Old railway and Hot Spring around Kitakata

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Kitakata itself doesn’t have a hot spring but if you go north you will find some very quiet hot spring resorts.

One is called Atsushio hot spring and another is called Nittchu hot spring.

They used to have a railway called the Nittchu Line. This railway connected Kitakata to Atsushio covering just 11.6 km and five stations. It was built in 1938. That time people planned to build a railway from Imaichi in Tochigi ( near Nittko ) to Aizu Wakamatsu, Kitakata and  Yonezawa ( Yamagata ).But because of the war, they couldn’t continue the construction work. Also high mountains made the work more difficult. That is why the line is so short. Still the line was used but was eventually abandoned in 1984.

 This line was mainly used by students to commute to school. Only four to six train services were available each day, just early in the morning and evening. People used to joke that the Nittchu line did not run during day time even though “Nittchu” means daytime in Japanese.  I pictured steam locomotives running backwards on their way to Kitakata and forwards on their way to Atsushio. It must have been wonderful. In Japan after this line was closed, we had a steam locomotive boom. The track the train ran on is now used as a cycle lane. I wish they had kept the railway and steam locomotive so that this line could attract more tourists or make railway enthusiasts happy. Just like Ooigawa railway in Shizuoka. However the terminal station and the old train carriages are kept in a nice way. The car at front is used as a snowplow. It snows a lot in this area. The waiting room has many pictures of olden times and very nostalgic.

 

 I didn’t have time to visit Nittchu hot spring but I took a bath at Atsushio hot spring. As the Kanji say, “atsu “ means hot and “ shio “ means salt. The hot spring’s temperature is said to be 70C and the water is salty. They cool the water down so that people can bathe. This hot spring was discovered about 600 years ago by a priest. You can see a Zen temple in the middle of the village. The water is hot and salty and that makes people’s body keep warm for a long time. It is effective for skin ailments and stomach problems. Also it’s good for women who wish to have babies or people who have poor circulation.

All in all relaxing in this peaceful and quiet place while bathing in the hot spring and eating natural food will benefit your health. Or if you like you can try out Zazen at the nearby temple.

Kitakata, local delicacy

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Kitakata is also famous for its ramen noodles. Kitakata’s population is 55,000 and the city has more than 100 ramen shops !

Many people from other parts of Japan visit Kitakata to enjoy ramen noodles. From morning to evening, I saw people line up in front of the popular shops.

I heard some people speak in western dialect. I thought many of them who are lining up are tourists. “ Asa rah “ is getting popular. It means eating ramen for breakfast. “ Asa” means morning and “ rah” is short for ramen.I guess some people from different cultures might have some psychological barrier to trying this. In fact, a friend of mine told me that having something salty for breakfast is strange, let alone noodles. But he can eat noodles for lunch or dinner. The landlord of the inn insisted that I should try “asa rah” since many ramen shops are only a few minutes away from the inn. I heard that some people stay at the inn to get good access to ramen shops. On top, in the morning, it’s less crowded. So I went to the one near the inn around 7:15 AM to find a relatively long line ! I was also surprised to find out that many of them are local people. The line moved quickly and I didn’t have to wait for long. I was satisfied with this ramen. The noodles are rather thick and the broth tastes good.

 

 I also tried local delicacies for dinner:tofu topped with soy bean paste, salad with grilled chicken etc. They all go well with local sake. We could enjoy drinking and eating in an old fashioned room. The service is good and price is also reasonable. One of the good points of Kitakata city is that one can walk around and see many places. The size is right for walking but the day I visited was too hot.October or November might be a good season to walk around. 

  

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Kitakata , the town of warehouses

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Kitakata is located in northwest Fukushima Prefecture. Aizu Wakamatsu city is less than 30 minutes by car. You can find old warehouses all over the city. I heard there are as many as 4,000 in the city. This area has been blessed with good water and rice and that enabled people to make good sake ( rice wine ) and miso ( soy bean paste).

Kura (warehouses ) can keep the food stock in perfect condition. Many people worked hard to make money to build warehouses by the age of 40 in that area.

Long ago, refrigerators weren’t available but kura provided environmentally friendly storage. In summer the inside of the kura is cool and in winter it’s warm. Nearly 100 years ago, a big fire broke out and burned down many houses in this city but the warehouses were fire proof. After that people realized the value again. Thanks to kura, Kitakata keeps many old things.

   I stayed at an inn to find nice furniture in our room and asked about it. Then the landlord introduced me to the person who repaired it. I visited the shop.

 

I was very excited to see many fantastic pieces of furniture and goods he made and repaired. Also the old fixed drawers aren’t as expensive as I thought. He used the old chest of drawers as a cupboard. Since the top drawer was broken, he placed some cups on it. I like the idea. As he made tea for us, he told me that he can design and build houses. I really like the sink and counter which he designed and made. He finds some old things which are not in use and fixes them to make something new. Or he goes into the woods to find material for his new furniture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He knows which wood makes good chairs or tables. For example this chair looks very hard but when I sat on it, it felt warm, soft and comfortable. This chair is made of walnut. That reminded me of sitting on grandmother’s lap as a child.

According to him, trees are cut into wood and become furniture but wood is

alive so it makes us happy and provides us with comfort. He thinks to make good use of wood and keep using old wooden things are very important. By cherishing them, we can show our gratitude to nature.