A blue-sky day, gasoline in the tank, and coffee in the thermos. What better way to start a day-trip drive to Nebukawa in Kanagawa Prefecture. Nebukawa overlooks the shimmering waters of Sagami Bay. Roughly 60 kilometers southwest of Tokyo the sleepy little village of Nebukawa can be reached in about 90 minutes by car from the heart of Tokyo. Nebukawa is best known for its mikan (Satsuma Mandarin Oranges) orchards and many people come to the area just to buy the sweet tasting mikans at 100 yen for a bag full or 1,000 yen per box (try getting those prices in Tokyo!). Stop at any of the roadside stands to taste and buy.
Head west on the Tomei Expressway and take the Atsugi exit. Keep to the right after the toll gates and head in the direction of Isehara-Hiratsuka. This will put you on the Odawara-Atsugi toll road. Do watch your speed on this road. The posted speed is 70 km per hour and the police just love to patrol this highway in unmarked police cars. Keep going (you'll go through more toll gates), watch the signs for Atami, and stay to the left as you see the ocean come into view in front of you. This left fork will curve around until the ocean is on your left. Shortly after you pass through another toll gate (aren't you glad you have an ETC reader in your car now?) the road will fork with the left side of the fork heading downhill and close to the ocean. But, you're going to go right at this fork (watch for oncoming traffic; they have the right-of-way). Heading uphill and around a couple of curves you'll soon come to the Nebukawa Train Station on your left-hand side. This is where you would have disembarked had you chosen to come by train using the JR Tokaido line from Tokyo Station.
The station is a good place to stop, stretch your legs, and make a toilet run if needed. Take a stroll into the station and go through the unmanned gate (the station is small and JR has deemed that a ticket machine and a pass-card reader are all that are needed here) for a view of the bay about 50 meters below. This bay is where a train that was stopped at the station on September 1, 1923 ended up when it was swept into the ocean by a mudslide caused by the great Kanto earthquake. The mudslide also wiped out the original station. 112 passengers on the train were killed in the mudslide along with 200 people who lived in the path of the slide.
WHAT TO DO THERE
If you're in the mood for a 3 or 4 hour hike you can head up into the hills from here and trek to the next station, Hayakawa, about 12 kilometers away. There is a map in front of the station showing the course. From Hayakawa you can take the train back to Nebukawa to retrieve your car. There are no "official" parking lots in Nebukawa, but there are some open areas where you should be able to leave your car safely for a few hours.
We opted for a shorter walk and leaving the station we drove up Route 740 about half a kilometer to the Shiraito Bridge. We found an open area just before the bridge where we were able to leave the car for our 1.5 km walk up the gently sloping highway. There are fabulous views of the ocean and many mikan orchards all along the route, but watch the traffic as this is a fairly busy road and there are no sidewalks for about the first 500 meters after the bridge. Along the way we took a short detour to the right to pay a visit to the Ohmiwa Shrine. Founded in 1671 this shrine is dedicated to two Shinto gods, Sukanahikona-no-Mikoto and Ohmono-Nushi-no-Mikoto. Sukunahikona-no-Mikoto cultivated the land and developed industries such as agriculture and commerce, and did his best to augment social welfare with acts such as curing disease, charming, brewing, medicine manufacturing, and marriage. One busy guy! Ohmono-Nushi-no-Mikoto is the deity of cultivation and the guardian deity of human life. He also helped Sukunahikona with all he had to do.
Back on Route 740, about a kilometer past the road to the shrine, you'll come to the brightly painted facade of the restaurant Cote de Sara. Just a few meters past this restaurant there is a narrow road on the left. Walk down this road about 150 meters to the "bird's eye view" lookout point for a stunning view of the little fishing village of Enomura as seen in the photo below.
If you're feeling energetic keep going down this road to see the fishing village up close and personal. Just remember, you've got to walk back up the road!
Heading back down the hill to retrieve our car we looked for a place to have lunch as we had decided to give the Cote de Sara a pass. Finding nothing to our liking we drove on up Route 740 until we got to the outskirts of Manazuru. Spotting the Yamamoto Soba Restaurant on our right we decided that a post-walk lunch of soba, a family favorite, would be nice. What a great choice we made! We started with a small appetizer of the home made tofu. Unlike the usual tofu, which is made from soy beans, Yamamoto's tofu is made from soba flour (buckwheat flour) and goma (sesame seeds). The texture of this tofu, which was in a light soy sauce and topped by a dab of freshly ground wasabi, was "joy on the tongue." We opted for one serving to share, but a full serving would be my recommendation. The handmade soba was cooked just right; al dente which gives the soba a nicely satisfying texture and a good "mouth feel" which is so important to well made soba. I opted for the kamo (duck) soba - cold soba noodles, dipped into hot duck broth. The broth had slices of a special duck meat that the owner gets from the Mount Takao area. This duck has a very mild and delicious taste compared to some of the "gamier" kamo soba I've had at other soba restaurants. My wife opted for the tenichi platter (tempura) which was just as good as my kamo soba. Fortunately (for me) the serving was a bit larger than she could handle so I gallantly helped her by eating some of the tempura and even a bit of her soba. Yamamoto Soba is definitely worth a stop!
Leaving the soba shop we continued along Route 740 to the junction with Route 135. From this point you can turn left and head back towards Odawara and on to Tokyo. The roads are clearly marked and you'll be on that same Odawara-Atsugi toll road. Remember, the same thing applies on the way home; watch your speed. The cops will be!
If you prefer to extend your venture turn right towards Atami and Yugawara. From Yugawara you can head up highway 75 through the onsen areas. Wind your way through the mountains until you hit Route 1 by Ashi-no-Ko (lake). Take your choice at this point. Turn right and follow the signs for Odawara at which point you'll get back on the Odawara-Atsugi toll road for your return to Tokyo. Be prepared for the traffic jams though as this route does get pretty crowded at times. Or, turn left to Route 138 and follow the signs for Gotemba where you can get on the Tomei Expressway back to Tokyo, about a one hour drive from the time you get on the Expressway, barring any traffic jams, of course.