Safe, modern, clean and always on time, rail trips in Japan are a true delight. Here are three of the most scenic rail journeys to take in the land of the rising sun.
1. Hanwa Rail Line, Kansai
Cherry blossoms running alongside passing valleys in springtime, this rail trip is perfect for lovers of mountains and the coast.
Highlights: In springtime, passengers get the best seats to catch a glimpse of the countless cherry blossoms in full bloom in the valleys and mountains of the Kansai region. Linking the neon-lit mecca of Osaka and the seaside gem of Wakayama along the scenic coast, this commuter train line operated by JR West extends from Osaka’s Tennoji Station to Wakayama Station (with some even breaking, conveniently, for Kansai International Airport).
Why go: The trip connects two ‘must see’ destinations on any Kansai itinerary. Wakayama’s tranquil beaches and onsen are the perfect complement to experiencing Osaka’s energising foodie scene, fun attractions, and general fast pace.
2. Takayama Main Line
Green and lush landscapes in summer and snow covered peaks in winter, this rail trip is a nature lovers delight.
Highlights: Connecting Gifu and Toyama, the line primarily functions to access the scenic and rugged mountains of northern Gifu Prefecture. The surrounding areas boast traditional architecture, opulent festivals, and a range of the best mountains and onsen in Japan.
Why go: This region offers so much, and it can all be accessed on the one line. Perfect for a hop-on hop-off trip with sights such as Gifu Castle which sits atop Mt Kinka, the hot springs of Gero Onsen, the historic structures of Takayama, canals and breweries of Hida-Furukawa, and Toyama’s Matsukawa River which is popular for boating.
3. Resort Shirakami
For panoramic views of the Sea of Japan and surrounding wilderness, look no further than the Gono line.
Highlights: Resort Shirakami runs on the Gono line, past the stunning seaside scenery of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage listed Shirakami-Sanchi wilderness. Connecting Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture, the scenic train has ‘so close you could touch’ views of the Sea of Japan on one side, with the other offering stunning mountain views. The trains also host Tsugaru-jamisen (Aomori shamisen) performances and storytelling in the local Tsugaru dialect.
Why go: The train line connects two of Japan’s most vibrant, but oft under-travelled prefectures. Relatively unexplored, Aomori’s verdant landscapes, famous festivals and World Heritage sites can all still be called “hidden gems,’ while Akita is a popular choice for outdoor adventurers and history buffs.
And one for the kids (and the big kids!)
Decked out from top to bottom with Pikachu cuteness, the POKÉMON with YOU Train is a must for Pokémon lovers of all ages. Travelling from Ichinoseki in Iwate Prefecture to Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, station stops along the way also feature Pokémon decorations and there is even a playroom car with Pokémon toys. https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/joyful/pokemon.html