tomocchi

Cruising Around on the Shimabara Railway

14Mar 2019 tomocchi

 

Hello, it’s Tomocchi! ☆

I went for a cruise around on the Shimabara Railway (nickname: shimatetsu)! This time, let me tell you about some of the super-popular photo spots and great food that I found along the way.

 

 

 

On this trip, I used the 2-day unlimited trips Shimabara Railway & Bus Pass 【Shimabara Peninsula Free Access Ticket (¥ 2,300)】

 

 

And if you’re travelling on the 2nd or 4th Sunday of each month, the 【fShimatetsu Free Pass (¥1,000円/day)】is even cheaper.

http://www.shimatetsu.co.jp/

 

 

Normally, just the return fare between Isahaya Station and Shimabara Station is ¥2,860, which makes the free pass astoundingly good value!!

Time to hop on and off the train and really enjoy everything on the Shimabara Railway line!♪

 

※ If you are departing from Nagasaki Station, you will also have to pay the return fare of ¥ 920 from Nagasaki Station to Isahaya Station on the JR line as well.

 

 

With that, let’s start a winter railway journey!

When the Shimabara Railway train from Isahaya Station stopped at Omisaki Station, some amazing scenery came into view!!

 

 

(Photo taken from the train window)

I hadn’t planned to get off on the way, but…

I was just so drawn in by the contrast between the blue sea and sky and the yellow flags, that before I knew it, I’d got off the train.

I’d seen that view so many times from the train window, so I’d always wanted to get off!

 

 

 

Omisaki Station is also said to be “The Closest Station to the Ocean in Japan”.

As I stepped onto the platform, the sound of the calm waves on the Ariake Sea welcomed me.

The sea breeze felt just perfect. ☆

 

 

There was a single old lady in the cosy station building.

This sleepy seaside station has no station staff.

 

 

While I was wandering around taking photos, another train pulled in. Next I was on my way to Shimabara Station.

With the free pass you can also board Shimabara Railway buses, so depending on the time of day, it might be convenient to board a bus from the “Omisaki Bus Stop” in front of the station.

 

The train that departed from Omisaki Station arrived at Shimabara Station.

 

 

The castle-like design of the station looks great, right? You can see Shimabara Castle from the front entrance.

I thought I’d take a stroll around the Shimabara Castle Town area until lunch, but since I’d missed having lunch, I decided on having lunch first.

 

Shimabara’s best known specialty food is “Guzoni”!

 

 

 

I stopped in at Ginza Shokudo, a long-established restaurant in the Ichiban-gai Arcade founded in 1945.

 

 

 

Guzoni wasn’t the only thing on the menu, with lots of options to choose from, like curry, as well as champon and kakesoba noodles.

 

 

 

While I was enjoying taking in the old-fashioned interior, which reminded me of the mid-20th century Showa era, piping hot Guzoni arrived in an earthen nabe pot.

 

 

Guzoni (¥ 980)

Inside the bonito and kombu seaweed broth was…

14 types of toppings!!! Including 5 pieces of mochi stick rice, they were: chicken, grilled anago sea eel, tamagoyaki omelette, koyadofu tofu, kamaboko fish cake, chikuwa fish cake rolls, shiitake, taro, lotus root, shaved burdock root, kombu seaweed, edible chrysanthemum, and Chinese cabbage.

 

 

Although I’d skipped breakfast, I thought there was no way I’d finish it all!!! But the soft, thick and round mochi came together perfectly with the high-quality dashi and the delicate flavor of the ingredients, and I ended up finishing it faster than I thought. It was a really familiar taste that made me sigh with nostalgia.

 

 

It really was a lunch that left both my heart and stomach nice and warm. Thanks for the meal!!

 

※Unfortunately, as of December 31st, 2018, Ginza Shokudo has closed down.

However, there are many other restaurants in Shimabara that have great tasting guzoni, so take a look at the tourist map for one that takes your fancy.

 

 

 

After lunch, I went to visit some Shiba Inu dogs who’ve become famous in the news because they stick their faces out of holes in a fence.

 

This time only one dog showed their face, but it was really cute!!

(I noticed they’d gone to call their friends, but the other dogs didn’t show their faces, so you can only just make out part of their body on the other side of the hole)

 

 

 

The dog was a really showman, even moving on to stick its face out of the middle hole!♪

So clever!

 

 

If you’re lucky, you might even get to see all three dogs sticking their faces out together! The spot to go is a normal house in the back streets of the Ichiban-gai Arcade on the Shimabara Castle side.

They’re the idols of Shimabara, so if you ask a passerby, they’re sure to be able to help you find them.

 

 

Of course, I won’t leave out the big tourist attractions! I took a quick rest at the “Shimeiso Spring Garden”, located in the “Town Where the Koi Carp Swim” area. And then I did a bit of shopping for Shimabara souvenirs at the nearby Tourism & Exchange Center “Seiryutei”

 

 

 

And in February, I highly recommend the Shimabara Castle Ume Plum Garden, with close to 300 trees making for a colorful scene with the castle tower in the background!

 

From February to March, there are lots of great spring events to come and see. Get off at Shimabara Station for the “Shimabara Castle Town Hina Meguri”, and get off at Koujiro Station for the Kunimi-cho, Unzen City “Nabeshimatei” Winter Sakura Cherry Blossom Festival.

 

Why not head off on a journey with Shimabara Railway! ☆

 

 

 

 

★ Here are all of the discount tickets offered by Shimabara Railway!

  • Shimabara Peninsula Free Access Ticket (¥2,300)

Unlimited travel on Shimabara Railway Trains and Buses for two days. You can purchase it at a JR station along with your JR ticket.

 

  • Shimatetsu Free Pass (¥1,000)

Unlimited travel on Shimabara Railway Trains and Busses, on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Valid for 1 day. Available for purchase at Shimabara Railway Stations.

 

  • SHIMATETSU ONE DAY PASS (¥1,200)

Unlimited travel pass that may only be used by people from foreign countries. (You must show your passport when purchasing it)Valid for 1 day.

 

 

 

The Nagasaki Eleven Shrines Stamp Rally

12Feb 2019 tomocchi

 

Hello, it’s Tomocchi!☆

The “Nagasaki Eleven Shines Stamp Rally”, in which you can visit 11 shrines in Nagasaki City and collect an original stamp from each shrine, will run for one year from Jan 1st to Dec 31st 2019.

 

 

Here are the 11 shrines that are taking part:

Sannō Shrine, Yasaka Shrine, Yatsurugi Shrine, Suijin Shrine

Matsushima Inari Shrine, Konpira Shrine, Nishiyama Shrine

Matsumori Tenmangu Shrine, Isenomiya Shrine, Miyajidake Hachiman Shrine, Wakamiya Inari Shrine.

 

 

 

A nine-shrine rally was held in 2018, but in 2019 there are two new shrines to make a grand total of eleven! One of these is Miyajidake Hachiman Shrine, which is notable for its torii shrine gate made from Arita Porcelain. The other is Yatsurugi Shrine which has a striking torii shrine gate for which one side is swept upwards like a sword.

 

 

If you visit all 11 shrines and collect a stamp from each one, you will be able to purchase a special omamori amulet decorated with Nagasaki castella and momo peach castella. The amulet is on sale at Yasaka Shrine for ¥500 to those who have completed the stamp rally.

 

 

This year the omamori amulet has a new design, and there are some shrines that have a new stamp design too, so if you took part in last year’s nine shrine rally, this year’s rally will be a fresh challenge.

 

 

You can get a copy of the combined leaflet and stamp sheet from the participating shrines, as well as the entrance of the Nagasaki Prefectural Office, and the Nagasaki City Tourist Information Center located at JR Nagasaki Station.

 

 

Nishiyama Shrine

Location: Nishiyama-machi 8-18, Nagasaki City / TEL: 095-823-1378() Access: A 10 min walk from the Suwa Shrine Tram or Bus Stop

 

 

 

At Nishiyama Shrine, the dainty winter cherry blossoms are still blooming on the trees that were planted in 1897. They bloom around New Year’s Day every year, so they’re also sometimes called “New Year’s Day Cherry Blossoms”.

 

 

The small, pale-pink flower petals look almost like a baby’s hand. These lovely blossoms are an early taste of spring!

 

 

Although there are many people who completed the stamp rally right at the start of the year, because it runs for 1 year, you can choose to do it quickly or take your time.

 

 

 

I’m taking it slow, so right now I’ve only been to two shrines…

 

With shrines that are famous for their sakura cherry blossoms and others that host festivals, such as the takengei fox performance, I’m going to enjoy visiting all these temples over the course of this year.

 

The rally is a hit with locals and tourists, both from Japan and overseas!

 

 

 

Nagasaki Eleven Shrines Stamp Rally

Inquiries: Matsumori Tenmangu Shrine 095-822-7079

 

 

 

Konagai Oysters

11Jan 2019 tomocchi

 

Hello, it’s Tomocchi!☆

Oysters: the taste of winter.

Every year during the oyster season, in Konagai Town in Isahaya City, on the border between Saga Prefecture and Nagasaki and near the Ariake Sea Coast, oyster huts line National Route 207.

 

 

Rich with the bounty of the Ariake Sea, Konagai Oysters are big and juicy! They’re incredibly delicious~\(^^)/

 

 

 

I wanted to taste the Konagai Oysters which are in season right now!!

So, I visited the Konagai Town Fisheries Co-operative’s Direct Sales Point.

 

 

Here you buy your oysters, etc. at the direct sales point and then grill the oysters yourself at the oyster grilling hut next door.

 

 

 

First, buy your oysters at the direct sales point.

 

 

There are sausages, vegetables, and rice balls too!

 

Once you’ve paid at the cashier, you’ll get a number. The usage fee for the oyster grills is ¥500 per grill.

 

※Charcoal, disposable chopsticks, plates and cotton gloves are included in the price.

※Please refrain from bringing in outside drinks.

※Oyster knives can be borrowed with a ¥100 deposit that is refunded when you return the knife.

 

 

With your purchases completed, move to the oyster grilling hut next door.

Give your number to the staff and they’ll show you to an oyster grill.

 

 

There are lots of seats and grills, and from the windows, there is a sweeping view of the Ariake Sea.

 

 

 

Next, it’s time to charcoal grill your oysters!

Lay the oysters with the flat side down and grill for 5 minutes. As the shells snap open, you simply have to keep enjoying the umami flavor of the oysters!!!

Big and juicy, the Konagai Oysters are just the best!!!

 

 

 

Squeeze on some lemon, and get them down while they’re hot!! Ah, they’re just too tasty….

 

 

Konagai Oysters are sterilized by allowing them to rest for 24 hours in seawater sterilized by UV light. So, you can have no qualms about eating them grilled, or even raw.

 

 

The oyster season is from around November to March.

Why not try the “Konagai Oysters”: in season now☆

 

 

 

【Konagai Town Fisheries Co-operative Direct Sales Point】

Address: Konagai Town Ogawaharaura 499, Isahaya City, Nagasaki Prefecture

TEL: 0957-34-2336

Official Website:http://www.jf-konagai.com/(Japanese Only)

 

 

 

Superb Sasebo Champon – Kouran

12Dec 2018 tomocchi

 

Hello, it’s Tomocchi! ☆

Once again this year the season for “99 Islands Oysters” has come around!

 

So, I went to Kouran near Sasebo Station, which I’ve alllways wanted to visit (!), to enjoy “Champon with 99 Islands Oysters”.

 

 

 

Located inside the Sasebo Station building, its inside the “Rokuten-dori” restaurant street, on the left-hand-side when looking from the main entrance of the station.

 

 

 

With more than 40 years of history, this long-established restaurant really has the familiar charm of years gone by.

Before the rebuilding of Sasebo Station, it seems the store was previously located under the Sasebo Bus Center.

 

 

 

They mostly serve the “Champon” and “Sara Udon” noodle dishes.

 

 

I added an extra raw egg (+ ¥50) as a topping to the “Nagsaki Champon (¥750).

During the autumn and winter months, they also use “99 Islands Oysters”!! (and lots of them!)

 

 

The noodles are thick and firm.

Although they’re small, the creaminess of the rich and plump “99 Islands Oysters” are just to die for!

With a soup rich in the umami from the oysters, this dish has a unique appeal that’s different from the champon served in Nagasaki City.

 

 

Towards the end, I mixed in the raw egg topping for a rich taste.

I’ll be sure to go again when I’m next in Sasebo!!

You’ve got me as a repeat customer!!

 

 

【Nagasaki Champon Kouran】

Address: 21-29 Miura-cho, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture 〒857-0863

Opening Hours: 10:30AM to 7:30PM (Not open every day)

TEL: 0956-24-5803

 

 

Minatoya Guesthouse

15Nov 2018 tomocchi

 

Hello, it’s Tomocchi! ☆

This time I’m going to introduce a great place I stayed at while I was on Iki Island!♪

 

 

Minatoya Guesthouse, which opening in April 2016, is run by a married couple: an angler and an ama diver (a female diver who dives for shellfish, etc).

 

Making use of an almost 100-year-old building near the Ashibe Port, the heavy beams and each and every part of the design of this guesthouse, handmade by the couple and their friends, wonderfully evoke the prosperous history and atmosphere of the Ashibe Port area.

 

 

 

Kana Ogawa is the okami (the traditionally female landlady of a guesthouse) and an ama diver, while Ryoji Ogawa is the owner and an angler.

Kana, the okami, was originally from Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture. She moved to Nagasaki Prefecture with her family after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

 

She wanted to try working as an ama diver, and just as she was looking into it, she heard about recruiting for ama divers in Iki from an acquaintance and decided to apply.

As an Iki City Local Vitalization Cooperator, she spent three years training to be an ama diver. During that time, she married her husband, Ryoji, an angler from Iki.

 

Right now, she works as an ama diver while running the guesthouse together with her husband, Ryoji.

 

 

Minatoya Guesthouse is popular and bustling with lots of regulars. There are lots of reasons for its popularity, but I think one reason is that, just as you’d expect from a guesthouse run by an angler and an ama diver, it’s a place to enjoy amazing seafood dishes!

 

 

 

First its time for a toast! I’m drinking Iki shochu (a local speciality with a higher alcohol content than sake) with a young man who’s come here alone from Fukuoka. Cheers~♪

 

 

Japanese Horse Mackerel sugata zukuri (sashimi arranged in the shape of the original fish) and tataki (seared sashimi).

Just what you’d expect from a guesthouse run by an angler and an ama diver! Spending time drinking Iki shochu while enjoying fresh, plump Horse Mackerel that’s just been freshly caught in the waters around Iki – truly blissful!

 

 

 

There’s also:

・Chicken Curry with lots of Winter Vegetables

・Fried Yellowtail Amberjack with Shio Koji (a seasoning made with salt and rice koji).

・Iki-grown Spinach & Kimchi made with Nappa Cabbage

・Spicy Potato Salad made with Iki-grown Taro Yam

And many, many more homemade dishes filled with produce from Iki keep coming, one after another!♪

Ah… the Iki shochu just keeps flowing! ☆

 

 

 

After the meal, relaxing on the sofa, leafing through pages of the books on the bookshelf…. there’s simply nothing more comfortable! ☆

 

 

 

With the day winding down, I decided to make my way to the second-floor bedrooms.

The private rooms (from ¥4,000 per person) are spacious, and the handmade interiors are just wonderful.

The dormitory (from ¥3,000 per person) is just so convenient – fully equiped with power outlet and reading lights.

The shared washroom and bathrooms also have everything you might need.

 

 

There’s also Free Wi-fi, a shared kitchen and showers.

A rental service for towels, hair dryers and washing machines are also on offer.

 

 

 

After a peaceful night, it was time for breakfast the next morning….. and I just couldn’t take my eyes off the giant white object that Kana was about to start slicing!!

What is it?!!

Actually, I was told it’s “Ikishu Tofu”, traditional Tofu from Iki.

It seems more than 1.5 times larger than regular tofu.

One theory is that because there are many large families in Iki, “big size” tofu like this became more and more popular.

Simple and firm, Ikishu Tofu is just packed with the umami flavor of soybeans! (*´∇`)

 

 

 

When it was time to leave, the okami Kana came to see me off with a cute smile!♪

“Please do come again!!”

 

 

 

 

【Minatoya Guesthouse】

Address: 258 Ashibeura, Ashibe-cho, Iki-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture 〒811-5301

Tel: 0920-40-0190

Official Website:http://www.minatoya-guesthouse.com/(JP & EN)