Saturday, October 8, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Iyonada Monogatari (Futami) 伊予灘ものがたり (双海編), Shimonada JR Station 下灘駅

Travelled on 22.11.2014

Train fan! I am always on a lookout for unique themed trains whenever I visit Japan. In Shikoku, we managed to cover Yu Yu Anpanman Car (from Takamatsu to Tokushima) and Tetsudo Hobby Train (from Kubokawa to Uwajima). The finale of this trip was Iyonada Monogatari (伊予灘ものがたり), one of the newest themed train introduced by JR Shikoku in July 2014, commuting along the scenic sea view section of Yosan line (予讃線海まわり). 


Iyonada Monogatari is only in operation on weekends and public holidays and there are four train services per day. 
(1) Ozu route (大洲編) from Matsuyama to Iyo Ozu, operates in the morning.
(2) Futami route (双海編) from Iyo Ozu to Matusyama, operates in the late morning.
(3) Yawatahama route (八幡浜編) from Matsuyama to Yawatahama, operates in the afternoon.
(4) Dogo route (道後編) from Yawatahama to Matsuyama, operates in the evening.

Highlights:

Strategy. Planned to take the train on the second weekend of our trip in order to stand a better chance to secure the tickets. As themed sightseeing train rides are especially popular with locals, tickets are rapidly sold out as soon as they are released approximately one month before departure date. Checked the seat availability status online every now and then and discovered that more popular routes (Yawatahama and Dogo) were already sold out before we stepped foot onto Shikoku. Had to reshuffle my itinerary to accommodate Futami route (from Iyo Ozu to Matsuyama) and was jubilant when I got hold of the tickets at Takamatsu JR Station on my very first day in Shikoku.

As all seats on board Iyonada Monogatari are green reserved seats, a 980 yen top up is required with All Shikoku Rail Pass. Decided to enjoy the exclusive bento set meal, which was specially created for this train, on board, therefore parted another 4,500 yen to purchase a meal voucher during seat reservation. At this point of time, all reservations have to be made in person at train stations or by phone. 




Grand entrance. We waited eagerly for the arrival of Iyonada Monogatari at Iyo Ozu Station. Door carpets, with the symbol of Iyonada Monogatari imprinted on them, were placed on the station platform. Instead of the conventional voiceover over the public announcement system to inform passengers of train station, music was played instead as the train gradually pulled into the station and eventually came to a complete stop with the train doors accurately positioned in front of the carpets! Attendants with an elegant poise awaited beside the doors, warmly welcoming passengers to board the train.


Exquisite design. Iyonada Monogatari is made up of two carriages, each beautifully wrapped in red and orange colours respectively, to depict a sunset scenery at the coastline of Iyonada Sea. Car 1 is Akane no sho (茜の章), which is translated as red chapter, while Car 2 is Ogon no sho (黄金の章), otherwise known as golden chapter. Wood was utilised extensively in the interior design of the train; from parquet flooring to furniture and other accessories, to create a traditional chic look. Single seats are oriented to face the train windows directly to allow passengers to come up close to Iyonada Sea as the train moves along the coastline. There are several tables set aside for group of two and four passengers. A counter is located in Car 2 where light snacks, drinks and souvenirs can be purchased. Products manufactured in Iyo region, the former name for Ehime Prefecture, decorated the display shelves. Even the basin was made of tobe ware (tobe-yaki 砥部焼), a type of traditional pottery which originated from Ehime Prefecture. For this trip, we were assigned to a table for four in Car 2. There is a decent range of original train souvenirs sold on board which made me spoilt for choice. My eyes eventually landed on a clear folder and a collar pin.


Station with a view. Shimonada (下灘駅) is a unmanned station located along the sea route of Yosan line. Standing at the platform of this small train station, one gets a panoramic overview of Iyonada Sea due its close proximity. Picture of Shimonada Station with Iyonada Sea in the background featured in Seishun 18 ticket (青春18きっぷ) posters led to its fame, attracting numerous train fans (including myself) and avid photographers to pay here a visit. Iyonada Monogatari makes a brief stop of 10 minutes for passengers to explore this famous train station. The main reason why Dogo route is the most popular among all four routes is the spectacular sunset view that passengers get to bask in during the train ride - an exact depiction of what this train is all about! As soon as the train reached the station, I alighted from the train and explored the area enthusiastically like a child playing with a new toy. The picture perfect view of Iyonada Sea with Iyonada Monogatari is truly one of my fond memories captured during this trip.


Extravagant bento box. About 30 mins to an hour later, the staff approached us for the meal voucher and served us each a tall, two tier box made out from Uchiko wood with the characters " 伊予灘ものがたり" beautifully engraved on the cover. Uncovered the bento box carefully and could not contain my excitement when I revealed the sumptuous contents. One tier was divided into four compartments while the other was divided into nine other compartments. Each compartment is artistically arranged with a unique dish. During this autumn period, the menu was crafted to feature the freshest ingredients harvested from rural settlements of Uchiko, an area in Ehime Prefecture. Apart from being visually stunning, some of these flavours were new and refreshing to my taste buds. Overall, very delicious and this is definitely the most extravagant bento meal I have ever eaten.
  • Bottom left: Grilled Iyo beef (内子産伊予牛の奉書焼)
  • Top left: Fried Uchiko pork in nanban sauce (内子豚南蛮揚げ)
  • Top left: Salmon wrapped with chrysanthemum flowers (サーモンの菊花卷)
  • Top center: Yam and boiled greens in bonito flavoured sauce海老芋の旨煮 菊菜と椎茸のおひたし
  • Top right: Baked Iyo chicken cake (伊予赤健美鶏の松風)
  • Center left: Scallion and clams salad (わけぎと蛤のぬた合え)
  • Center: Shitake mushroom and turban shell cooked with sesame and miso (椎茸と栄螺の胡麻味噌焼)
  • Center right: Vinaigrette shredded daikon and Uchiko produced persimmons (柿膾 内子産富有柿)
  • Bottom left: Mackeral wrapped with mushroom and vegetables. (鰆のけんちん焼 木の子 野菜)
  • Bottom center: Gelatin of chicken and prawn (海老と鶏のアスピック)
  • Bottom right: Lily bulb (花百合根密煮 アーモンドフラワー)

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Iyonada Monogatari 伊予灘ものがたり
http://iyonadamonogatari.com/
Train fares:
- Route (1) and (2) = 1,930 yen
- Route (3) and (4) = 2,260 yen
Bento set meal = 4,500 yen


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Boarding pass and commemorative stamp:


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