Wednesday, January 02, 2013

JR West Hakubi Line - JR西日本伯備線

JR West Hakubi Line - JR西日本伯備線 


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Looking towards Yonago at Neu Station

Location Name: JR West Hakubi Line - JR西日本伯備線
Type: Railway Line 列車線
Location: Tottori and Okayama Prefectures, Chukoku Region, JAPAN
Terminals: Kurashiki Station, Hoki-Daizen Station
Distance: 138.4km
Number of Stations: 28 


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The Hakubi Line is a major north-south train line cutting across the Chukoku region of Honshu. It begins in Kurashiki when the Hakubi Line splits from the Sanyo Main Line just after leaving the station. From Kurashiki the line follows the Takahashi River up into the mountains through mostly flat farmlands and semi-rural sprawl. The line is shared with the private Ibara Railway for its single line from Kiyone to Soja. Also at Soja the Kibi Line, a short, commuter line that serves the upper parts of the Okayama plain, ends. From Soja the line follows the river, goes through tunnels, and cuts across small agricultural valleys as it makes it was into the mountains. Mining and light industry is also visible from the line. Only two local trains run the entire Hakubi line in one shot heading all the way to Yonago. The remainder stop at Bitchu-Takahashi or Niimi. On those trains to Niimi most of the passengers will get off by Bitchu-Takahashi. After that station the train enters even more rural areas and the line becomes primarily single track till the terminal in Tottori prefecture. Between Bitchu-Takahashi and Niimi the train passes by Ikura station which provides access to the Ikura Cave a regional tourist attraction.

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Niimi is an important transportation hub for JR West. It is the middle point in a line of three major stations in the mountainous center of the Chukoku region. Miyoshi to the West and Tsuyama to the East are the other two. I have been through all three of the stations at least twice and all have been featured on this blog. The Kishin Line from Tsuyama and Himeji terminates here and trains heading west on the Geibi Line to Miyoshi and Hiroshima originate here.

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Snow at Neu Station. The yellow train is a local for Yonago.

The next station past Niimi is called Nunohara. While technically on the Hakubi line no Hakubi Line train stops at the station. The average of one person a day who uses the station must either ride one of the trains headed for the Geibi line back to Niimi or on to Bingo-Ochiai and Miyoshi. Nunohara station used to be important as a staging area when steam trains were still in service but lost importance when the rolling stock was upgraded to diesel. Moving on past Nunohara is Bitchu-Kojiro when there Geibi Line officially begins. Between Bitchu-Kojiro and Kami-Iwami the line reaches its highest point, crosses the border into Tottori and the control is changed from Okayama to Yonago. After entering Tottori the train will begin it’s decent towards the Sea of Japan. Beautiful farmland and the Hino River can be seen along the track as it crosses through this sparsely populated part of Honshu.

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Neu Station


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Hino-cho
Our express train had a 2 hour delay at Neu due to an electrical failure at Hoki-Daisen Station. Neu Station is located in front of the Hino City Office in the most developed part of the 3,500 person village. Neu was the original name of the village until 1959. During the wait I took a quick walk down the street from the train and found a small liquor store, a few hair dressers, a Shinto shrine, a city cultural center, and a bank. The opposite side of the station had a large home center, a convenience store, and a gas station. After Neu the train soon leaves the mountains and the wide rice fields appear as you skirt by the 1729m peak of Mt. Daisen on the East. The Hakubi Line then merges with the San’in Main Line at Hoki-Daisen and continues on to Yonago for the local trains, or past Yonago to Izumo-shi for the express trains. The Hakubi Line is the busiest between Okayama and Niimi and trains run about hourly. Local trains from Niimi down to Yonago are less frequent with only 8 each day. In the morning the Sunrise Izumo overnight train from Tokyo runs the line leaving Okayama at 6:34. During the day once an hour between 7am and 9pm the Super Yakumo runs between Okayama and Izumo-shi. Local trains are typically one or two cars with a toilet. The Super Yakumo is an express train with toilets and sinks but no vending.

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The Hakubi Line is the workhorse of the lines connecting the San’in (Japan Sea side) to the Sanyo (Seto Inland Sea side) of Japan [陰陽連絡路線]. None of the other lines run express trains for the entire length. This means the ride is less dramatic as parts of the Inbi or Kibi lines, and there is not as much absolute wilderness along the ride. The line is still a great way to see some of the less explored parts of Japan with some great scenery along the route. It also provides access to Yonago and Matsue two of my favorite cities both with history, cuisine and abundant hot springs.



Hakubi Line Ekiben
Left: Omusubi Kororin Right: Bise  

Okayama station has a large selection of Ekiben for the trip. On the way from Okayama to Izumo-shi I had the Bisei bento with beef and pork on a bed of rice. Yuko had the Omusubi Kororin a two box bento with a collection of small onigiri on the bottom and various little things on the top.

   

The name Hakubi (伯備) comes from Hoki Province (耆の国) which used to be the area around Yonago in western Tottori Prefecture and Bitchu Province (中国) which is now western Okayama Prefecture. The names Bitchu and Hoki are used in station names along the line to differentiate them from stations with the same names in other regions.

Hakubi Line - 伯備線 at EveryTrail

1 comment:

NyNy said...

Wow, the snow is falling a bit there! And I always get a bento whenever I'm on a shinkansen. :)

By the way, I have my own blog which focuses on Asian culture and entertainment such as video games and I wonder if it is possible for you to view it and tell me what you think and how to improve my blog in the “About the Writer” page please: http://nynyonlinex.wordpress.com