than 10 minutes and we have until 12.25pm to walk around. We head to Oribe-no-Sato but unfortunately, the soba restaurant is closed. So we go to the Oribe Exhibition Hall to see Oribe-yaki. This style of Japanese pottery was created by Sen no Rikyu's disciple, Furuta Oribe, who is known for having produced novelty tea utensils with a beautiful green and glazed finish. From the roadside station, we buy some Oribe-yaki items such as coffee and sake cups. 

We then meet some locals with lunchboxes, which are popular at Oribe-no-Sato. The Oribe Medicinal Cooking Lunchbox uses a variety of locally grown vegetables. Dishes include canola flower and red ginger tempura, and lotus root fried with parsley.

We head back to Oribe Station and ride the train to Motosu Station, less than five minutes away. Our next train will depart from Motosu at 2.05pm. We ask for directions to the strawberry farm which was mentioned to us by Yamabiko’s owner the previous day. The farm grows Gifu Prefecture’s Nohime brand of strawberries. Visitors can eat all the strawberries they want for 30 minutes. We learn how to pick strawberries and the best way of eating them too. We are even given one free serving of condensed milk to dip the strawberries in.  

As we still have time before our train leaves, we ask another local about recommended spots. He tells us to check out a local Japanese confectionery store called Yoshinoya. It has more than 140 years of history. Its red bean pancakes are a local favourite and the locals claim they are the best in Japan. The shop’s owner suggests we visit a ramen shop which is a 15-minute walk from Morera-Gifu Station. Shintai Menbo is actually more well-known for its dumpling skins which have rose patterns on them. 

We take the train to Morera-Gifu Station. During the journey, we ask commuters about interesting spots in Ogaki and one of them suggests Ogaki Castle. We reach Morera-Gifu Station in about five minutes and decide to take the 3.40pm train later. We walk to Shintai Menbo and ask about their rose dumplings. A local favourite, the handmade meat dumplings have no mushrooms or garlic and can neutralise odours. Rose-scented vinegar is poured over the dumplings which feature pink-coloured skins. We also order the restaurant’s recommended Almighty Miso Ramen. It uses a thick miso paste and more than 30,000 bowls are sold each year. 

At the restaurant, we ask the owner to recommend a place at Ogaki. He suggests we try mizu manju, an Ogaki speciality, from one of the several confectionery shops there. We then head to the final station on the Tarumi Line, Ogaki. It is 25 minutes away from Morera-Gifu Station. We go to Kinchouen, a shop that sells mizu manju, which is glutinous rice stuffed with bean paste. The sweet treat is made with Ogaki’s famous spring water. Besides red bean paste, other seasonal favourites are bean paste mixed with sakura and green tea. Kinchouen has been selling the handmade mizu manju since the Meiji Period. During the Obon Festival, the shop can sell up to 30,000 mizu manju. We decide to buy some to eat later and also as souvenirs. 

Our last stop is Ogaki Castle near the station. We munch on mizu manju while admiring the view of the beautiful cherry blossoms. It is a fitting end to our trip along the Tarumi Line, with its various scenic sakura spots.


Tips:

1)    Buy Oribe-yaki pottery items from the roadside station Oribe-no-Sato as souvenirs 
2)    A must-try local speciality of Ogaki is mizu manju


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