Wednesday, March 8, 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:


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