Kishigawa Railway Line Tourism: Saved by the Cat!

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Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html

Kishigawa Line is a railway line under Wakayama Electric Railway in Wakayama, Japan. Departing from platform 9 in Wakayama Station, the train serves trips to 14 stations, that ends up in Kishi Station, Kinokawa, in 30 minutes.

By the way, what does a cat have to do with a railway line?

ALMOST BANKRUPT

strawberry themed train

The lack of passengers and financial problems in mid 2000 threatened Kishigawa Line to its permanent closure due to bankcruptcy. The locals urged Mitsunobu Kojima, the president of Wakayama Electric Railway at that time, to revive the railway line.

One day, a grocery store owner near Kishi Station begged the railway company to take care of a cat called Tama. Okay, that may sounded odd, but Tama wasn’t just any other cat.

He’s a calico cat that the store owner took care of. Tama often waited in the neighbourhood of Kishi Station and had paid attention many train passengers and inhabitants in town since the end of 90’s because of its tameness and cute-looking for pictures. He was later nicknamed “Kishi station master”.

After meeting Tama in his own eyes, Kojima was touched and finally agreed to adopt him.

TAMA, KISHIGAWA LINE ICON

To boost an image, Kojima created a branding for Kishigawa Line by making Tama as an icon. Accessorized with a conductor’s hat, he officially turned his beloved cat into “Kishi Station Master” in 2007. It was the first time in Japanese history to have a cat as a station master.

Tama illustrated

Apart from that, Tama appeared in multiple publications, social media, greeted passengers and became a model. Tama even had his own office in the form of a modified ticket counter.

Kojima’s efforts finally paid off. The amount of passengers increased about 55,000 people, who were mostly very enthusiastic to meet the cute and cuddly Tama. The ticket sales was not only enough to finance Tama’s food all year long, but also to boost the economic growth in Wakayama.

After Tama’s passing in 2015 in the age of 16, his position is replaced by another calico cat named Nitama or Tama 2, who is in charge in Kishi Station. There’s also Yontama or Tama 4 in Idakiso Station.

THE FOUR-THEMED TRAIN

inside strawberry themed train (ichigo densa)

The trains operating in Kishigawa Line are very easy to recognize because of their attractive design created by Eiji Mitooka. Basically, they have 4 different themes, such as strawberry (Ichigo Densa), toys (Omoden), plum pickles (Umeboshi Densha) and last but not least, Tama Den, which is no other than Tama cat theme. This train even has “ears” too in its front look.

You’ll never know what day and time the particular theme will appear right before your eyes. You may get Tama theme if you are lucky.

tama den, or cat themed train

IDAKISO STATION: YONTAMA’S OFFICE AND TEMPLE

super station master room or Yontama’s office

Idakiso station is one of the busiest station because it’s where super station master room aka Yontama’s “office” is located. Yontama’s room is a modified ticket counter, completed with a bed, litter tray and cat ladder.

Yontama is in service from 10 am to 4 pm, except Monday and Friday. Suppose you don’t see Yontama, perhaps he’s in deep sleep. I found him under the ladder, curling his body while sleeping. He didn’t notice me watching him.

Visitors are not allowed to knock the glass and take pictures without permission or carelessly while the cat is resting to avoid disturbance and stress.

Itakiso Temple
Itakiso Temple

Don’t come the station just to see the feline stationmaster. Leave the station and visit beautiful Shinto temples, such as Itakiso, Ashigami and Kimiidera, which are reachable on foot. Nonetheless, suppose you don’t want to walk too far, the closest temple is Itakiso Temple that takes 7 minutes walking distance.

empty street along the way

Trust me, walking to Itakiso temple is a fun and relaxing activity since trees, gardens, classic Japanese houses will greet you along the way. Moreover, the street is wide with less cars passing by and its surroundings is very quiet.

KISHI STATION: TAMA MUSEUM AND CAFE

Tama Museum and Cafe

The final stop of Kishigawa Line is Kishi Station. The station houses Tama Museum and Tama Cafe. Also designed by Eiji Mitooka, pay attention to some unique details of the building, from a cat head-shaped roof with ears in both edges to 2 oval-shaped windows resembling cat’s eyes.

And that’s not all, folks. You will also find cat-themed chairs inside the cafe, accentuated with the silhouette of a cat’s head, ears, cat whiskers illustration and a bell, associated with a pet’s (cat) accessories. Tama Cafe offers light bites, such as cakes, crepes, ice cream, french fries and drinks, from coffee, matcha latte to hot chocolate.

Tama Museum is where you can see memorabilia of Tama and get some lovely Tama merchandise in the souvenir shop. Mugs, t-shirts, notebooks, towels, key chains, posters and fridge magnets are among others.

Tama souvenir shop

One thing for sure. You are able to meet the station master Yontama every day, except on his day offs on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

TICKET INFORMATION

Kishigawa Line ticket is available in Wakayama Station. I recommended you to take a day ticket as a tourist since it’s valid for unlimited return trips and you can stop in any station you like within 24 hours. It costs 800 Yen ($ 7.50) for adults, 400 yen ($ 3.80) for kids.

Wakayama Station

Please note that Kishigawa Line is not part of JR Pass you’ve already bought in your country of origin. So, you have to get it separately. Just to be clear, all JR passes are only sold overseas, destined for foreign tourists to explore Japan in more affordable rate. However, Kishigawa Railway Line tickets are only obtainable in Wakayama, Japan.

I have to admit that Japanese people are great at developing a tourist destination in inspiring and unthinkable way. The story behind Kishigawa Line proves that a cat doesn’t only have 9 lives, but also able to save people from bankruptcy and revive tourism in unconventional way.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html

7 Mouthwatering Food You Need to Try in Kuroshio Ichiba Market

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Wakayama Prefecture, whose capital city is Wakayama City, is situated in the southern part of Osaka. One of the most popular destinations is Kuroshio Ichiba Market in Wakayama City Marina, a 49-acre man-made island that you can reach within 30 minutes from Wakayama City center by bus. It’s a heaven on earth for foodies, where they are able to eat till they drop, especially the best selling seafood delicacies.

Somehow, Kuroshio Ichiba Market reminds you of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, yet Kuroshio is an indoor market.

Without further much ado, here are 7 kinds of food you should not miss in Kuroshio Ichiba Market.

  1. TUNA FISH AND CUTTING SHOW
tuna cutting show

Kuroshio Ichiba Market earns its nickname Tuna Land for one particular reason: it’s the center of tuna trading center. Moreover, Wakayama is famous for being the source of the best quality tuna fish in entire Japan, especially pacific bluefin tuna.

Apart from getting Japan’s best tuna fish, don’t forget to watch Tuna Cutting Show that runs 3 times a day for 15 minutes. The show times are 11 am, 12.30 am and 3 pm.

An experienced fisherman shows his skill in slashing a nearly 100 kg giant fish in such an agility, that only can be achieved after tons of practicing, while explaining about the cutting process and tuna grading. Unfortunately, the interesting basic knowledge is only presented in Japanese without any translation. But still, it doesn’t diminish the excitement of the show.

After the show, the fisherman instantly have the fresh cut meat offered to future customers in the form of sushi and sashimi, starting from 500 Yen ($ 4.70) for about 8 to 10 slices per pack. To be honest, it’s my first time ever to be addicted to tuna sashimi. The meat was so fresh and juicy that I couldn’t stop eating it!

2. FRESH SEAFOOD

seafood in package

Apart form tuna, you can also get scallop, eel, crab, squid, octopus, sea urchin, prawn, fish egg (tobiko), clams, salmon and many more at Kuroshio Ichiba Market. The lowest price is about 500 Yen ($ 4.70) per pack, depending the type and weight of the seafood.

When the rest of the seafood is allowed to dine in and to go, octopus has its exception. You only can get it for dining in and it’s not advisable to keep it overnight to maintain its freshness. So, no “to go” for octopus, okay? All sellers at the market will remind it to all consumers every time they are about to buy octopus-based products to avoid misunderstanding.

3. DRIED SEAFOOD

yep. the more you buy, the cheaper the price

Suppose you’re not really into raw food, fear not. The market also offers smoked, marinated and fried seafood products. Wakayama orange-flavoured fried fish is probably something unique to try, among others, for adventurous foodies. I was expecting either savoury or salty taste for this one, yet surprisingly it tends to be sweet. Having tried the tester (thank God there’s one!), I would describe it as sweet and fishy crunchy orange and I’m not into it. But again, that’s my verdict. I don’t know about you. The minimum price is 550 Yen ($4.70) per pack.

4. BARBECUE

seafood bbq
meat and sausage bbq

Still inside the market, there are several restaurants serving seafood and meat, from chicken, beef to pork, served in skewers. Bear in mind that they’re not meant to be eaten raw, as you can grill it yourself in outdoor seating areas. Starting from 150 Yen ($ 1.50), all restaurants are equipped with barbecue grill dining table, tongs, bottled barbecue and soy sauce. Yes, it’s indeed a self-service type of restaurant.

5. FRESH AND PROCESSED FRUITS

Wakayama orange

The most well-known fruit product in Wakayama is Wakayama orange with its refreshingly sweet taste for direct consumption, juice, ice cream flavour and even for fried fish flavouring (check my no. 3 explanation above). In Kuroshio Ichiba Market, you also have the opportunity to try the signature orange in the region, as well as grape and persimmon, that cost you from 400 Yen ($ 3.80) to 600 Yen ($ 5.70) per pack. Fresh juices, dried and processed fruits, including jam, are also available.

6. REFRESHING PICKLES

plum pickles in jars

Japanese people are pickle lovers. You can find several kinds of veggie, from bamboo shoots, cucumber to radish processed into pickles. Some of them are even mixed with clams as part of flavoring varieties.

If you like to get something particular from Wakayama, try plum pickles. Unlike other pickles that usually have sour taste, plum pickles is salty. You can choose the saltiness percentage from 4, 9 to 13 percent. Packed in a big jar, the pickles cost you 1490 Yen ($ 14) for 400 grams. Of course, smaller packages are available as well.

7. DESSERTS AND SWEETS

sweets, sweets, sweets!

I believe that you can’t leave Japan, especially sweet tooth people, without having mochi.

Kuroshio Ichiba Market offers this popular Japanese chewy rice cake in varieties of filling, such as pear, black sesame, chocolate, sakura (cherry blossom), matcha (green tea) and last but not least, Wakayama orange. Besides mochi, you can also get the famous Wakayama orange filling in sponge cakes and pies. They all cost starting from 390 Yen ($ 3.70) in a small package.

TESTER: AVOIDING WRONG BUYING DECISION!

Operating from 10 am to 5 pm, Kuroshio Ichiba Market provides a comfortable place to shop with great hospitality. The best part is that almost every counter offers product tester. As you know, nearly all Japanese products, including food, have such a fantastic packaging design that sometimes we instantly forget that what’s inside may not suit our taste buds.

Testers definitely helped me to omit wrong purchasing decisions. It turns out that Wakayama orange flavoured fried fish and salty plum pickles are not my things at all.

There’s no doubt that Kuroshio Ichiba Market is the right place to get varieties of souvenirs not only seafood) for friends, family and yourself under one roof.

Make sure you bring enough money when you travel to this market. From seafood, fruits to sweets, they all look so tantalizing that you may end up with buying things you don’t need. Forget shopping list (it wont work!) as tester is the only way to control overspending. You won’t buy food you hate the taste regardless of how cute they look, do you?

porto europa

Porto Europa: In Renovation, Not Lockdown

The covid-19 outbreak, although won’t last forever, change the way we live. Travel bloggers and avid travellers are no exception. They, like everyone else, are not allowed to leave their hometown and globe-trotting as they should be, not even their own house except going to pharmacy and supermarket.

So what I can do, as a travel blogger, is to improve my discipline in writing more articles regularly on my travel journeys. During the process, I found something interesting on my Japan trip file. It’s about Porto Europa I visited back in 2017.

Just to be sure, this is not about Porto in Portugal and not Europa in Europe.

Porto Europa is a theme park inspired by streets and houses in Italy, Spain and France located in Wakayama City Marina, Japan. Wakayama City Marina itself is a man-made island of 49 hectares that takes about 30 minutes by bus from the city center, Wakayama City.

I was hoping to ride the merry go round and roller coaster after visiting Kuroshio Ichiba Market, a seafood market next door. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen because the park was under renovation. But it didn’t close either. Instead, everyone could go in and wander for free, nothing else. Usually, the admission fee is 3800 Yen (#35) per person.

Oh well, why not? And I didn’t regret it at all. Honestly, it was a wonderful place to be, as the European “feel” was pretty intense, in one condition: when it locks down.

I took pictures as many as I could without disturbance from the crowds and so happy that I did it!

porto europa
entrance gate

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa
does it look like Venice to you?

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

So, does it feel like Europe? Or a lockdown?