Welcome to the world of michi no eki.

Michi no eki, or roadside stations, aren’t always simply a place to stop and use the toilet on a long road trip. They can oftentimes boast stunning scenery, delicious food, and plenty of local souvenirs. There are so many unique roadside stations among the estimated 1,213 currently in service that there are quite a few michi no eki fanatics, including Su-zan and Danpei, who run the Japanese YouTube channel “Haikei, Michi no Eki Kara“.

▼ Left: Su-zan; Right: Danpei

Last year, they told us their top 10 most surprising roadside stations in all of Japan, but this time around, we asked them for their top five picks for newbies specific to the Kanto region–Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, and Kanagawa prefectures. So without further ado, here are their top picks, in no particular order:

1. Michi no Eki Takanezawa Genki Up-Mura (Tochigi Prefecture)

Su-zan: “The main attraction of this michi no eki is the large onsen hot springs, but there are also stylish gelato shops and farmer’s stands to browse.

“You can enjoy Takanezawa Chanpon Noodles and even Okinawan cuisine, and you can stay overnight in nearby cottages.”

Danpei: “They have an impressive glamping site, and I was surprised at the RV park surrounding the large pond. Even if you don’t decide to go glamping, you can still relax in the onsen. The vibes are great–almost like a theme park.”

2. Michi no eki Hanazono (Saitama Prefecture)

Danpei: “Both the inside and outside are stylish and unique, so it stood out to me. The bakery, farmer’s stands, and food court are tasteful.”

Su-zan: “There’s a museum on the second floor where you can see Fukka-chan, Saitama’s leek-inspired mascot, and they have goods like keychains and plushies for sale. Fukka-chan even shows up in person sometimes! If you’re looking for a unique roadside station, I’d recommend this one.

3. Michi no Eki Maebashi Akagi (Gunma Prefecture)

Danpei: “Unlike the quaintness of your typical michi no eki, this one has the spaciousness of an outlet mall. There’s a huge variety in vendors: burgers, curry, udon, donburi rice bowls, desserts…they even have a public bath, a fresh seafood market, an outdoor barbecue area, and more. It’s a one-stop shop!”

Su-zan: “It’s only ten minutes away from the nearest highway, so its convenient location makes it quite popular. There are always customers milling about.”

4. Michi no Eki Joso (Ibaraki Prefecture)

Su-zan: “It’s not unusual to find local souvenirs and specialties at roadside stations, but Michi no Eki Joso takes it to the next level.”

“You’ll find all sorts of Ibaraki specialty-inspired goods featuring melons, sweet potatoes, and eggs. The product displays are always well-done, so even window shopping is fun.”

Danpei: “The food court has a variety of high-quality options like local meat, seafood donburi rice bowls, and ramen. It’s right next to the highway, so it’s super convenient.”

5. Michi no Eki Hota Elementary School (Chiba Prefecture)

Su-zan: “This is actually an abandoned elementary school that was converted into a roadside station. The main school building and gymnasium are now the food court and farmer’s market, and they sell a lot of Japanese school-related merchandise.

In the food court, you can enjoy local specialties and even Japanese kyushoku school lunch-inspired meals, which are actually super popular. They recently opened a Hota Kindergarten area where you can enjoy non-food-related activities.

Danpei: “The school building also has accommodation-friendly facilities, so you can even stay overnight inside a Japanese school. It’s a really exciting roadside station.”

There you have it–five michi no eki that are unique and exciting enough to get you sucked into the world of Japanese roadside stations. Which one would you like to visit? We’re personally eyeing Hota Elementary School.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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