Road Trip on Yagan Railway Line (Part 1)

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Japan Hour - Autumn
Road Trip on Yagan Railway Line

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Road Trip on Yagan Railway Line (Part 1)

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This week, we'll be travelling on Yagan Railway’s Aizu Kinugawa Line, which runs from Fukushima Prefecture’s Aizu region to northern Tochigi Prefecture. The railway company was established in 1986. The local line, which is surrounded by mountains, offers stunning views of the changing seasons and especially autumn foliage. This line consists of nine stations covering a total distance of 30.7km from Aizukogen-Ozeguchi Station to Shin-Fujiwara Station.

Our journey begins in Minamiaizu, a town in southwest Fukushima Prefecture. We buy an unlimited day pass and take the 9.50am train from Aizukogen-Ozeguchi Station to the next stop. After a short scenic ride through the countryside, we reach Ojika-Kogen Station. We have till 10.55am to explore the area. However, there is no town in sight near the station and there are no houses either. We finally meet a local who recommends we visit the Fudo Falls, which is about 10m high. It is located at the Ojika River, which is a tributary of the Kinu River. As it is quite a distance away by foot, the resident offers to drive us there. It takes us about 10 minutes to reach there by car. Colourful autumn leaves surround the waterfall, creating a serene atmosphere.

We hitch a ride back to Ojika-Kogen Station and travel by train to Kamimiyori-Shiobara-Onsenguchi Station. It is less than five minutes away and our next train from here will leave at 1.45pm. We head to the Kamimiyori Aquatic Botanical Garden, which focuses on wild flora. It offers views of rare flora native to the mountains around Nikko City. In spring, visitors can even see blue Himalayan poppies in bloom. However, there is a special spot here with a protective “deity” which wards off diseases. The monument was erected in 1823 as a stone deity to protect travellers; it is also worshipped as a protector of the town and local religious icon. The design itself is rare so the tablet has been registered as a cultural treasure of Nikko City.

After this, we take the train to the fourth station on the railway line, Nakamiyori-Onsen. A local suggests that we visit a pickle shop Abe Shoten, whose proprietor also runs a coffee shop. He uses a stone mill to grind Tanzanian coffee beans; customers can try their hand at making freshly ground coffee too. The coffee is brewed with fresh water which is also used to make pickles. We try some coffee which is accompanied with Abe Shoten's pickles made from bracken, burdock, and shimeji and shiitake mushrooms.

Our next stop along the Aizu Kinugawa Line is Yunishigawa-Onsen Station. The train travels slowly across a bridge over Lake Ikari - a reservoir created by the Ikari Dam - before pulling into the station. This station is located within a tunnel; it is one of 15 tunnels along the railway line. The station is named after the Yunishigawa hot spring. Soldiers from the Heike clan who were defeated in the battle of Dan-no-Ura found natural hot spring water flowing from the river. Their wounds were reportedly healed in this hot spring.

Some locals at Yunishigawa-Onsen Station suggest we take a tour of the Yunishigawa Dam. It is conducted on an amphibious bus that converts into a boat as it has propellers built into its rear. The vehicle travels slowly through the water, allowing us to admire the colourful forest of maple and lacquer trees that surround the dam’s reservoir. The Yunishigawa Dam is 119m high and 320m long and the Duck Tour is an 80-minute cruise inside the dam. This tour was introduced to help revitalise the Yunishigawa area.

It is 5pm by the time we end the tour and we have to find accommodation for the night. We ask some locals who suggest places like Hana to Hana, Shimizuya and Takafusa Hotel. However, Hana to Hana is fully booked while the other two hotels are closed. Then, one resident recommends Ju-An at Kawaji Onsen. We are relieved when we call the hotel and find out there are rooms available. But it is quite a distance away and we have to take a bus there. Luckily, a local resident volunteers to drive us there and we reach the hotel after a 10-minute ride through the mountains.


Tips:

1) Visit the Fudo Falls in autumn for its scenic surroundings and relaxing atmosphere
2) Take a unique tour of the Yunishigawa Dam on an amphibious bus


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