Japan’s Top Five Scenic Train Trips: from “Ama-chan” to historic steam locomotives

Japan’s Top Five Scenic Train Trips: from “Ama-chan” to historic steam locomotives
Trains are one of the best ways to travel around Japan. They allow travelers to experience a multitude of things that they may miss when going by car or airplane. From the local area’s atmosphere and charms to the streetscape and the feeling of the great outdoors, a journey by rail can introduce you to a world outside of your usual everyday experience. What’s more, many local areas have unique railways that are interesting by themselves, so let’s have a look at Japan’s Top Five Scenic Train Trips!


The “Botchan” Train (Ehime)

The “Botchan” train is so named because it appears in a popular novel of the same name written by Soseki Netsume (a well-known 19th-century Japanese novelist). In the novel, “Botchan” (the main character) frequently rides the train.
Although the train had contributed to the improvement of the regional economy, industry, and culture for quite some time, it was discontinued several decades ago when the railroads were electrified. However, in 2001 the train was brought back into service after a campaign by local residents.Today diesel engines are used to prevent air pollution from the old coal-based steam locomotives, and the train supports the local economy. Dogo Onsen (onsen are hot springs), which is said to be Japan’s oldest, is located within walking distance of the train’s final stop at Dogo Onsen Station. After enjoying the ride on the beautiful vintage train, why not refresh yourself at the historic onsen?


Sanriku Railway (Iwate)

The Sanriku Railway Great East Japan Earthquake and associated tsunami in March 2011. However, it restarted full operations in 2014 after three years of rebuilding, and has given the hope to local residents as a symbol of the Tohoku region’s revitalization.
In pop culture, the “Kita-Sanriku Railway” from a popular TV drama series called “Amachan” is known to be based on the Sanriku Railway. The series was a huge hit in Japan and was also broadcast in Taiwan and China. In order to evoke the atmosphere of Amachan, the Sanriku Railway has several specially designed carriages called Ozashiki-Ressha with Japanese-style seating and other accoutrements. You can get a taste of the world of Amachan while watching the beautiful ocean glide by the window.

No. 3

Hakone Tozan Railway (Kanagawa)

The Hakone Tozan Railway climbs the steep slopes of Mt. Hakone, and is also known as the Hydrangea Train. The hydrangeas, which reach in full bloom in June, are so close that you can almost reach out and touch them as the train passes by.
We also recommend the Hakone Tozan Train in the fall, as it passes through beautiful autumn foliage as far as the eye can see. In particular, the view as the train passes over a bridge above a canyon filled with rich red and amber leaves is a must-see. The peak season for autumn leaves is in early November.

No. 2

Oigawa Railway (Shizuoka)

The Oigawa Railway is famous for its steam locomotives and rare rolling stock (much of which was previously used on private railways). Travelers can’t help but get excited by the unusual trains.
They are also known as popular sightseeing trains as they run through some very picturesque places such as the Oku-Oi area’s lovely Sumatakyo Valley.
In the fall, the colorful leaves reflected on the emerald green water of the Oi River are absolutely delightful, so this journey by steam locomotive is a great destinations for Momiji-gari (fall foliage viewing)


Kurobe Gorge Railway (Toyama)

The Kurobe Gorge Railway runs along a deep V- shaped gorge that in the fall is filled with beautiful shades of red, yellow, orange and green.The crystal clear water of the Kurobe River below creates a pleasing contrast with the brilliant autumn colors.
No other railway can match the exhilarating sense of freedom one gets by zipping through beautiful autumn landscapes in open-air train cars and feeling the fresh mountain air on your skin. What an experience! What’s more, there are many onsens (hot springs) on the way, so you can also stop by and enjoy a soak in the refreshingly hot spring water. Peak season for autumn foliage is usually from late-October to mid-November.

In Japan, there are many types of trains with interesting features, from scenic trains with a sense of history to the world-famous bullet trains. And although travelling by train is usually not considered an attraction in and of itself, it can be a great way to sightsee for those in the know. The right train is not just a way to get from Point A to Point B, but can easily become a highlight of the entire trip! So why not give one of these a try on your next visit to Japan?

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