Way too much time was spent on local trains during this six day trip in the northern parts of mainland Japan but that was the basic idea of it all really! Day five began at Odate Station in Akita prefecture (with Hachiko bidding me farewell of course!) on what was to be an epic day travelling just over 400 kilometres south.
There were a couple of interesting places I wanted to see along the way before ending up in Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture at the end of the day. Namahage is a Japanese ogre tradition originating in the Oga Peninsula area of Akita Prefecture. I believe there are some daily performances but they were in places which were really difficult to get to without a car. I was just happy to see these awesome figures (below) outside Oga Tourist Information Centre.
The nearest station is actually Funakoshi Station on the Oga Line but I disembarked one stop earlier at Tenno Station and jogged there. It would’ve been a 40 minute walk but I did it in less than half that before then going on to Funakoshi Station. The reason for running was not exercise but just because trains are not that often in this part of Japan and I only had an hour to complete my mission. When I saw the demon-like characters in their hefty ogre masks and traditional straw capes though it certainly felt worth it. They really are such a cool sight.
As soon as I entered the waiting room at Funakoshi Station I was followed in by a foreign girl who later on the platform asked if I lived there. She thought I may have been “the other foreigner” living there that she had been told about for she had only been in the country for a couple of weeks. She was from Australia and we ended up chatting all the way till Akita Station where we parted ways. I headed straight for the bus station and was lucky enough to hop onto a bus (#140) that was leaving immediately. Akita Prefectural Gymnasium (1-12 Yabaseundokoen) was my destination but if you’re thinking that I was going there to pump some iron then you obviously don’t know me well! I was merely going there just to see the fine architecture (below) of the building.
There wasn’t really anything else I wanted to do that was near Akita Station so I just waited for the next train as I wanted to get as far south as I could on this day. Shinjo Station (below) was the next transit but it wasn’t quite as easy as I thought as I was told to change to a bus halfway through the journey which took me by surprise. It was quite nice though and was provided for free so that helped save a bit of money!
I had about 90 minutes at Shinjo and enquired at the tourist information about things to do or restaurants to try but it really was so ridiculously hot outside that I decided to stay put. There was a lot going on in the station (including the manga museum picture below) and sadly for now that will remain as my only experience of Yamagata prefecture! I wanted to do at least one thing in the area but ultimately I was too short of time so ended up just passing through. I’m not really sure if I can say that I have been to Yamagata now!
There was a big delay at Yamagata Station where I next had to change train and that really buggered up my later connection at Yonezawa Station meaning that I had to wait for over an hour although I did have this platform waiting room (below) pretty much all to myself the whole time.
After a quick transit at Fukushima, I finally arrived in Koriyama well after 10pm and checked unknowingly into the same hotel that my wife and I stayed at on our trip there in 2012 when we went hiking at the beautiful Goshikinuma and Jyododaira. It was nearly the end of my whirlwind trip but there was to be one more highlight the following day before returning to Tokyo.
Click here to read ‘An Egyptian Pyramid Amidst Japanese Forest! You Better Believe It’