Road Trip On Yuri Kogen Railway (Part 2)

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Road Trip on Yuri Kogen Railway (Part 2)

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Road Trip On Yuri Kogen Railway (Part 2)

We continue our trip on Yuri Kogen Railway’s Chokai Sanroku Line in Akita Prefecture. On the first day, from Maego Station, we take the 7.25pm train back to where we started our journey from, Ugohonjo. Our accommodation for the night, Hotel Iris, is a 25-minute walk from the station. A well-known hotel in the city, it is also a popular venue for weddings and other celebrations. Our room is spacious with a nice view of the surroundings. Dinner is served at a restaurant on the top floor. Our meal includes Angus beef steak, which uses Yuri beef from Japanese Black Cows raised in the Chokai-Sanroku area. 

The next morning, we travel by train from Ugohonjo to Kubota Station. The journey takes about 20 minutes and we reach Kubota at 11.05am. Our next train is at 12.25pm. We do not see any locals near the station so we end up going to a house along the street. The owner tells us about Mizube Plaza, where we can get reasonably priced food.

Mizube Plaza was built 10 years ago on the site of the former Nishitakisawa Primary School. Fresh locally produced vegetables are sold at the facility, but most of the items are sold out by noon. A pack of red rice or fried noodles sell for as cheap as 100 yen each. We go to the canteen at the facility and order beef curry rice, fried sauce noodles and rice balls. For dessert, we have coffee and ice cream float. 

We then chat with another resident who recommends we check out the Ruins of the Battle of Yamada. It is located near the next station, Nishitakisawa, but we decide to walk there instead. The Battle of Yamada is associated with the Boshin War, a major civil war. The new armies of the Meiji government fought against the former Tokugawa Shogunate at several places all across the country. The Shonai fief, on the side of the former Shogunate forces, climbed over Mt. Chokaizan to attack the Akita fief. The Akita fief called for nearby reinforcements but was defeated, thus ending the Battle of Yamada.

After seeing the ruins, we walk to Nishitakisawa Station. We take the 1.30pm train to Kawabe Station, which is five minutes away. We plan to catch the 3.20pm train from here later. Once again, we do not see anyone outside the station so we have to resort to going to someone’s home. The resident mentions a mysterious Jizo statue which is nearby. She offers to take us to the place. We meet the lady who is in charge of maintaining the Jizo statue and she tells us more about it.

In the past, water would come out of various parts of the Jizo, giving the impression that it is sweating. For example, when the “mouth” of the Jizo was wet, one was supposed to put brown sugar there for the Jizo to “consume”. This is because people believe that a moist mouth of a Jizo is an omen of bad fortune. However, the Jizo apparently stopped “sweating” after its direction was changed for the expansion of the national highway. 

After this, we ask a local about famous spots near our last destination, Yashima Station. One of them mentions Ms Matsuko, who is an icon of the station. We then travel from Kawabe Station to the last stop of the Chokai Sanroku Line, Yashima. We manage to find Ms Matsuko after asking a local resident. The 71 year old is dressed as an Obako, just like the Akita Obakos on board the trains of the Chokai Sanroku Line. We find out that she was the one who came up with the idea of the Obako and she was the first Obako for the railway line. She used to work at a travel agency linked to Yashima Station. When her company withdrew from the market, she set up her own shop at the station. Drawn to her personality, some people travel all the way here just to seek her advice on their problems.   

We ask Ms Matsuko to suggest a famous spot and she recommends Ryugenji Temple. This temple with a thatched roof is Lord Ikoma's family temple. On the way to the temple, we make a stopover at the Tenju Sake Brewery, which was established in 1874. The brewery uses water from the source and underground water to grow rice for making the sake. Tenju Sake Brewery was established in 1874. With the help of local farmers, the brewers grow their own rice to use at this facility. We try two types of sake called Tenju and Mt. Chokaizan. The former has a smooth taste, while the latter, which is only sold at this brewery, is a lot milder. We buy some sake as souvenirs.

We finally make our way to Ryugenji Temple. Hachimori Castle Ruins comes on the way. Hachimori Castle is another name for Yashima Castle. It was the encampment from where Lord Ikoma ruled the area. Yashima Primary School now occupies the site of the moat and ruins. As for Ryugenji Temple, it was first built during the early Edo period. It was badly damaged during the Boshin War. The current hall was rebuilt in 1883 and has been named a National Registered Tangible Cultural Property. We go to the back of the main hall, where generations of fief lords before and after Lord Ikoma are enshrined.


Tips: 

1) For cheap and delicious homecooked dishes, visit the canteen at Mizube Plaza near Kubota Station

2) History buffs should check out the Ruins of the Battle of Yamada, associated with the famous Boshin War



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