Sunday, May 11, 2014

kurobe gorge railway

This weekend finds me heading back to Toyama to check out the Northern Japan Alps via the Kurobe Gorge Railway and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. The Kurobe Gorge, formed by the Kurobe River, boasts steep vertical cliffs that drop into breathtakingly blue water, lots of trees and spectacular views of nature. I highly recommend coming to this area during the Autumn season to view the trees in all its multicolored glory. The only reason I came so early instead of waiting later is because the snow corridor in the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is only opened from April to May. Hands down the Kurobe Gorge Railway is one of my favorite places in Japan.


In Japan there are some major train fans - you can often see them standing on platforms or viewing areas waiting for trains to come pass so that they can take pictures of them. I enjoy riding trains but I'm not a train fanatic like the people here but the Kurobe Gorge Railway has made me a fan! Japan has some seriously comfortable ones - so nice that I often fall asleep on them but this train has to be the nicest in terms of scenery. The railway was originally built to aid the building of the Kurobe Dam but has since been turned into a sightseeing attraction. Being able to go over bridges and tunnels built on the side of the mountain and taking in the panoramic views of the gorge was exhilarating, especially since we were in a standard car which had no windows!

Shin-Yamabiko Bridge - marks the entrance to the Kurobe Gorge and is the longest bridge to span the Kurobe River
look its a castle (really Shin-Yanagawara Power Plant) on Lake Unazuki - amazing turquoise water
Along the way there are several places you can get off the train to explore the surrounding area. The last of these stops is Keyakidaira.

Hitokui Iwa (People Eater) - a path was cut into the rock which from afar seems as if a stone mouth is swallowing people
Okukane Bridge
While traveling in Hiroshima I briefly met Jodie in the hallway of the hostel we were staying at. Turns out she works and lives in Toyama so I invited her to explore this place together. So glad I did since I had such a great time. Unfortunately we weren't able to explore more of Keyakidaira because a recent typhoon had knocked over trees and such that blocked the paths to further areas.

The last stop of the day was Kanetsuri, the second to last stop on the route. Here you can see the Mannen Yuki, ten thousand year old snow, a semi-permanent snow bank. Snow gets deposited here during the winter and piles so deep that it usually lasts until the following winter.

mannen yuki

Along the river there are hot spring baths which you can soak your feet. You can take a bath here but there are dozens of visitors who walk by so bathe at your own risk! I shall end the post as I usually do with food. In Toyama they are known for shiro ebi which is white shrimp.

white shrimp and veggie tempura - delicious!

The Details
Kurobe Gorge Railway
Access: Unazuki Onsen Station - Toyama Chiho Railway Main Line then walk to Unazuki Station which is where the Kurobe Gorge Railway departs.There are no directional signage so upon exiting Unazuki Onsen Station turn around and walk up the hill.
Operation Period: from mid April to November
Hours: 8:00am-4:30pm (last departure at 3:40pm)
Fare: One way from Unazuki to Keyakidaira - 1710 yen (Standard Coach)
Second class and First class seats are an additional 370 yen and 530 yen respectively
Tip: I recommend riding the standard coach because not only is it the cheapest but it does not have any windows so you can take awesome crisp photos without a window marring it. Just wear a jacket! Also heading in the direction to Keyakidaira sit on the right hand side for the best views.
Tip #2: Best time to go to view the autumn leaves is from October 20th to November 10th
website - for schedule, route guide, etc
Japan guide has a list of points of interest on the route that is more viewer friendly than the official website.

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