Thursday, September 06, 2012

Inbi Line - 因美線

Looking back to Tottori from Chizu station
JR West Inbi Line - JR西日本因美線

Place Name: JR West Inbi Line - JR西日本因美線
Type: Railway Line 列車線
Location: Tottori and Okayama Prefectures, Chukoku Region, JAPAN
Terminals: Tottori Station, Tsuyama Station
Distance: 70.8km
Number of Stations: 19

The Inbi line cuts through the mountains that divide the Japan Sea and Pacific Ocean sides of Japan. Inbi [因美] is derived from Inaba [幡] and Mimasaka [作] the traditional names of the areas centered around the current cities of Tottori [鳥取市] and Tsuyama [津山市] respectively. The entire line not electrified and diesel trains run on it. It is only serviced once every 1~2 hours for is busier section, and even less often on the more rural section.

Trains leaving for Ohara and Wakasa from Tottori Station
The line is divided into two sections at Chizu station [智頭駅] and no local train runs directly between the two terminals. From Chizu the semi-public Chizu Express Railway* cuts off from the line and provides a quicker route two the Sanyo Main Line. A second local private line the Wakasa Railway spurs off from the Inbi Line at Koge Station [郡家駅]. Depending on the time, train cars from these two companies leave Tottori station and head directly to Wakasa Station [若桜駅] or Ohara Station [大原駅] on the Chizu Express Line. Although the train does not change the crew does at Koge or Chizu station. Riding a JR West line in a non-JR West train is one unusual aspect of the Inbi Line. 

The Chizu Express HOT7000
Two express trains run on the Tottori~Chizu section before switching to the Chizu Express. The Super Hakuto runs between Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe to Tottori and further on to Kurayoshi, a popular onsen. The HOT7000 trains appear to be modified versions of the common trains that run in the urban area of Kansai, but are actually based on a JR Shikoku model. The second express train to run on the line heads the opposite way to Okayama. These trains are much smaller and only two cars long. The HOT7000 is a Chizu Express train, while the Keha187 that is used for the Super Inaba is a JR West train. In both situations at Chizu and Kamigori the train staff will change.

The 0km marker for the Inbi line at Tottori station
Leaving from Tottori the train serves the city's suburbs and students. The train becomes much less crowded after Koge station. After Koge station the landscape becomes increasingly rural until Chizu. After Chizu the train goes through the last of the agricultural area and quickly enters the mountains. Due to a high preponderance of falling rocks the speed limit at some mountainous and steep portions of the line is 25km/h and slows down to a crawling 15km/h during heavy rainfall.

A JR Wext KiHa120 at Chizu station
Riding the Chizu~Tsuyama portion of the line is not the easiest thing to plan as only one train goes through every 4 hours. This is also the most beautiful portion of the line as it goes through the roughest terrain. When the train finally comes out of the mountains and into the plain around Tsuyama city the view of the mountains behind is quite stunning. 
A Chizu Express HOT3500 at Tottori station

*Travel Notes*

Tottori Station:

Tottori station is a full service station with tourist information, various convenience stores, an excellent selection of ekiben, omiyage shops, and a drug store. There is a 100 yen shop a 5 minute walk from the station and two superb sento within a 10 minute walk. Both sento open early. English language newspapers are available from the smaller Kiosk next to the gates.

I have had three of the ekiben from Tottori station and can recommend them all. The Tottori no Izakaya [鳥取居酒屋], the self heating Tottori Beef Bento [鳥取牛弁当], or the Sakyu Tottori Aji no Bento [砂丘鳥取味の弁当] are all wonderful. The most popular bentos are most likely those with crab, another local specialty. 

On this trip I had the Sakyu Tottori Aji no Bento. I was surprised about how good the rice was. The pickles, sweet potato, and mushroom were also great. I wasn't sure what the white stuff was in the corner. I also got two pear flavored drinks. Pears [梨:なし] are Tottori's best known product. The normal juice in the half sized can had bits of pulp and was not too sweet. The pear soda in the twist top can was a bit to sweet for me. A local pear chu-hi is also for sale at the station and recommended.

If you're looking for a place to stay in Tottori there are a ton of business hotels by the station for ¥5,000 and up. I stayed at Matsuyaso [松屋荘] a very nice Japanese style hotel for ¥3,500 a night for a room with shared bath and toilet. I liked it so much, reviewed it on Tripadvisor.

The river near Chizu station
Chizu Station:

You'll most likely have to spend sometime waiting here for your next train. While there is not much to see or do near the station there is ample shopping. Straight in front of the station is the local tourist information and locally produced goods shop which sells many beautiful wooden products. I found a cute handmade hairband for my daughter for ¥100.

Next to the tourist information is a luxury Ikari supermarket. There is a nice selection of imported chips and snacks for the train ride, but expect higher than normal prices. Behind the Ikari is a normal supermarket with more reasonable prices. They also had Tottori pears for sale much cheaper than the ones I bought at Tottori station, as I didn't get one I cannot comment to the quality.

A coin laundry and a small independent liquor shop are also with in a minutes walk from the station. If you head straight out of the station past the tourist information there is a bridge over a beautiful river. Across that bridge is a street of old style Japanese houses.

Tsuyama station
Tsuyama Station:

Tsuyama Station is south of the city center and is lacking in things to do or see because of that. The station convince store is adequate and there was a small fruit stand set up in front of the station the day I was there. With in a minute of the station is a chain restaurant plus a few cafes and yakiniku places. In the city there is a bigger shopping mall and castle ruins, but I have never been to either.
Okayama peaches and grapes being sold in front of Tsuyama station
*Please be aware that Chizu Express Railway is not a part of JR West and therefore not covered by the Seishun 18 Kippu. For the Chizu Express a separate one day pass is available, or you will have to buy a normal ticket. The same is true for the Wakasa Railway. More information on this here

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