Road Trip On Yuri Kogen Railway (Part 1)

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Road Trip on Yuri Kogen Railway (Part 1)

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Road Trip On Yuri Kogen Railway (Part 1)

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Our journey of enquiry and discovery this week takes place on Yuri Kogen Railway’s Chokai Sanroku Line in Akita Prefecture. It was previously known as the JNR Yashima Line until 1985. The 23km-train line, which runs through the city of Yurihonjo, has 12 stations from Ugohonjo Station to Yashima Station. This railway line is known for offering spectacular views of Mt. Chokaizan.

We begin by riding on the 10.45am train from Ugohonjo Station to the next stop, Yakushido Station. This train is fondly known as Obako - which means “young woman” in local Akita dialect - and sometimes has attendants called Akita Obakos. They serve as guides, sell souvenirs and also hand out gifts to passengers. The railway line also has “Cold Beer” trains in the summer and “Year-End Party” trains in winter. 

We arrive at Yakushido and speak to a lady cleaning the station. We find out she is part of an elderly club and its members do volunteer work such as cleaning or cutting the grass. She recommends we try the ramen at Nakamichi. She also suggests we visit a museum of wooden toys, located near Ayukawa Station. We head to Nakamichi first and order its most popular dish, meat miso ramen. Its soup is made by slowly simmering pork bones, chicken bones and kelp. We also try the Shinaidori ramen, shrimp fried rice and pot stickers.

 After our meal, we walk back to Yakushido, which is named after a shrine next to the station. The shrine has been around since the Nara period. We hop on the 12.05pm train and enjoy the view of the rice fields as we head towards Ayukawa Station. We arrive in five minutes and ask a gentleman for directions to the toy museum. We find out it will take us 20 minutes to walk there so he offers to give us a ride in his car.

 The museum is located at the site of Ayukawa Primary School, which was shut down in March 2004. The wooden school building is nearly 65 years old and has been registered as a national tangible cultural property. It was revamped into the current museum for wooden toys. At the back of the school building is the Forest Playground, previously the gymnasium which has since been renovated. Trees from the area which have been dried for about a year are used in the playground, while the pillars are made of pulpwood.

After this, we walk for about 25 minutes to Ayukawa Station. A local resident tells us Magarisawa Station, surrounded by paddy fields, is an ideal spot to see Mt. Chokaizan. In autumn, it boasts a beautiful view of golden rice stalks, while a world of silver surrounds the station during winter. So we leave Ayukawa at 3pm and reach Magarisawa Station after five minutes. We have an hour to explore the area.   

Mt. Chokaizan has been a local symbol for a long time. Since the snow-capped mountain resembles Mt. Fuji, it has also been called the Dewa Fuji or Akita Fuji. It sits 2,236m high on the prefectural border of Akita and Yamagata. Our next stop is Maego, one station ahead. A resident at the station mentions the hot spring bath at Yuriemon. Opened in 2002, it has the same minerals as Futamata Hot Springs in Hokkaido. The staff at Yuriemon recommends we spend the night at Hotel Iris. We call the hotel and manage to reserve two rooms.  

Tips:

1) Look out for Akita Obakos, who serve as guides and sell souvenirs on board the Chokai Sanroku Line

2) Magarisawa Station offers panoramic views of rice fields and Mt. Chokaizan




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