Seems the people of Japan are listening to their stomachs when choosing the best of the nation’s roadside attractions.

Depending on where you’re from, roadside rest stops may have a long history, but in Japan they are relatively new. Originating in the ’90s, they are commonly known as “road stations” (michi no eki) alluding to their second place status to their more well-established counterparts, train stations.

However, rest stops have exploded in the ensuing decades, growing to 1,145 nationwide as of April this year. As a result, much like in other countries, visiting a rest stop can be a bit of a gamble in terms of quality.

Thankfully, travel website Jalan has been releasing an annual ranking of rest stops in terms of customer satisfaction. Now, for the third year, they have announced the top 10 road stations for 2018.

Hyogo-ken, Awaji-shi, Iwaya 1873-1

First place honors went to the Awaji rest stop on the northern tip of Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture. Located under the huge Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and next to a spacious park, it’s the perfect place to relax.

However, it’s the food that has visitors singing its praises. With a wide range of high-quality beef, onions, and seafood there a lots of delicious foods to sample including their famous raw shirasu (very small fish) available between April and November.

Fukuoka-ken, Munakata-shi, Egushi 1172

Located seaside between Kitakyushu and Fukuoka Cities in Fukuoka Prefecture, the Munakata road station also has plenty of fresh air and sunshine to spare. Yet, once again, it’s the wide range of fresh seafood that keeps Munakata bustling with people whenever the weekend rolls around.

Hiroshima-ken, Sera-gun, Sera-cho, Kawajiri 2402-1

Once again, food is dominating the list with Sera’s array of seasonal fruits and vegetables standing as the centerpiece of what it has to offer. But there’s so much more available from rice to wine to tomato ice cream. And why not pick up some limited Hiroshima Carp swag while you’re at it?

Fukushima-ken, Yama-gun, Inawashiro-cho, Katada, Goyakujari 1

Although, their piping-hot dishes are nothing to turn your nose up at, Road Station Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture has a lot of unique items to check out. Dare to take on their Natto Bread or pick up some of their many handmade traditional crafts.

Shizukuishi Anekko
Iwate-ken, Iwate-gun, Shizukuishi-cho, Hashiba Sakamoto 118-10

If I ruled the list Shizukuishi Anekko in Iwate Prefecture would be at the top simply for their Wasabi by Akira section which offers all things wasabi such as burgers and hot dogs all seasoned with that unmatchable zing of wasabi. Of course, there’s lots more to be eaten here as well and an in-house hot spring to boot!

#6 (tie)
Ito Marine Town
Shizuoka-ken, Ito-shi, Yugawa 571-19

Ito Marine Town in Shizuoka Prefecture boasts its family and pet-friendly environment and a nice selection of cookies and other baked goods. Also, what “marine town” would be complete without boat tours, like the ones offered here of Sagami Bay? Its location is great for those making the drive to Mt. Fuji too!

#6 (tie)
Fukuoka-ken, Ukiha-shi, Ukiha-cho, Yamakita 729-2

Deep in the heart of Kyushu, Road Station Ukiha sits atop a plateau offering a majestic view of the countryside. Full of produce from the surrounding farms and vineyards, you can also enjoy some unique treats like wine grape ice cream or a kinako sundae.

Kisakata – Nemu No Oka
Akita-ken, Nikaho-shi, Kisakata-cho, Oshiokoshi 73-1

This seaside rest stop is more like a resort with full amenities such as a spa and spacious banquet halls. Lots of high-quality seafood dishes can be had and visitors can take home bottles of some of their many regional sauces like persimmon vinegar or a special royal jelly sauce to complement soups. There’s also a range of fig-flavored baked goods. If anyone ever teaches them how to make Fig Newtons, then there would be no stopping Kisakata – Nemu No Oka in Akita Prefecture.

#9 (tie)
Niigata-ken, Niigata-shi, Nishi-ku, Yamada 2307

There’s something for all ages at Niigata-Furusatomura in Niigata Prefecture. Kids will get a kick out of their huge playground area and wide-open parks and gardens. Meanwhile, Niigata’s reputation for primo nihonshu (sake) means mom and dad can also have fun perusing the many brands lining the shelves. There also seems to be a perpetual series of events and festivals celebrating everything from crackers to arts and crafts.

#9 (tie)
Kirara Taki
Shimane-ken, Izumo-shi, Taki-cho, Taki 135-1

Road Station Kirara Taki is like having a shopping center right on a pristine beach with bright blue water. After taking a dip in the ocean off the coast of Shimane Prefecture just stroll right in for a meal or just a quick donut from the Kirara Bakery. And if you like it there so much you want to stay longer, then there’s plenty of accommodations nearby like cottages and hotels.

As we mentioned before, using rest stops is a roll of the dice in terms of quality and ending up at the wrong one can really add a sour note to your journey. But finding a great one can make your vacation just that much better.

So, keep this list handy for your next road trip in Japan. Jalan also has regional rankings as well on their Japanese language website for even more information, but if you’re traveling by rail rather than car don’t worry. We’ve got you covered there too.

Source: Jalan
Top image (Kawaba Denen Plaza in Gunma Prefecture) ©SoraNews24
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