Saturday, May 5, 2018

Japan Autumn Nov 2017 一人で日本の旅 - Yura JR Station 由良駅, Conan Street Stamp Rally コナン通りスタンプラリー

Yura JR Station (由良駅) is located along San’in main line. Located in Hokuei-cho 北栄町, a town in Tottori Prefecture, this station is only served by local trains. Journey by train to reach here takes more than an hour from either Yonago or Tottori Station.

Step into the world of Detective Conan. Despite the relative inconvenience, this small town is a place many manga fans from all over the world would love to pay a visit to! Reason being Hokuei-cho is the hometown of Gosho Aoyama 青山剛昌, the artist behind the selling manga series, Detective Conan 名探偵コナン. Its unwavering popularity since the release more than two decades ago has led to the establishment of a museum (Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory) which is wholly dedicated to Gosho Aoyama, in the place he grew up in. Not only that, the road from Yura JR Station to the museum was even named Conan Street コナン通り. Along the street, fans will be excited to find bronze statues of Detective Conan, stone monuments imprinted with the covers of Detective Conan comic books, directional signs depicting Conan and other characters pasted on the pedestrian walkways and colourful pictures of Conan illustrated on manhole covers! Last but not least, Yura JR Station which is the starting point of Conan Street is also known as Conan Station コナン駅 and within the train station, there are many photo taking worthy spots to look out for. In fact, this is not my first time visiting a place with such manga/anime related theme in Japan. Sakaiminato city, which is also in Tottori Prefecture as well, was where Shigeru Mizuki 水木しげる, the artist behind Gegege no Kitaro ゲゲゲの鬼太郎, grew up in as a child. Similarly, Sakaiminato JR Station 境港駅 was named Kitaro Station 鬼太郎駅 and the road leading from the train station to Mizuki Shigeru Museum 水木しげる記念館 is called Mizuki Shigeru Road 水木しげるロード.

Wear a detective cap and uncover where Conan is hiding in the train station. 

Strolling along Conan Street.

What’s nearby?

(1) Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory 青山剛昌ふるさと館, about 20 minutes walk from the train station.
Operating hours: 0300 - 1730 hrs; last entry at 1700 hrs
Entrance fee = 700 yen; 100 yen discount for foreigners (need to show passport as proof).

(2) Tourist Information Center 観光案内所, located in the same building as the train station.
Operating hours: 0900 - 1715 hrs

Apart from being an information center to Hokuei-cho, there are exclusive array of merchandise of Detective Conan on sale here - T-shirts, towels, badges, coasters, stationery, etc! Here, you can purchase a Yura JR Station arrival certificate (コナン駅来駅証明書) as proof of visit. There is even a shelf of Detective Conan comic books placed in one corner of the room for visitors who are interested to read.

Conan Street Stamp Rally コナン通りスタンプラリー

One interesting activity which many people will engage in upon arrival is to purchase a Conan Street Official Guide Book (コナン公式ガイドブック) from the Tourist Information Center and embark on a stamp rally expedition! This concept is similar to Yokai Stamp Rally 妖怪スタンプラリー which I have participated in Sakaiminato two years ago. The guidebook contains detailed account (only in Japanese) of where various media of Detective Conan, such as bronze statues, figurines, stone monuments, directional signs and boards, etc, can be spotted along Conan Street. For the stamp rally portion, there is a total of eight inked stamp counters located in different areas of the town, such as Yura Post Office 由良郵便局, Asakura Books Center 朝倉書店 (a place where Gosho Aoyama visited frequently when he was a kid) and even the gas station! Upon gathering at least five out of eight inked stamps in the guide book, return to the tourist information center to receive a special gift. For my instance, I received a badge and a completion sticker which can be pasted at the back of the guide book. 

Deja vu! Visited Tottori Prefecture over a weekend and I was greeted by rainy weather on both days. This was the exact, same situation I came across when I was in Sakaiminato two years ago. Similarly, I had to brave the relentless wind and perpetual rain to locate various inked stamp counters and had to ensure that I do not drench or lose my guidebook this time round. The time taken to travel from one place to another took longer than usual due to the poor weather conditions but I eventually managed to collect all eight inked stamps successfully. Everything went on smoothly until I found out that the tourist information center was already closed for the day when I returned to the train station in the evening! I was definitely disappointed but I could only blame myself for the poor time management. Without further ado, I sat down to review my itinerary for the following day and research on the train schedule. Fortunately, I was able to carve out some time in the morning on the subsequent day to drop by this train station again to exchange for the present. And yes, each step was executed smoothly as per this last minute change in plan. Boarded the train from Yonago JR Station at 0839 hrs and reached Yura JR Station at 0921 hrs, shuffled my feet quickly to the tourist information center, happily collected my present and took the return train which came 12 minutes later.


Commemorative stamps:

* Yura JR Station

* Hokuei-cho Tourist Information Center

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