Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 4, from Akita to Hirosaki by Resort Shirakami

Resort Shirakami old type KIHA-40 series Kumagera formation (C) JP Rail
Resort Shirakami old type KIHA-40 series Kumagera formation (C) JP Rail

This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 3, from Ueno to Akita by Akebono

After I got off Akebono at Akita, I was going to ride Resort Shirakami. But it would depart at 8:38 am. I had almost 2 hours. I was looking for somewhere to stay for 2 hours near Akita station in early morning.

Akita Shimin Ichiba (Akita public market)

Some shops in Akita Shimin Ichiba open at 5:30 am. (C) JP Rail
Some shops in Akita Shimin Ichiba open at 5:30 am. (C) JP Rail
When I was there at 7:00 am, most of shops were open. (C) JP Rail
When I was there at 7:00 am, most of shops were open. (C) JP Rail

Akita Shimin Ichiba (Akita public market) is for local Akita people. There are lots of private shops, like seafood, meat, fruits and vegetables, dry stuff, bakery and some restaurant. The most important things for me is that some restaurants are open in early morning. This was perfect for my breakfast.

I supposed to eat noodles but it was not open yet at 7:00. I gave up noodles and entered the next door. It was Japanese eatery, Ajitoshi Shokudo (味利食堂). I wanted to eat heavy food in such an early morning. Because I had jet lag.

Tempura on the rice with Miso soup. Lots of seaweed in miso soup. I loved the smell of sea from this soup. (C) JP Rail
Tempura on the rice with Miso soup. Lots of seaweed in miso soup. I loved the smell of sea from this soup. (C) JP Rail
Most of menus are displayed beside the entrance. (C) JP Rail
Most of menus are displayed beside the entrance. (C) JP Rail

There were so many items on the menu, probably more than 100. I chose Tendon (tempura on the rice). Taste is not super tasty but it was good. I was very happy to eat regular menu in early morning. This eatery open at 5:30. People who work in the market start to work in super early morning. So they need a power breakfast.

After I finished a breakfast, I walked around in the market. I did not intend to buy something to eat. But I found some pastries sold at half price. It was one day old, but quality was completely no problem.

This bakery is Takeya Seipan (たけや製パン). On yellow place, it says all breads and pastries are half price! (C) JP Rail
This bakery is Takeya Seipan (たけや製パン). On yellow place, it says all breads and pastries are half price! (C) JP Rail

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I got two pastries at less than 100 yen. I would eat it in Resort Shirakami.

This market is originally for local people but it is very interesting for tourists too. If you look for somewhere to visit near Akita station for a couple of hours, I recommend you to visit this market. It is just 10 minutes away from Akita station west exit.

Akita Station

Akita station main exit. There is Akita Shinkansen ticket gate all the way back on right side.
Akita station main exit. There is Akita Shinkansen ticket gate all the way back on right side.

This station is the biggest station in Akita. But it is not a big terminal station, like Tokyo or Osaka. You can get English station map at JR East official site.

Exterior of Akita station from west side. (C) JP Rail
Exterior of Akita station from west side. (C) JP Rail
Local train to Oga line stopped at platform #2. (C) JP Rail
Local train to Oga line stopped at platform #2. (C) JP Rail

There are 4 platforms and two different types of trains, conventional line trains and Akita Shinkansen’s train share these platforms. The trains do not run very often at Akita station. So as long as you follow the sign, you cannot miss it.

There are three ticket gates. But two of these threes, Metropolitan gate and Topico gate connect to hotel (Metropolitan hotel) and shopping complex (Topico). These two gates are used basically for local passengers. You can use main ticket gate (east and west exit).

Trip to Hirosaki from Akita by Resort Shirakami

Resort Shirakami came to platform #3. (C) JP Rail
Resort Shirakami came to platform #3. (C) JP Rail
It's been 15 years since this train started to run. (C) JP Rail
It’s been 15 years since this train started to run. (C) JP Rail

Resort Shirakami is one of the trains on my wish list. I wanted to take the newest hybrid fleet HB-E300 series. But this time, I could take regular KIHA-40 series Kumagera formation. It consists of 4 cars. One of these four cars are semi-compartment seat. Seat layout is perfect for family and group. I had an ordinary seat. Seat layout is 2+2 as usual. But leg space is huge. It is 1200 mm seat pitch. It is much bigger than Shinkansen! My height is 184cm (6’2″). It was much space left in my leg room! I put several pictures of interior and exterior below. You can find more info about Resort Shirakami at Rail cruising in UNESCO World Heritage Shirakami mountains by Rapid train Resort Shirakami.

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I bought a cup of coffee on board and had half price pastries. (C) JP Rail
I bought a cup of coffee on board and had half price pastries. (C) JP Rail

Even though I travelled in shoulder season, I expected many passengers on Resort Shirakami. But it was almost empty. When the train departed from Akita station at 8:25, there were another 4 passengers in car #4. But they did not look like travellers obviously. As I expected, they got off at Moritake station before this train went through Gono line with one of the best scenery. Since then, I was only passenger until train arrived at Goshogawara station.

It was sunny and beautiful day. I could not find anything to complain. I expected stormy weather, grey sky and angry Sea of Japan. I chatted with on board sales clerk. he said that day was one of the best day in the winter. He also said that Resort Shirakami is almost full in summer time but almost empty in winter time. This train runs on weekend only in winter time. But I could not find any reason that this train need to be operated in winter time. I checked other 3 cars. I could find only five more passengers in 4 cars formation.

Gono line has one of the best scenery in all JR lines. (C) JP Rail
Gono line has one of the best scenery in all JR lines. (C) JP Rail
Seashore line of Sea of Japan can be seen at many points. (C) JP Rail
Seashore line of Sea of Japan can be seen at many points. (C) JP Rail

Resort Shirakami run very slowly at two locations with nice view. We cannot get off the train, but we can see the beautiful seashore lines and very interesting shape rocks.

Unfortunately I did not have any time to get off or stay on Gono line in this trip. But there are some hot springs, Wespa Tsubakiyama station and Furofushi onsen near Fukaura station. They have nice hot springs with gorgeous Sea of Japan view and tasty local seafood. If you have an opportunity to travel in this area, consider these places to stay.

And also Gono line goes along UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakani Mountains. It is not accessible to the core of Shirakami Mountains from Gono line’s stations. But if you get off at Juniko station, you can see deep blue pond, Aoike. This place is not in Shirakami mountains but it may be considerable to stop and see when you travel on Gono line by Resort Shirakami.

In Resort Shirakami, you may have an experience of Tsugaru Shamisen (three-stringed Japanese guitar) and Tsugaru Kataribe (Local storyteller). Shamisen is performed in Resort Shirakami #1 and #2 between Ajigasawa and Goshogawara when I took this train. Kataribe is performed in Resort Shirakami #1 between Mutsu-Tsuruta and Kawabe on Sat, Sun and holidays. I think it is very hard to understand storyteller. But you can enjoy Shamisen performance. When I was on Resort Shirakami, they played shamisen in my car. When they started to play, some passengers came from other cars. But when they finished to play second song, I was only audience. I joined them to sing it with their shamisen perfomance. 🙂

At Goshogawara station, other passenger got into car #1. It had been for a long time to see other passenger on my car, #1. I din not have a time to get off at Goshogawara station. There is local private line, Tsugaru Railway. They operate Stove train during winter time. It is so popular for the tourist. I was very interesting in it. But it is still on my wish list.

Weather was good but I could not see Mt. Iwaki clearly. (C) JP Rail
Weather was good but I could not see Mt. Iwaki clearly. (C) JP Rail

When weather is good, Mt. Iwaki can be seen at right side from Akita to Hirosaki/Aomori. When we travel by this train from Akita, beautiful seashore line is always left side. Only Mt. Iwaki is that we need to see on right side. When you book this train, seat A or B is ocean side. It is same for either way to Aomori/Hirosaki or Akita.

Resort Shirakami arrive at Hirosaki on time. It was 12:45 and I was on board more than 4 hours trip from Akita. But weather was perfect and I really enjoyed that train.

Continue to Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 5, from Hirosaki to Kakunodate by Tsugaru and Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway

7 thoughts on “Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 4, from Akita to Hirosaki by Resort Shirakami”

  1. Hi Takeshi
    I’m planning to travel Tokyo-Akita, stop overnight in Akita and take the Resort Shirakami the next day to Aomori.
    Time of travel : mid March 2017.
    My question is does the train run daily or only specific days? This information is important as I’m planning the time and date of travel.
    I’ll be using the JR East pass. Is the journey covered as some parts go on the Gono Line.
    Thanks
    Anne

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    When I went on Resort Shirakami, I was the only person in my car (car 1). There were two other people on the train. As you know, I disembarked at Ajigasawa. It is an interesting town. Supposedly, it is famous for the quality of salt, and a crumbed chicken dish called “Chicken-bo” (チーケンボー) sold from a place across the road from the station. Maybe most travellers intend to go to Shirakami-sanchi, and in winter it is too hard to do.

    I like Akita too. There are many tasty restaurants around Akita station area. Last time I was there, I stayed in Toyoko Inn next to the station, and watched for the arrival of Akebono and Twilight Express.

    When I went on stove train (Dec 1), I met local Rotary Club chairperson. The Rotary Club is a big sponsor of Tsugaru Railway. He worked in Australia for ten years with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. I learned a lot about Goshogawara/Tsugaru area, and was treated to squid cooked on the stove, local sake and udon at Tsugaru Nakasato Station. I also received a free return trip. With a big gap in time before next Gono Line train, they also drove me back to Aomori in their car. I have very fond memories of the Goshogawara area :).

    Sometime, I would like to visit Shirakami-sanchi in full, and Osorezan on Shimokita Peninsula.

    Best regards,

    Jonathan Ayre

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