In Japan, the Landscape Is Best Observed by Train

Fall landscapes, wild coasts, and bridges suspended over breathtaking gorges, Japanese railways are full of surprises.


WordsSolenn Cordroc'h


Trains in Japan are something of a point of national pride thanks to the high-speed Shinkansen. They have also become synonymous with hours of enjoyable travel during which passengers can lose themselves in the landscape scrolling past the windows. Train aficionados are so prevalent that the Japanese even have a name for them, densha otaku, which can be translated as ‘train geeks.’ 


Sagano Scenic Railway

The panoramic Sagano railway near Kyoto runs from Arashiyama and its famous bamboo forests to Kameoka along the Hozugawa river. The line is only seven kilometres long, the perfect duration for 25 minutes of gazing out of the window. The train runs at a moderate speed, allowing passengers to get their cameras out and snap away during the journey.

Charming all year long, the journey is particularly romantic during springtime when the track is lined with blossoming cherry trees. Autumn is also a popular time of year to visit as the leaves turn to warm colours in the koyo season. 

More information about the Sagano Scenic Railway can be found on the company website.


Gono Line

In the northeast of Japan, the Gono line, which connects the cities of Akita and Aomori over around 150 kilometres, promises exceptionally beautiful maritime coastline views. Having opened in 1908, it runs along a large stretch of the Sea of Japan and offers a glimpse of the wilder side of the country’s landscape. It doesn’t take much to tune your ear and listen to the lapping of the waves.

To break up the journey, it is advisable to make a stop in Juniko and visit Shirakami Sanchi, a huge wild expanse of over 130,000 hectares. A UNESCO listed site, the park is full of surprises, such as the Aoike lake that attracts visitors from the world over to get a glimpse of its intense blue, and not forgetting Japan’s last virgin beech forest. 

More information about the Gono line can be found on the company website.


Kurobe Gorge Railway

Originally built to aid the construction of the Kurobe dam, the railway snakes between two gorges in the mountains north of Japan. Linking Unazuki to Keyaki-daira, the one-hour-and-20-minute journey rarely reaches above ten mph, crosses over 20 bridges and through 40 tunnels, and offers a breathtaking view across the country’s deepest gorge.

Open from April to November, the line is most often travelled in autumn when the mountain becomes a kaleidoscope of bright oranges and reds. The picturesque journey includes numerous stops, allowing travellers to discover the surroundings or take a dip in the natural springs. 

More information about the Korube Gorge Railway can be found on the company website.