道 (Michi) means road, の (no) is a possessive like our ‘s, and 駅 (eki) means station. Together you have “Road Station“, which have all of the conveniences of train stations but is made for drivers and their cars. All michi-no-eki are organized by the government, and provide basic travel needs like free parking, 24 hour restrooms, and tourist information. Michi-no-eki is also the hub of many small towns providing them a place to promote tourism and trade. You can often find locally grown veggies, food stalls and restaurants with local specialties, souvenirs, hand-made goods, and sometimes even onsens! Michi-no-eki‘s merchants are carefully selected to represent the town so you can be sure to find the best food and the most welcoming folks at the road-side michi-no-eki.
Hakuba’s michi-no-eki is an easy walk from Lodge tabi-tabi, check it out on our walking map here. They have a soba shop, oyaki shop, and in the summer, a gelato stand. They sell local veggies and souvenirs, and provide free parking and restrooms. If you have a car, I highly recommend visiting the Otari michi-no-eki. Otari is the next town if you are driving towards the coast. If you are driving to Nagano City, you will pass Poka Poka Land, Miasa’s michi-no-eki, which has a spa with powerful jet-baths, sell cheap local vegetables, and has a great restaurant next door called Miasa Shokudo. Japan has close to 1000 michi-no-eki scattered throughout rural Japan so take note of the michi-no-eki symbol below and you’ll know where to take a break the next time you are on the road.