Quirky demon spirits lurk in this train station
The small Sakaiminato Station is notable for stopping at one end of the "GeGeGe no Kitaro" street that runs through the city of Sakaiminato. All the trains on the line are painted with the characters from this anime, boldly expressing the claim the city has to the manga and anime, "GeGeGe no Kitaro". The original artist of the manga, Mizuki Shigeru, was born in Sakaiminato, a small town on the North-West border of Tottori prefecture.
The station is a three hour train ride from Okayama and an hour train ride from Tottori City. The last stretch of the journey from the neighbouring city of Yonago is on the colourful Kitaro trains: four trains decorated with depictions of the anime characters covering the exterior. The station is at the end of JR Sakai Line. There is no express train from Yonago, making this seemingly short distance into a 45 minute journey. Trains from Yonago leave every half hour or at hourly intervals.
Arriving in JR West Sakaiminato Station is surreal – there is art of the little folkloric demons (yokai) everywhere. Mischievous yokai lurk as statues in gardens, paintings on seat benches, silhouettes on information signs, and brilliantly-coloured figurines in the souvenir stores. If you want to explore the life and works of Mizuki Shigeru, this is the perfect place to start.
"GeGeGe no Kitaro" was first drawn by Mizuki Shigeru in 1959, exploring the lives and adventures of these Japanese spirits called yokai. Yokai are an eclectic facet of Japanese folklore, which include demons, monsters, specters and other supernatural beings of anything from benevolent to malevolent nature. Mizuki's use of this folklore in his highly successful manga inspired the success of an entertainment genre that focuses on the supernatural and notable for its horror and comedic aspects.
The Sakaiminato Station leads straight out onto the GeGeGe no Kitaro street and from here you can visit museums, public art displays, a Mizuki memorial hall, and even the bathhouse and tearoom where the artist frequented. The charming quirkiness of the anime characters really helps make this place fascinating, and there are so many hidden surprises to discover around the station that will bring out your inner child.
Sakaiminato has only two platforms and a ticket gate but it's one of the coolest, most entertaining stations I've seen in Japan. It's full of character and surprises and starts you on an exploration of the vibrant seaside Sakaiminato city. It's also a gateway to the Oki Islands, a stunning archipelago now home to a global geopark. The ferry terminal for the Oki Islands is the main building as you leave the station and also hosts a GeGeGe no Kitaro museum. If you're heading out to the islands make sure you check out the vibrant artwork and intricate bronze statues before you get on the long ferry ride.