Freshly planted rice fields, gently undulating hills and rustic heritage railway stations. These are the images that come flooding back as I recall my visit to Goriyaku no Yu. Located in the centre of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, Goriyaku no Yu is approximately 2-3 hours from Tokyo. The length of the journey didn’t put me off as there were so many quaint discoveries along the way as I seemingly travelled back in time to reach my onsen destination.
I headed off from Tokyo early in the morning taking the Keiyo line to Soga and then transferred to the Uchibo line to Goi. From Goi I then transferred to the Kominato line.
The Kominato line runs for 39.1 km from Goi to Kazusa-Nakano station. It was opened in 2 stages between 1925 and 1928 and illustrates the history of railway in the Taisho/early Showa era. A total of 22 buildings including 10 stations, 5 bridges and 3 tunnels have all been preserved and registered as tangible cultural property. Prior to my trip I had just thought I would be transferring to another regular rail connection so I was definitely in for a treat on my 68 minute journey from Goi to Yoro Keikoku.
Relaxed and rural
Not long after leaving Goi station, suburbia faded away and the freshly planted rice fields came into view. Early spring is such a beautiful time for rural landscapes in Japan.
I felt content and relaxed as the train chuffed along. It was easy to tell that I was headed into the sticks as even the mood on the train was very “local” and chilled. It was time to dial back the stress meter from the crowds in Tokyo and surrender to the pace of the country side.
An inner childlike joy soon came bubbling up from within. As the train approached each station I couldn’t resist wandering to the front of the carriage to fully appreciate the atmosphere. It was almost like the Japanese version of Thomas the Tank Engine with tiny platforms and a very cute little station building at each stop.
The train continued to glide through the green country side, gently winding through the hills. The country side in May was beautiful enough, but looking at the posters on the walls in the train, there are even more stunning views to be enjoyed throughout different times of the year.
The whole trip had me captivated. Right up to the end of my journey I continued to gaze out the window to capture as many memories as I could. I was even lucky enough to see a steam locomotive in action.
Before I knew it, an hour had passed and we arrived at Yoro Keikoku. I was almost sad to leave the train, but there was more nostalgia to be experienced as I walked through the station building on my way out. It was so small and quaint with a station master to greet me and collect my ticket. Rather than the inside of the station being filled with automated machines, there was a beautiful traditional ticket window through which to order in person. These types of experiences are so precious and we are very lucky that this heritage has been preserved.
Speaking of preservation, as I left the station I found myself in beautiful nature and a sign caught my eye. Yoro Keikoku is embracing “reverse development”, going back to communing with nature which again I found very refreshing.
After my long journey from Tokyo, it was time to enjoy a bowl of sansai soba at a old fashioned restaurant just near the station. The experience was all very “local” and I loved the fresh “sansai” or mountain vegetables.
I wasn’t sure which direction to head next, but noted there was a bus out the front heading toward Awamata no Taki – a scenic waterfall in the Yoro Valley. That sounded perfect to me.
Awamata no Taki
After a short bus ride, I got off and headed down the steps toward the river. The Yoro Valley is one of Chiba’s best kept secrets and a mecca for hikers. It was an easy walk down to the river and Awamata no Taki soon came into sight.
Awamata no Taki was quite beautiful. It is only 30 metres high, but has a span of 100 metres. On the day, there was a gentle flow of water cascading over the vast expanse of rock.
From Awamata no Taki I had a leisurely walk further down the river.
I would have liked to have continued further down the track to explore the area around Shusse Kannon Temple and the beautiful Kannon bridge. Given I still had to get to my onsen destination I decided to do a U turn and head back up to the main road.
Goriyaku no Yu
Goriyaku no Yu is located in a beautiful country setting in Otaki machi, a short bus ride and walk from Awamata no Taki.
It is a relatively new establishment and has both indoor and outdoor baths. The outdoor baths overlook the beautiful regional countryside that I captured in a photo on my walk to Goriyaku no yu.
Goriyaku no yu also has restaurant facilities so visitors can enjoy a meal as well as a bath in order to fully recharge after a local hike. At the time of my visit I was reliant on very limited bus services so unfortunately I wasn’t able to stop for a meal.
With red cheeks and a warm post bath glow, I made my way back to the bus stop in time.
It had been a great day, and I was glad to have made a booking at a local ryokan rather than having to go straight back to Tokyo. Tenryusou was a very basic ryokan, but I was very grateful to be guided to my traditional Japanese room to put my feet up and unwind with a cup of green tea and wagashi. That night, as I drifted off to sleep in my cosy futon, I had a front seat in my dreams as I replayed all of the special memories of the day!
Thank you Kominato Railway, and thank you Yoro Valley for some unforgettable memories. It is so refreshing to know there is such nostalgia and beautiful nature alive and well not far from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo.
From Tokyo, take the Keiyo line to Soga (42 minutes). Change to the Uchibo line and travel to Goi (10 minutes). From Goi, take the Kominato line to Yorokeikoku (68 minutes). Depending on the transfer times, the journey could take 2-3 hours.