Japanese Road Stations have to fulfill various criteria to earn their designation. The general idea other than toilets, parking and a rest stop is to allow visitors to get a taste for the area, its produce and cuisine. Mitusmata Road Station is a newly built addition to the area and carries out all these requirements in fine fashion.
The building sits right on the side of Route 17, the old Mikuni Highway, and shares a car park with the Kaido-no-yu Onsen. There is not much in Mitsumata apart from a few lodges and the Mitsumata Ropeway. It is a well-frequented area though, popular with winter sports enthusiasts heading to Kagura Ski resort from November to May, and hikers the remainder of the year. Mitsumata Road Station is dedicated to ensuring that they have a relaxing space to rest.
There is the onsen next door, but if you just want to rest your feet after a day on the trails, there are foot onsens both inside and outside the facility. There is also a pond outside which was popular with kids during the summer heat. A table and chairs set on a platform in the middle of the pond was always asking for trouble!
The main hall of the roadway provides the area information. There are plenty of leaflets detailing what to do, as well as several screens giving real time updates on weather and road conditions from a selection of cameras around the region.
Head past the foot onsen into the shop and cafe area and you find a colorful array of local produce. There are fruit and vegetables direct from nearby farms, local sakes, bags of rice and more traditional omiyage-type gifts. It makes for pleasant browsing and plenty of people while we were there seemed to pick up charming gifts on a whim.
Further in are a couple of food stalls. One serves full set meals all featuring local favorites with ingredients sourced from nearby. The other is an organic cafe with a variety of drinks and snacks to tempt the weary traveler.
It is a fantastic little road station, well worth a stop to stretch your legs and a great addition for Mitsumata. It is sure to be a big hit with those heading to the mountains in the years ahead.