Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Northern Tip of Hyogo: Nekozaki

Looking out to the Sea of Japan at the northernmost point of Hyogo - Nekozaki
Place Name: Nekozaki - 猫崎
Type: Hiking Course / Northernmost point of Hyogo - ハイキングコース / 兵庫県北端
Location: Toyooka city, Hyogo, JAPAN
Starting Location: Takeno Station 竹野駅
Latitude: 35.649967
Longitude: 134.756522
Ending Location: Nekozaki lighthouse 猫崎灯台
Latitude: 35.674444
Longitude: 134.764167
Date of Visit: August 16, 2012
Access: JR West San'in Main Line
Web: Takeno Tourist Information [Japanese]

Takeno Station
The Japanese Wikipedia entry for Hyogo prefecture lists it’s geographical extremities. Of the four the northernmost point seemed to be a nice hike near a beach with an onsen and would make a good day trip to do with the Seishun 18 Kippu.
The Kansai and Chugoku regions can be divided down the middle into a northern and southern half. Sanyo, the southern half, borders the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean beyond that. San’in, the northern half, is the more rural Sea of Japan side. Few roads and rail lines connect between the two sides so traveling between the two takes time and often goes through some spectacular scenery. One of my favorite words in Japanese is “陰陽連絡路線” meaning a road that connects San’in to Sanyo. I took the quickest route riding the Fukuchiyama and San’in Main line. My trip started at Osaka station at 5:55. After two train changes in Fukuchiyama and Toyooka, I arrived at Takeno station at 10:20.

Takeno Beach
The walk from the station to the beach goes through some typical countryside into a nice older section of town and ends up along the beach. Little cafes, small minshuku, and shops selling beach goods lined the streets while the beach was littered with tented beach huts offering a place to sit out of the sun, hot showers, food and booze. It was hot on this August day and I was soaking in sweat even before starting the hike. The extra strength super sweat-proof sunscreen didn’t save my skin from getting burned. The humidity was high but not too bad. It was sweaty hiking weather, but nothing too hard and nothing I couldn’t handle I thought. Then I saw the hill.

The start of the trail with the hill in the background
Some of the beautiful scenery from the trail

Coming straight off the ocean, it looks pretty tall. I thought the trail would cut around the side. No way I’d have to hike to the top of that hill. I was wrong. I also thought the trail would be rough, but not that rough. The signs warning me of dangers ahead seemed placed there for some bureaucratic requirement and not because of any real danger. 
The trail wasn’t that dangerous really, but it was surprisingly hard. First, the humidity. In that forest the air just gets heavy with water making breathing difficult. Second, the bugs. I’m not a fan of bugs and the trail was just crawling with them. Cicadas were flailing around as I approached. Countless spiderwebs were destroyed by my face. Third, the footing. Various parts of the trail are covered in slippery loose soil. I took a fall once and lost my footing a few times. This was the first hike where I thought that I would actually like to get some of those dorky looking ski poles. Forth, the climbing. Getting up and down those slopes sometimes required holding on to a less then secure feeling rope. It was pretty close to scrambling getting up some of those cliffs. The last decent to the lighthouse was the steepest and most difficult.

The bridge on the trail
The ocean

The payoff and the view from the lighthouse makes the hike worth it however. The trail itself is dark and doesn’t offer much to look as the forest is just that dense with vegetation. The few spots where the forest opens up does offer some amazing views of the ocean. At the end, however, is the real good view. In the summer on a good day, like when I went, the ocean is a inviting blue color. So peaceful and cool looking. I considered climbing down but since I was there by myself I thought it would best if I didn’t. 
It was a very secluded point. A lighthouse is at the end and there’s a concrete area around it thats big enough to sit down on and relax. The only things around me were a massive group of dragonflies, some other gross bugs that would run out of the plants onto the concrete, and a grandpa down on the rocks fishing. I had no clue how that guy got out there. I didn’t see a boat or float and there was no real trail to get there from where I was. I bet I could scramble my way there, but it would be dangerous and downright impossible with all that fishing equipment he had. I guess he was dropped off by a boat. It looked fun to be out there alone. I don’t think he ever noticed me either. 
I didn’t look forward to hiking back, but the beach was there and getting into the ocean and washing off the sweat kept me going. At the beach I changed in park and used a drinking fountain to give my sweat soaked clothing a quick wash. I left my wet clothing on the concrete pier to dry in the sun as I swam in the somewhat crowded ocean. Still, getting in the water after such a tough hike was the best.

Looking back at the hill

After swimming I headed to the onsen next the beach. Kitamekan, a building with a restaurant, omiyage shops, rest areas, and rental kayaks, has a real onsen on the second floor called Tanjyo no Yu. It’s 500 yen for a few baths with a decent onsen and a small sauna. Cheaper than the hot showers you can get on the beach. You can’t go in straight from the beach soaking with saltwater and all sandy however. I just made myself as presentable as possible at the water fountain and it was ok. The hike and the beach itself are highly recommended. I am already looking forward to going back next year just to hang out on the beach.

The Northern Tip of Hyogo: Nekosaki at EveryTrail
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More pictures from the trip HERE.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Abandoned Fukuchiyama Line - 旧福知山線


Place Name: Abandoned Fukuchiyama Line - 旧福知山線
Type: Hiking Course ハイキングコース / Abaondoned Railway 廃線
Location: Takarazuka City and Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, JAPAN
Starting Location Namaze Station 生瀬駅 
Latitude: 34.8561
Longitude: 135.306
Ending Location Takedao Station 武田尾駅 
Latitude: 34.819158
Longitude: 135.325058
Date of Visit: August 7, 2012
Access: JR West Fukuchiyama Line

This is a hike very popular with the locals that takes you along the Mukogawa river on what use to be the Fukuchiyama line connecting Takarazuka with Sanda. It only takes a few hours and can be done easily in an afternoon. I took my daughter in her backpack and we had no problems other than a few low hanging trees. Along the route there are a few long tunnels which are not lighted so taking a good flashlight along is recommended. I was able to trick my iPhone light into staying on getting us safely through, but I won't be doing that again.


The views of the river are amazing. Great cliff walls and the tight canyon it has dug are quite dramatic. There are some rough rapids that are great to watch from above. Conversely, a few sandy beaches also look tempting, but are impossible to reach from the trail.


It's fun walking by all of the signs posted by JR West saying the trail, tunnels, and bridges are closed and that it's NOT a hiking course. Feel free to ignore them as the trail is very heavily used by young and old. I'm guessing that JR posts the signs to avail itself of any legal responsibly.

View Fukuchiyama Line HIke in a larger map


Friday, August 10, 2012

Rinku Town Station - りんくうタウン駅


Rinku Town Station - りんくうタウン駅

Place Name: Rinku Town Station りんくうタウン駅
Type: Train Station 駅
Location: Izumisano City, Osaka Prefecture, JAPAN
Latitude: 34.410456
Longitude: 135.299892
Date of Visit: June 30, 2012
Access: Via Nankai or JR West
Average Daily Passengers (2010): Nankai 4,166 / JR West 2,460 
Date Opened: November 15, 1994


Rinku Town Station is a joint or union station served by quasi-public railway JR West and the privately held Nankai on their shared lines that access Kansai International Airport. A second jointly operated station in the airport is the only other station on the line. It is not rare for the private railways to operate jointly as they have a uniform ticketing system and various trackage agreements. The rarity of Rinku Town Station is that it's a joint station between JR and a private railway. Typically in situations like this where JR and private lines meet there will be a separate building (e.g. Sanda Station) or a no-mans-land built between the two stations (e.g. Tsuruhashi or Shin-Imamiya). 


As mentioned above, the private railway lines in Kansai are for the most part members of a uniform ticketing system which includes an IC card (PiTaPa) while the JR lines work on their own system with their own IC card (ICOCA). Since the JR and private ticketing systems are not interoperable  there are two separate sets of turnstiles. There are also separate ticketing windows and fare adjustment machines.


While both Nankai and JR West trains use the same platforms at Rinku Town Station at the airport the platforms and turnstiles are separated. You will not be able to exit the station with a Nankai ticket from the JR side, conversely the opposite is also impossible. Be careful because you might have to travel back to Rinku Town to get on the right train then return to the airport.


The station has a small shopping center inside and has access to two malls aimed at shoppers coming to or going from the airport. One of the malls has a Ferris wheel and Rinku no Yu, a supersento. There is also a sento, Nagomi-Yu, within walking distance.