I wound up having summer vacation days to use not even two weeks into my new job, so I took my first trip out of the region then to go visit family and friends in the Chubu region. The fastest way to get there was by first going from the Matsue JR station to Okayama, where I transferred to the Shinkansen (bullet train). In order to get to Okayama, I took the Yakumo Limited Express.
“Yakumo” is a district in the southern part of Matsue. This was also the Japanese name author Lafcadio Hearn adopted when he became a naturalized Japanese citizen. “Koizumi” was his wife’s surname, and “Yakumo” was a bit of a hat-tip to the region. The train was established in 1972, and is operated by the JR (Japan Rail) West, and runs from Okayama from the Hakubi line, then switches to the San’in line in Yonago and goes on to Izumo. The Yakumo runs once an hour (15 of them per day), with an average speed of 77km/h (about 48mph).
I enjoyed watching the map on my smartphone continually update my location (where it had service, anyway) so I could see how it weaved its way through, east and west, east and west, and gradually north. The San’in Region can take a notoriously long time to reach because there aren’t any routes that go straight to, say, Matsue. Instead, the roads and train tracks weave through and along the Chuugoku Mountains, which are shaped so that developing towns and cities within doesn’t work very well. Instead, you’ll see many small towns and villages nestled in the little valleys scattered throughout.
When going from Okayama City (down in the San’yo region) to Matsue, the train first weaves through parts of Okayama prefecture along the Takahashi River, until it reaches Niimi (still in Okayama). After a mountain pass, it runs into western Tottori, and runs along the Hino River until you get closer to Daisen. All the while, it switches off between single line and double line train tracks, and frequently stops to let other trains pass by. The journey takes about three hours (okay, a little less than that. Just a little).
Here is a brief video of the Yakumo as it reaches parts of the Hakubi line: