Train Adventure in Tohoku (Part 1)

Japan Hour

Japan Hour - Summer
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Japan Hour:

Train Adventure in Tohoku (Part 1)

This week, in a showdown between local buses and local train lines in Tohoku, two three-member teams will depart from Morioka City and head to the Hakkoda Mountains. One team will only travel by buses, while the other will ride on trains. The team which reaches the Hakkoda Mountains first will be the winner of this unique two-day transit race trip. The bus team comprises Yoshikazu Ebisu, Akina Minami and Yosuke Tagawa, while the train team has Miki Murai, Sugi-chan and Miki Nishino. 

During the race to Hakkoda Mountains, there will be two checkpoints which the teams have to go through. The first is Hachimantai Onsenkyo, where autumn leaves change colours earlier than any other place in Honshu. The second checkpoint is the biggest fish market in the Tohoku region, Hassyoku Centre in Hachinohe. Both teams are given 10,000 yen each to take a taxi if they have to walk a long distance or need to catch up with the other team. 

The teams start by heading towards Hachimantai Onsenkyo, the first checkpoint. The train team goes to Morioka Station and the other team makes its way to the bus terminal. After asking the locals, the train team members decide to board a train bound for Kindaichi Onsen. They plan to alight at Koma Station and then switch trains to get to Hachimantai Onsenkyo.   

The bus team first goes to the information centre and are advised to take a Kenpoku bus bound for Hachimantai. However, to advance to Hachinohe, the next checkpoint, from Hachimantai, they have to return to Morioka Station. The team departs from Morioka by a direct bus 20 minutes after the other team’s train left the station. 

In the meantime, the train team arrives at Koma Station. They have to wait for two hours until 1.05pm to take the train to Obuke Station, the closest station to Hachimantai Onsenkyo. They are told that Hachimantai is about 20km from Koma so it will take them half a day to walk there. From Obuke Station, it is 13km away and would take them around three hours on foot. 

The bus team thus arrives at Hachimantai Onsenkyo first. The team members soak in the open-air bath here, which boasts a stunning view of the autumn leaves. As there is still half an hour left till the bus to Morioka Station leaves at 1.35pm, they decide to eat at Hachimantai Onsenkyo. Mr Tagawa orders the Irodori meal with buckwheat noodles, tempura and chirashi sushi, while Mr Ebisu and Ms Akina settle for the pork cutlet set meal. Mr Tagawa decides that instead of getting off at Morioka Station as originally planned, they will alight midway and transfer to a northbound bus which goes to Numakunai. They will then head to the next checkpoint of Hassyoku Centre from Iwate-Numakunai. 

Meanwhile, the train team arrives at Obuke Station and starts walking 13km to Hachimantai Onsenkyo. As they are walking, they happen to see the other team led by Mr Tagawa on the bus and are surprised the bus team have already been to Hachimantai and are now ahead of them. 

The bus team alights from the Morioka Station-bound bus at Sugo Newtown and walks to another bus stop to head north from Iwate-Numakunai. The bus stop is 1.2km away and they have 20 minutes to catch the bus at 2.55pm. They manage to reach the bus stop in time to hop on the bus heading to Iwate-Numakunai Station. At Numakunai, a driver tells the team it would be better to go to Hachinohe from Kuji. The team takes his advice, takes the 4pm bus to Kuji from Numakunai and then transfers to another bus heading to Hachinohe.  

The train team members, in the meantime, take 3.5 hours to walk 13km from Obuke Station. They arrive at the first checkpoint, Hachimantai, five hours after the bus team did so. The team had initially planned to spend the night at Hachimantai Onsenkyo. However, upon realising the other team is way ahead of them, the train team opts to take a taxi to Hachinohe after their hot spring bath.   

While the train team members are enjoying the hot spring bath, the bus team stops for a short break at a roadside station. They are told no more buses are going to Hachinohe from Kuji for the day. The bus team is thus advised to go to Kuzumaki instead. From there, they can take a bus to Kunohe, and then advance to Ninohe and Karumai after that. From Karumai, they can take the Nanra bus to Hachinohe. So the team hops on the bus at 5.35pm and heads to Kuzumaki, where they have to wait 25 minutes to take the bus to Kunohe.

The train team, meanwhile, takes a taxi from Hachimantai back to Obuke Station, which is more than 12km away. As they only have 10,000 yen for taxi rides, the team members decide to stop the taxi once the fare reaches around 4,500 yen and then run to the station to catch the 6.45pm train to Hachinohe.

The other team arrives at the Kunohe bus stop and transfers to another bus leaving at 7pm to go to Ninohe. But they find out that as it is quite late, the buses going to Karumai will only operate the next morning now. So the team has no choice but to spend the night in Ninohe. Mr Ebisu calls Kitaguni Ryokan in Kindaichi Onsen and manages to secure rooms. But as the team missed the last Kindaichi-bound bus which left at 7.30pm, the members decide to take a taxi. It costs the team about 3,000 yen to reach Kitaguni, which was established 50 years ago. 

The train team members, meanwhile, arrive at Hachinohe Station and are now slightly ahead of the bus team. They call the bus team and find out they have checked into the hotel and are currently enjoying a delicious dinner of grilled steak. 


Tips:

1)    Two must-see spots in Tohoku are Hachimantai Onsenkyo and Hassyoku Centre
2)    Roadside stations are an ideal place to take a break while making enquiries about bus/train routes and timings