Seiryu no Sato Hijikawa is a Road Station with a restaurant, food stalls, restrooms, and a marketplace selling fresh, local produce. The name of this Road Station – Michi-no-Eki in Japanese – means the “home of the clear stream”, which appropriately describes the limpid waters of the Hiji river that makes an elegant loop around this roadside oasis.
Traveling by car in the southern part of Ehime takes you through beautiful countryside, but at some point, nature will make itself felt in other ways and you’ll want to stop to answer these insistent calls. Hijikawa Road Station is a pleasant and convenient place for a visit to the lavatory, to stretch the legs, and indulge in a little consumer behavior.
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 produce typically attracts local people too. Hijikawa is a wooded, mountainous area with produce which reflects this geography. Representative products are yuzu, a highly aromatic citrus used as a flavoring, chestnuts, and honey. Observant drivers may have noticed strange little boxes placed on embankments along the road. These are hives for honeybees, and you can buy the rich, strongly flavored honey from these hives at Hijikawa.
There are an unusually large selection of shops and stalls at this Road Station. The yakitori stall selling charcoal-grilled chicken always smells very tempting. There are two restaurants offering something called Hijikawa Ramen, a type of ramen with thin noodles. I’m not convinced it’s worthy of its own name, but I’ve enjoyed it numerous times. One of these restaurants, Hana no Mori also offers a full menu of standard Japanese fare.
The corner selling fresh fruit and vegetables at Hijikawa is especially well-stocked. In spring, summer and autumn, the strawberries, peaches, grapes, figs and persimmons are as much a feast for the eye as for the taste buds. You have to wield your shopping basket with care in the narrow aisles, because it’s always packed with people wondering exactly which type of grapes to buy.
The souvenir shop offers a wide range of attractive local products, many of which are good for gifts, whether packaged food products, decorations, or items of practical use. There’s one particular type of miso-flavored biscuit sold here which has found great favor with my family in England. It’s just one of many of the unique and habit-forming biscuits and crackers on sale.