When thinking about train rides in Japan, either packed carriages or punctual rides come to mind. While those might be true, Japan’s train service (as with everything else Japanese) is truly in a class of its own. We’re talking comfy coaches, excellent customer service and just as the title suggests- picturesque routes that may awe you to the point you may just forget to take pictures 📷
All aboard our list for the best scenic routes you have to experience for yourself while in the land of the rising Sun 😉
[P.S For 10 of the best train journeys in the world, check this list out!]
1. Gono Line
Our first pick is a clear winner in all aspects because it’s a route which can cut your sightseeing time by half. The Gono Line stretches from Akita Prefecture to the northernmost prefecture of the Honshu Island, the Aomori Prefecture.
Quite simply put, if you can only squeeze in one train ride during your trip, this is it! White winter magic or lush green views are dependent on the season but what’s consistent is that Mount Iwaki and the Sea of Japan will leave you in awe no matter what time of the year it is.
Some of the special trains run during a specific time of the year only (like the recommended Resort Shirakami) so book way ahead of time to avoid losing your seat to locals who flood the route especially during summer. Access the Resort Shirakami from $235 with no additional cost, thanks to the JR East Pass. If you're thinking to travel between cities, the Japan Rail Pass is your lifeline, giving you unlimited access to ALL JR Group Railways and bullet trains! You can purchase it in advance on Klook and redeem it at any JR Rail Pass exchange office in major JR stations.
P.S. The JR Pass also offers passes to West Kansai, Takayama and more! Buying online on Klook is kinder on your wallets and save you the hassle of navigating in Japanese if you're buying on the spot 😅
[P.S Discover these 10 hidden gems on your next Japan trip!]
2. Seto-Ohashi Line
The Seto-Ohashi line is a unique one extending from the Okayama to Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. What’s unique about it is that though most of us have never heard of it, it’s actually the world’s longest two-tiered bridge.
The ride covers 13 km of the Seto Inland Sea with a bridge that carries cars on the top and trains below. Don’t worry, you won’t realise you’re literally above water while taking Instagram-worthy pictures 😮
It’s pretty much worth every penny considering the bridge takes you across five islands via a pleasant ride.
A 4-day JR West Pass can cost around USD60 for an adult.
3.Tokaido Shinkansen Line
Possibly one of the busiest lines in the country, the Tokaido Shinkansen Line operates between Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto. The journey along this line is possibly one of the best due to the scenic path.
One of the main attractions of this route is that it gives you the best view of Mt. Fuji from the comfort of your train seat. The larger-than-life mountain is best viewed when it’s winter and covered in snow ❄️
A Mt Fuji-Shizuoka Tourist Pass for 3 days will cost around USD40 per adult.
[P.S Aside from the scenic views, these 10 exciting reasons are why travellers keep returning to Japan!]
4. Kisuki Line
This line starts at Shimane Prefecture and heads towards Hiroshima Prefecture. While the mountainous backdrop is enough to plan your Kisuki adventure, the traditional style of the train on this line puts it on the map.
Most locomotives today no longer need to backtrack by executing a zigzag, but that zigzag is exactly why the Kisuki Line is on our list. The tracks are laid in the mountains, forming a zigzag to try to slowly stay as parallel to the mountain as possible.
The Kisuki Line only has a few trips a day that doesn’t often see a lot of traffic, making it ideal for maintaining the zigzag traditional tracks.
An adult 4-day pass for the JR West ticket can cost around USD90.
5. Himi Line
Probably one of the most recognisable childhood cartoons of the 90’s was Doraemon. Our final pick in the category of train lines comes from the hometown of Doraemon’s co-creator. This gives way to trains being decorated with Ninja Hattori-kun, which is also another creation of his!
The main attraction of this line is the view along the way. Its another natural wonderland of views which looks onto Mt. Tate and overlooks Toyama Bay and Amaharashi Coast.
Purchase a 7-day adult pass of JR-West from USD 135.
[P.S Check out these 15 underrated cities in Japan you might have missed out on!]
6. Kurobe Gorge Railway
This railway is the perfect ride for visitors who enjoy being surrounded by nature. Open-air train cars carry passengers through the green, orange and red gorge while the emerald-green Kurobe River flows below. The journey is a favourite among visitors who venture through the 20 km journey of over 40 tunnels and 20 bridges.
Feel the cool breeze of the mountain air or warm comfort of the multiple onsen (natural hot springs) available in the area. It’s definitely a pampering journey both visually and physically 🛤
In autumn, it’s a colourful wonderland of nature but come winter, the Northern Japan Alps are covered with the white velvet of snow. Just typing this out is making us want to visit, surely it’s already on your travel itinerary by now 😌
The beautiful journey can be accessed from as low as USD5 depending on where you’re heading.
7. Sanriku Railway
The Sanriku Railway is a beautiful journey with a special place in the hearts of the locals. After being destroyed in 2011’s earthquake and tsunami, the railway took three years to rebuild. Now, it has become a mark of the revitalised Tohoku area that boasts coastal beauty and rich history.
The greenery and ocean waves goodbye as you ride past some of the best views you can access through train in Japan. However, it has a special little twist (psst, see below..)
There are also specially designed carriages called Ozashiki-Ressha with Japanese-style seating to reflect the railway’s influence on a popular drama series called “Amachan”. These unique carriages are the perfect spot for your kawaii poses as well as getting involved in Japanese pop culture.
Depending on where you board the train, fares can be even lower than USD5 😊
[P.S Need more reasons to visit Japan? These 10 reasons are why Japan should be on every Muslim traveller's bucket list!]
8. Sagano Railway
Arashiyama and Kameoka Prefecture are connected by the Hozugawa River, which is exactly where this railway travels through. Vintage vibes will overwhelm your senses as you take this wooden train through breathtaking ravines.
If you travel with the aptly-named Sagano Romantic Train, the fifth carriage is an open one with no glass so you’re able to feel the slow-paced 7 km journey. It’s best to visit in autumn as the leaves take on colour and the open-air carriage is pleasant to ride in, all while enjoying the ravines.
The sightseeing train takes you on a journey from winding mountains and ends with dropping passengers off at a bamboo forest. I guess you could say passengers get bamboozled!
The scenic journey can be accessed for as low as USD6 for a one-way journey.
9. Oigawa Railway
Scenic journeys aside, the Oigawa Railway is a tourist attraction on its own. The railway is actually one of the few old-fashioned steam locomotives in the country and runs through the beautiful Okuoi area of Shizuoka.
The journey through Shizuoka’s countryside is best ventured during the fall season and runs through the area’s renowned Sumatakyo Valley.
There is also a little station called Okuoikojo Station, installed above the lake on a mountainous structure. It’s a mysterious floating structure, setting off the curiosity of visitors as well as being a fun photography point.
An Oigawa Railway Pass can cost around USD60 for a no-limit, two-day use.
10. Hakone Tozan Railway
Our last pick is another railway that mustn't be missed. (Honestly though, none of the ones listed should be missed!). Hakone Tozan is Japan’s oldest mountain railway, climbing the steep slopes of the volcano Mt. Hakone. Ride through narrow and densely wooded valleys, and above deep canyons through many tunnels and bridges.
Dubbed the ‘Hydrangea Train’, this railway is especially not to be missed in June and July. It’s foliage season for the picturesque hydrangeas and are perfectly complemented by the amber leaves of autumn. When in full bloom, the flowers are so close you can almost touch them 🌸
While hydrangeas bloom in June and July, autumn leaves peak in early November so it’s always best to learn beforehand when would be the best time to visit especially if you’re looking to add more to your photography collection.
Depending on your journey, the Hydrangea train can cost as low as USD1 per adult.
[P.S These 6 stunning train journeys in Europe will take your breath away!]
Japan is a country known for its technology and beauty- both come together when traveling via the trains here. It’s an experience of a lifetime with so many great routes to choo-choo-choose from 😉
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