Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Sakaiminato JR Station 境港駅, Kitaro Ressha 鬼太郎列車

Sakaiminato JR Station, the terminus of Sakai line. Apart from being affectionately known as the hometown of Mizuki Shigeru, Sakaiminato is also one of Japan's major fishing bases with the highest harvest of benizuwai crab (a type of snowcrab) and maguro. In fact, transport infrastructure in this small city is rather extensive; accommodates a domestic airport (Yonago Kitaro Airport) where daily flights to and fro Tokyo and occasional flights to and fro Seoul and Hong Kong are in operation, and a harbour where ships depart for nearby Oki Islands and it is also a port of call for DBS Cruise Ferry which sails between Sakaiminato, Donghae in Korea and Vladivostok in Russia.
- Yonago Kitaro Airport:
- DBS Cruise Ferry:

Kitaro Station. Similar to other train stations along Sakai line, Sakaiminato JR Station is nicknamed Kitaro Station (鬼太郎駅). You will find yourself entering the world of yokai created by Mizuki Shigeru as soon as you alight from the train. Spot the sticker of Nekomusume, who is on the verge of transforming into a yokai with cat like features, as you walk along the train platform; take a rest on wooden benches in the waiting area with the company of Kitaro (on the back rest); be amused by the bronze statues of Kitaro and Nezumi Otoko overlooking a caricature version of Shigeru Muzuki, who is cracking his brains on a yet another exciting storyline, erected just outside the train station. There are just too many interesting features to look out for!


Kitaro Ressha

On board Medama Oyaji (目玉おやじ).

Return journey with Sunakake Babaa (砂かけばばあ) and Konaki jijii (こなきじじい).

Return journey with Sunakake Babaa (砂かけばばあ) and Konaki jijii (こなきじじい).
Yokai expedition is definitely not complete without a ride on any of the six Kitaro Ressha (鬼太郎列車) which operates along the 17.9 km long Sakai line, shuffling between Yonago and Sakaiminato. Kitaro Ressha (鬼太郎列車) series comprises of six different themed train carriages - Kitaro (鬼太郎), Nekomusume (ねこ娘), Nezumi Otoko (ねずみ男), Medama Oyaji (目玉おやじ), Sunakake Babaa (砂かけばばあ) and Konaki jijii (こなきじじい) and the theme is thoroughly illustrated in each train. Boarded the train featuring Medama Oyaji (the father of Kitaro) during the journey from Yonago to Sakaiminato. Was amused by Medama Oyaji, who was depicted inside out the train in numerous poses, including the familiar portrayal of him sitting in a bowl enjoying his hot water bath and popping out from the hair of Kitaro. On the way back to Yonago, we rode on the train made up of two carriages featuring both Sunakake Babaa and Konaki jijiji. Pay attention to the announcement made by Kitaro and Nekomusume during the train journey and be entertained by the pictures of the characters in different expressions on the seat cushions and ceiling.

Based on the latest train schedule (2017), there are 22 and 17 round trips daily between Yonago and Sakaiminato on weekdays and weekends respectively. As Kitaro Ressha is in operation 17 and 16 times on weekdays and weekends respectively, the probability of riding on one of them is pretty high.
Sakai line train schedule (shaded train numbers indicate Kitaro Ressha in service):


What's nearby?

Medama Oyaji directing you to Minatosakai Koryukan!
(1) Minatosakai Koryukan みなとさかい交流館
A gigantic painting (7.5 m by 20.25 m) of Kitaro and his friends spread over the wall on the outside of this four storey tall building, comes into sight immediately when passengers alight from the train. Minatosakai Koryukan houses a harbour for ships departing for Oki Islands, an archipelago in the Sea of Japan and was designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark for its rich natural heritage.

Stamp Rally! Before you leave the train station to embark on your Yokai expedition, I would encourage all to visit the tourist information center located on the first floor to purchase a Yokai Guide Book (妖怪ガイドブック). This guide book was first introduced in 1995 and contains detailed account (only in Japanese) of all 153 bronze statues of Yokai and characters of Gegege no Kitaro erected along Mizuki Shigeru Road. With this book, visitors can participate in Yokai Stamp Rally (妖怪スタンプラリー) to collect inked stamps from counters/stalls set up along the same road. The current edition of Yokai Guide Book (18th edition) requires a total of 37 inked stamps to accomplish the stamp rally. Not too difficult, as the entire exercise is also facilitated (and made easy) by a map which clearly indicated the location of all the inked stamp counters (sometimes it can be placed inside a shop especially during rainy days). For those who are able to meet the ultimate objective, you will be awarded with a certificate of completion, which comes with a unique serial number, by the staff of tourist information center.

Certificate of completion and Yokai Guide Book.
My hard earned certificate! Bought my book from the tourist information center and began my stamp rally as I strolled leisurely from the train station to Mizuki Shigeru Museum. The book was about 90% completed by the time I reached Mizuki Shigeru Museum. Unfortunately, the forgetful me misplaced the book at a stamp counter outside the museum and by the time I realised it was lost and came back to look for it, the book was nowhere to be found. Almost had to give the stamp rally a miss until I spotted the sale of the guide book at Gegege no Yokai Rakuen (ゲゲゲの妖怪楽園). Without further ado, I bought the book and re-started the entire activity on the way back to the train station. However, the whole process was made difficult by bad weather. Protected my book from the heavy rain with my down jacket and braved the strong wind to visit every inked stamp counter again. Returned to the tourist information center drenched, but was joyous to hand over my completed book to staff and receive my reward. Managed to overcome the obstacles and make up for my own carelessness to become the 329,241st person to complete this stamp rally! A milestone was reached on 10 Oct 2016: a total of 370,000 people had successfully accomplished the mission since it was introduced in 1995.

Left: Inked stamp from Mizuki Shigeru Museum; Right: Inked stamp for completion of Stamp Rally.
Yokai Stamp Rally:


Commemorative stamp:


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hokuriku + Wakayama 2017 北陸,和歌山の旅 - Day 5: Kanazawa 金沢, Yamashiro Onsen 山代温泉

Day 5: 27.03.2017 (Mon)

Breakfast: Toyoko Inn Kanazawa Eki Higashi Guchi 東横イン金沢駅東口

* Purchased Hokutetsu Bus One Day Pass at Hokutetsu Bus Center. [500 yen 450 yen discounted fee with Hokuriku Arch Pass]

Kanazawa Ekimae 金沢駅前 > Kenrokuen 兼六園
By local bus. 

Visited Kenrokuen 兼六園. 
* Purchased Kenroken + 1 other place of interest group ticket. [500 yen]
Visited Kanazawa Castle 金沢城. 
Kenrokuen / Kanazawa Castle 兼六園/金沢城 > Hirokoji 広小路
by Kanazawa Loop Bus Right Loop.

Visited Nishi Chaya gai にし茶屋街.
Dessert: Sakugan Moroeya Nishi Chaya Karyo Aijiwai 落雁 諸江屋 西茶屋菓寮 味和以

Katamachi 片町 > Korinbo 香林坊
by local bus.

Shopping at Tokyu Square (Uniqlo, Tokyu Hands).
Korinbo 香林坊 > Omicho Market 近江町市場

Lunch: Sushi Enome 鮨えのめ
Omicho Market 近江町市場 > Kanazawa Ekimae 金沢駅前
by local bus. 

Kanazawa Ekimae 金沢駅前 (1500 hrs) > Kai Kaga 界加賀 (1600 hrs)
by Kai Kaga's complimentary bus service.

Checked in: Kai Kaga 界加賀

Dessert: Kaga Parfait at Hazuchi o Chamise はづちを茶店
Visited Aiueo no Komichi アイウエオの小径

Dinner: Kai Kaga 界加賀

- End of Day 5 - 

Hokuriku + Wakayama 2017 北陸,和歌山の旅 - Day 4: Wajima 輪島, Kanazawa 金沢

Day 4: 26.03.2017 (Sun)

Visited Takaoka Otogi no Mori Park 高岡おとぎの森公園.
Breakfast: Toyoko Inn Shin Takaoka Shinkansen Minami Guchi 東横イン新高岡新幹線南口
Shin Takaoka JR 新高岡駅 (0800 hrs) > Kanazawa JR 金沢駅 (0813 hrs)
by Tsurugi 707, via Hokuriku Shinkansen 北陸新幹線.

Checked in: Toyoko Inn Kanazawa Eki Higashi Guchi 東横イン金沢駅東口
* Purchased bus tickets to Wajima at Hokutetsu Bus Center. [3,085 yen]

Kanazawa Ekimae Bus Stop 1 (0910 hrs) > Wajima Eki 輪島駅 (1105 hrs)
by Hokutetsu Wajima Express Bus. 

Visited Wajima Morning Market 輪島朝市.
Lunch: Yabu Shinbashi ya やぶ新橋屋
Visited Wajima Lacquerware Centre 輪島塗会館.
Banba-cho 馬場町 (1317 hrs) > Shiroyone Senmaida 白米千枚田 (1355 hrs)
by Hokutetsu Bus, Machino line 町野線. [480 yen]

Visited Shiroyone Senmaida 白米千枚田.
Shiroyone Senmaida 白米千枚田 (1415 hrs) > Wajima Eki 輪島駅 (1435 hrs)
by Hokutetsu Bus, Machino line 町野線. [480 yen]

Wajima Eki 輪島駅 (1510 hrs) > Kanazawa Ekimae 金沢駅前 (1705 hrs)
by Hokutetsu Wajima Express Bus. 

Kanazawa Ekimae > 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art 金沢21世紀美術館
by Kenrokuen Shuttle. [100 yen; discounted fare on weekends and public holidays]

Visited 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art 金沢21世紀美術館.
Dinner: Akadama 赤玉本店
Shopping at Katamachi Kirara 片町きらら.

Katamachi 片町 > Kanazawa Ekimae 金沢駅前.
by local bus. [200 yen]

Shopping at Forus フォーラス.

- End of Day 4 -

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hokuriku + Wakayama 2017 北陸,和歌山の旅 - Day 3 Itinerary: Himi 氷見, Amaharashi Coast 雨晴海岸

Day 3: 25.03.2017 (Sat)

Visited Ogimachi Joseki Observatory 荻町城跡展望台 (at 0530 hrs).

Breakfast: Nodaniya のだにや

Visited Ogimachi Joseki Observatory 荻町城跡展望台 (at 0830 hrs).

Shirakawa-go Bus Stop 1 白川郷バスタミナル (0915 hrs) > Johana Ekimae 城端線前 (1030 hrs)
by World Heritage Bus 世界遺産バス. 

Johana JR 城端駅前 (1042 hrs) > Takaoka JR 高岡駅 (1130 hrs)
by Belles Montagnes et mer 52.
Visited Doraemon no Sanpomichi ドラえもんの散歩道 at Wing Wing Takaoka.

Takaoka JR 高岡駅 (1203 hrs) > Himi JR 氷見駅 (1232 hrs)
by local train, via Himi line 氷見線.

Lunch: Gyu ya 牛屋
Visited Himimachi Shopping Street 比美町商店街 / Manga Road まんがロード.
Visited Shiokaze Gallery 潮風ギャラリー. [200 yen]

Visited Kozenji 光禅寺.

Visited Himi Banyamachi 氷見番屋街.

Himi Banyamachi 氷見番屋街 (1530 hrs) > Himi Ekimae 氷見駅前 (1542 hrs)
by bus. [100 yen]

Himi JR 氷見駅 (1607 hrs) > Amaharashi JR 雨晴駅 (1615 hrs)
by local train, via Himi line 氷見線.

Visited Amaharashi Coast 雨晴海岸. 

Amaharashi JR 雨晴駅 (1721 hrs) > Takaoka JR 高岡駅 (1743 hrs)
by local train, via Himi line 氷見線.

Dinner: Soup Curry Maruna スープカレーマルナ
Takaoka JR 高岡駅 (1932 hrs) > Shin Takaoka JR 新高岡駅 (1936 hrs)
by local train, via Johana line 城端線.

Checked in: Toyoko Inn Shin Takaoka Shinkansen Minami Guchi 東横イン新高岡新幹線南口
- End of Day 3 -

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Yonago JR Station 米子駅

Yonago JR Station serves the following railway lines:
(1) San-in main line (山陰本線). From here, trains commute eastwards to Kurayoshi (倉吉), Yura (由良) and Tottori (鳥取); commutes westwards to Tamatsukuri Onsen (玉造温泉), Izumo (出雲), Masuda (益田) and Yamaguchi (山口). 
(2) Terminus station on Sakai line (境線) and the gateway to Sakaiminato, the hometown of Shigeru Mizuki, who is the creator of the popular manga series, Gegege no Kitaro. From here, trains commute northwards to Yonago Airport and ends at Sakaiminato (境港).
(3) Hakubin line (伯備線). From here, trains commute southwards to Kurashiki and Okayama. 

Limited express/themed trains serving Yonago Station includes:
(1) Ltd Exp Super Matsukaze, commutes along San-in main line, between Tottori and Masuda.
(2) Ltd Exp Super Oki, commutes along San-in main line, between Tottori and Shin Yamaguchi.
(3) Ltd Exp Yakumo, commutes along Hakubin line and San'in main line, between Okayama and Izumo.
(4) Gegege no Kitaro themed trains, commutes along Sakai line, between Yonago and Sakaiminato. 

A yokai station? Because Sakaiminato is the hometown of Shigeru Mizuki, all train stations along Sakai line were creatively given nicknames based on characters (or yokai 妖怪) which appeared in his most popular manga series, Gegege no Kitaro. Therefore, Yonago Station is also known as Nezumi Otoko (ねずみ男) Station. In fact, Yokai exploration starts from Platform 0, where trains serving Sakai line depart from. Signage, posters, ornaments bearing the characters can be spotted at different areas on the platform. And if you are lucky, you may find yourself on board one of the few Gegege no Kitaro themed train serving Sakai line, to make your yokai exploration complete! For my trip, I managed to hop onto a train featuring Medama Oyaji (目玉おやじ), the father of Kitaro, at Yonago Station.


What's nearby?

(1) Bus Terminal, located just in front of train station.
Platform 5: Free shuttle buses depart from here to Tottori Hanakairo (鳥取花回廊). For my trip, I utilised this convenient complimentary service to travel to and fro Tottori Hanakairo.

Platform 7: Originally, there was a free shuttle bus which departs from here to Adachi Museum of Art. However, I found out that this service has ceased. An alternative bus route was recently introduced by Hinomaru Bus, which departs from Kaike Onsen, stops at Yonago Station and ends its route at Adachi Museum of Art. Unfortunately, there is only one bus service per day (arrives at Yonago Station at 0920 hrs) and bus fare is quite pricey (1,000 yen).

Kaike Onsen (皆生温泉): It takes about 20 mins by bus from Yonago Station to Kaike Onsen, a hot spring town in Tottori Prefecture, located by the beach overlooking Sea of Japan.
Yonago Station <> Kaike Onsen:

Airports: There are buses departing for both Tottori Sakyu Conan Airport (鳥取砂丘コナン空港) and Yonago Kitaro Airport (米子鬼太郎空港) as well.
Yonago Station <> Tottori Sakyu Conan Airport:
Yonago Station <> Yonago Kitaro Airport:


Commemorative stamps:

Yonago JR Station
Yonago Station is also known as Mezumi Otoko Station, named after a character from Gegege no Kitaro.

Hokuriku + Wakayama 2017 北陸,和歌山の旅 - Day 2 Itinerary: Takaoka 高岡,Shirakawa-go 白川郷

Day 2: 24.03.2017 (Fri)

Breakfast: Toyoko Inn Toyama Ekimae No. 1 東横イン富山駅前1

Toyama JR 富山駅 (0751 hrs) > Shin Takaoka JR 新高岡駅 (0800 hrs)
by Tsurugi 707, via Hokuriku Shinkansen 北陸新幹線.

* Safe kept luggage in Toyoko Inn Shin Takaoka Shinkansen Minami Guchi 東横イン新高岡新幹線南口 (Accommodation on Day 3) to travel light to Shirakawa-go.

Shin Takaoka JR 新高岡駅 (0825 hrs) > Takaoka JR 高岡駅 (0828 hrs)
by local train, via Johana line 城端線.

Visited Takaoka Daibutsu 高岡大仏.
Visited Imizu Shrine 射水神社.

Visited Takaoka Kojo Koen 高岡古城公園, Takaoka Kojo Zoo 高岡古城動物園.
Visited Fujiko F Fujio Hometown Art Gallery 藤子・F・不二雄 ふるさとギャラリー. [500 yen]
Lunch: Comma, Coffee Stand
* Purchased World Heritage Bus - Gokayama, Shirakawa-go Free Kippu 世界遺産バス - 五箇山, 白川郷フリーきっぷ . [3,500 yen 2,800 yen discounted rate with Hokuriku Arch Pass]
Takaoka Ekimae Bus Stop 7 (1320 hrs) > Shirakawa-go (1530 hrs)
by World Heritage Bus 世界遺産バス. 

Visited Ogimachi Joseki Observatory 荻町城跡展望台.

Visited Wada Ke 和田家. [300 yen]
Checked in: Nodaniya のだにや

Dinner: Nodaniya のだにや

- End of Day 2 -