Last weekend Ryan and I went on a day trip from the base to ride the Tsugaru Stove Train. This train has been in operation since 1940 and makes 2 trips a day during the winter months. Part of what attracted me to this was the thought of riding on the train through heavy snow covered terrain. Something about that just seemed magical sounding, almost like being in a movie.
We arrived at the train station, which has probably been around just as long as the train itself, and quickly rushed inside. You can see by the snow everywhere that it was definitely cold outside.
Although I can't read what this sign says, I like that it had the cute little picture of the stove.
While we waited inside the station we looked at the local products for sale. Any idea what is in the bottle with the red liquid? Apple juice! Yes, there is an apple grown around here that has red flesh and they make this special juice from it. We came close to buying it but passed in the end.
After a short wait we were ushered outside and lined up to await our boarding. We were riding on the Tugarutetudo Line.
We then had a fun treat. We were told these high school students were selling special miso flavored donuts. I think they were fundraising, possibly for a sports team.
Miso donut? Not kidding, these were miso donuts, and we were told this is a special flavor for this region. I thought the packaging was really cute.
Didn't really look like anything out of the ordinary. It was actually really good though, but definitely savory and not sweet. It almost tasted like a pound cake, but richer.
We ate our donuts while we waited to be taken down to the platform to board. I caught a glimpse of the train from up above. It definitely looks old!
If you look closely you can see the black smoke pouring out of the chimney. Ok, not the most environmentally friendly thing out there, but the point of the train is the nostalgia and novelty of the stove train. The ride was only 25 minutes so at least it doesn't run for hours and hours.
Almost there and ready to board!
Getting closer! This was good because by now we were definitely freezing.
Here is what the stove looks like inside the car we road in.
Close up you can get a better view of the stove and then the coal they put out on display.
Here we are enjoying out ride, although the sun behind us mixed with the snow outside gave us this nice glare.
After the short ride we boarded the bus and headed to a local mall for lunch. This is about 3 hours from the base so we have never been to this mall before. Almost immediately after entering we spotted this bakery and knew we wanted something from here for lunch.
I ate an egg salad sandwich, and then tried this kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) pastry. It was so good!
And for dessert? This mall has a Starbucks! I splurged and ordered their Valentine's fancy hot chocolate special. It was so good!
After lunch we boarded the bus again and headed to a pottery studio. Yes, you read that correctly. The final activity for the day was making our own pottery. The options were to make a mug or a plate. Here we are watching the instructor as he effortlessly makes a perfect mug.
Ryan and I both opted to make a plate. It just looked a little easier! We all started off with a piece of clay.
This one is my plate.
This one is Ryan's plate, but after this he did a little more work and made the top edges even and smoothed everything out.
See, much smoother.
Here I am with my plate. So this means now I have made a sakiori weaving placemat, a glass blown cup, a pot using an ancient pottery technique, and now this plate. I am feeling very accomplished in Japanese culture art works!
When we were all done we headed to the main studio and looked at their beautiful pottery works that were for purchase. On the way over to the building I took some fun pictures of the statues that were partially buried in the snow.
I think there is a horse statue hiding in there!
Well, that does it for our fun day out riding the stove train and exploring northern Japan. It was a ton of fun and I am glad we decided to go on the trip. I love that the base offers tours like this. It helps us really get a chance to explore the local area and learn about the history and culture here.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever ridden on a stove train? Have you ever made pottery? Is it snowing where you live?