- 3 min read

Mikawa Road Station

A welcome break on a deserted stretch of scenic road

Mikawa is a tiny settlement on the Kuma River which flows through an area called Kuma Highland, a mountainous place south of Tobe. There’s a town office, a Junior High School, and a gas station. Fortunately, there’s also a Road Station, Mikawa Michi no Eki, where you can stop to stretch your legs, have something to eat, and answer the call of nature.

The Kuma River tumbles and winds along a rocky bed through deep wooded valleys. This area has been celebrated throughout history for its many surprising rock formations. A series of painted scrolls in the nearby Kuma Museum of Art show scenes of these strange formations, and an interesting booklet (in Japanese) is available with maps showing where each scene can be found. One of these scenes is just a short drive west of the Road Station where the river makes a particularly beautiful bend around a picturesque promontory topped with pines. From July to September, this area is a popular spot for swimming and generally fooling about in the river.

Road Stations are government-designated rest areas found along roads and highways in Japan. Besides providing places for travelers to rest, they’re also intended to promote local tourism and trade. Shops sell local produce, snacks, souvenirs, and other goods. The local produce typically attracts local people too, and people travel from far afield to buy the fruit and vegetables grown with minimal use of agricultural chemicals. When I went in Golden Week, bamboo shoots were much in evidence, as were boxes of beautiful red strawberries.

This particular Road Station appears to be one of the older, smaller ones, built before the concept really took off. In Golden Week it was packed with motorists, cyclists and motor bikers, and cars were parked along the roadside too. I was there for lunch, and fortunately there was plenty of room in the only restaurant, a cafeteria-like place serving soba noodles. It has a spacious non-smoking area. I had the maitake tempura soba for 650 yen. Maitake are a kind of mushroom with a very earthy flavor, and it was a satisfying meal. You can also have oden for 100 yen per stick of goodies. Despite the crowds, service was quick. For dessert, I popped into the local produce stall for a soft ice cream.

Mikawa Road Station is a convenient place for lunch if you’re visiting the Shikoku Pilgrimage temples Iwaya-ji and Taiho-ji, the Kuma Museum of Art, and the Kamikuroiwa Archaeological Museum, all of which are within easy driving distance.

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