Kurobe Gorge Railway
The beautiful Kurobe Gorge is located in the western part of Toyama Prefecture, Japan. There is also Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Toyama, but these two places are different, so please be careful when you plan a trip to the Kurobe Gorge. Kurobe Gorge is a V-shaped gorge that has been made by the rapid Kurobe River with a total length of about 86km.
The starting point of the gorge is Unazuki Hotspring. Riding the Kurobe Gorge Railway train is the only access to the gorge. You can enjoy a breathtaking view from the train.
Kurobe Gorge History
The train was not made for tourists at first. Railway construction started in 1923 to transport materials to build a water power station. The track had a shorter distance and the route was completed in 1937. Because there were a lot of requests from tourists who wanted to go to the gorge, they transformed the line for the tourists in 1953. It has been operated by a subsidiary company of Kansai Electric Company ever since.
You can start the railway tour from Unazuki. The name Kurobe Gorge Railway is Kurobe Kyokoku Torokko Densha in Japanese. Torokko means small train and Densha means electric train. Some carts don’t have walls and windows, so you can feel the fresh air. On a sunny day, you will feel very comfortable. You can also choose a cart with walls and windows by paying a little extra if you’d prefer that.
The train goes very slowly to allow passengers to enjoy the view. Though the total length of the line is about 20 km, it takes 80 minutes one way if you would go to Keyakidaira, the last stop of the line. The train goes through 21 tunnels and 41 bridges. Keep reading to see the interesting spots along the route.
Unazuki Onsen, the starting point of the train is a hot spring town. There are many hotels and ryokan (Japanese style accommodation) with hot springs. There is a hot spring fountain in front of the station.
It is here that you can see the Kurobe Dam which was constructed along the Kurobe River near Unazuki for the electric power plant.
After leaving Unazuki Station the train first crosses a bright crimson steel bridge called Shin-Yamabiko Bridge. The name Yamabiko was earned by the fact that the sound of the train passing by echoes in the hot springs town.
Kuronagi is the third stop of the line. There is a hot spring hotel near the river with an open-air bath.
At a height of 60 meters and a length of 64 meters, Atobiki Bridge spans the steepest and deepest valley along the rail line. The name is derived from the belief that previously mountain climbers would inch away backward (atobiki) when they came face-to-face with such a seemingly bottomless valley. You can see this bridge if you walk 5 minutes from the station.
At this spot, you can enjoy both the limpid waters of the Kurobe River and a secluded hot spring. The waters that gush into the outdoor bathing area alongside the river are justly famed. It takes about 15 minutes on foot.
At Kanetsuri Kawara (riverside), you can go into the river. You also can see the perpetual snow on the other side of the river.
Keyakidaira is the last stop of the line and the most attractive area. Okukane Bridge: Traveling from Keyakidaira Station in the direction of Babadani Onsen you will see this vermillion-lacquered bridge spanning the main course of the Kurobe River. The view enjoyed from this 34-meter-high bridge is simply breathtaking.
Hitokui-iwa (People-eating Crag): This craggy face that looks like an open mouth has a truly formidable presence. As its name would suggest, it seems poised to eat whoever passes by.
Riverside Viewing Platform with Foot Bath: From this viewing platform, you can enjoy the beautiful sights of Mt. Okukane and Okukane Bridge. And if you want to rest your tired feet, be sure to go straight for the footbath.
Sarutobikyo Observation Platform: When autumn arrives, this hot spring hidden away in the great outdoors is decked out in leaves tinted in autumn colors. It takes 1 hour on foot from Keyakidaira Station.
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Kurobe Gorge Access Information
Access to Unazuki from Toyama Station (JR): Take the Toyama Chitetsu Line to Unazuki Onsen Station. It takes about one hour and 45 minutes, but you can enjoy the rural scenery on the way.
Access to Unazuki using shinkansen (bullet train): If you don’t have time, you can go to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station by shinkansen and change to Toyama Chitetsu Line. In this route, it takes about one hour from Toyama Station. Or if you start from Tokyo, you get off the shinkansen at Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station. Then 30 minutes ride on Tateyama Chitetsu Line. It is easier and faster.