Kurobe Gorge Adventure

Everytime I see this Japan adevertisement of a train running on a red track across the river with a beautiful nature all around, I feel like dropping everything and find that place.

For this summer, I decided to go to Toyama but I had no idea where to go. A few days before vacation starts , I searched for places to visit which does not cost a fortune.

I found Trini Traveller’s blog and I got the information and booked my train ticket to go to my next adventure 🙂

I prebooked my ticket for the train here (Sorry only Japanese). The round trip ticket costs : 3,420 yen.

The Kurobe Torokko Electric Train starts from Unazuki Station (宇奈月駅) and since I stayed in Toyama area, I need to take another train to Unazuki Onsen Station which is about 1 hour 30 minutes and cost 1840 yen , one way. From Unazuki Onsen Station, it’s about 3 minutes walk to Unazuki Station.

I totally forgot that tourist places like this always have some kind of free pass and  unfortunately I noticed it on my way back. The ticket cost 2,500 yen for Summer and 2,000 yen during Winter.

So let’s start the tour.
Unazuki Station. It was pouring when I got to the station.I arrived an hour before my scheduled train departs so that I can check out around the station and get some breakfast and maybe find a manhole cover. Train Schedule. You cannot just get  on the train.
Their is no assigned seats, so if you want a good one, you need to line up early. My train is next (10:03) so I`m lining up already. Once people go in, they would run to the train so make sure to move fast.

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From the second floor of the station, there is an observation area and you can see the Shin-Yamabiko (Moutain Echo Spirit) bridge where the train will cross it. It was called yamabiko by the fact that the sound of the train passing by echoes in the hot spring town.

Unazuki Dam Once we crossed Yamabiko bridge, we saw Unazuki Dam which is the newest dam in Kurobe Gorge area and was completed last 2001. Shin Yanagawara Hydro- Electric Power plant
Next we passed by a tower but actually a Hydro-Electric Power Plan (Shin Yanagawara)

Suspension bridge for Monkeys

Next is a Suspension Bridge hanging 15 meters over the lake and was specially made for monkeys to be able to traverse one shore to the other.

Hotokeishi (Stone Buddha) Hotokeishi (Stone Buddha). It not man-made but a natural rock formation that bears an uncanny resemblance to the stone Buddha. Another hanging bridge
Another hanging bridge, looks like it`s for human. It would cool and scary to be able to cross it.

to the tunnel we go Leaving Kuronagi Station and about to cross the last part of Atobiki Bridge before entering the tunnel. What is under the bridge ?
What`s under the bridge? Water 🙂 You can clearly see the bottom. The train is open so it`s exhilarating.

Dashidaira Dam We arrived in Daishidaira Dam. Untitled
Would love to stop the train and enjoy the beauty of the place.

We made a short stop and Dashidaira Station while the train going back to Unazaki arrives
Not out train :)

Misty River We passed by this lake with mist all around it. It feels like I`m in some kind of fantasy land. Approaching Kanetsuri Station
Approaching Kanetsuri Station. You can also stop at Kanetsuri Station, it is one stop before Keyakidaira(Last stop). I did not have time to explore and actually did not have much information on tickets so I stayed with my original plan and checkout Keyakidaira first.

Last stop : Keyakidaira Welcome to Keyakidaira. Now, before I boarded the train, their was an announcement that the rain is still pouring so having a rain coat is advisable, so I got one. As soon as my train left the station it stopped, so I did not need the rain coat at all. But as soon as I arrived in Keyakidaira, it poured again. My umbrella was enough though, but the raincoat helped protecting my bag 🙂 I have about 3 hours to explore the place before my return train. So let’s start exploring around Keyakidaira station. First stop is Okukane Bridge. It is 34-meters high above the river and has a really nice view of the river and the surrounding place. Like this : Keyakidaira Station from afar

Okukane Bridge Let’s cross the bridge. After crossing the bridge, you will reach Hitokui Cave Hitokui Iwa (People Eating Crag)

Some view while walking up
Untitled My next way is Sarutobi Gorge The route to Sarurobikyo (Monkey Jumping Gorge)
But before you can reach it , you need to walk into this tunnel.

View around Sarutobikyo Almost there.The kanji mean, Monkey Jump. I heard one of the maintenance worker explaining to a guest, that since a Monkey jump into the gorge, it has been called Monkey Jumping Gorge. It’s an observation platform with a great view. View around Sarutobikyo

View around Sarutobikyo

The rain started again and decided to grab some coffee and noticed that there is a free access to the rooftop and had an amazing view of the whole place
View of Okukane Bridge//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

On the way back, I was seating in the opposite side of the train and was able to see this aqueduct
Aqueduct//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

It was a nice adventure. I’m pretty sure this place will be very scenic during the autumn.
During the winter season, they close the railroad.
So if you are around Takayama area, I highly recommend visiting Kurobe Gorge and enjoy the view.

One more wish granted. 🙂

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Travel Theme : Ancient

I rarely used Keihan Line till recently when my work was temporary transferred somewhere in Kadoma. After the Kyoto Event a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was getting off at Kayashima Station when one of the girls told me that it a station with a big tree in the middle. I automatically got curious and tried to pry more information from her but unfortunately, she did not anything and only noticed the tree when she passed by the station that day.

It was already dark, cold and drizzling when I arrived at the station and with 3 bottles of heavy Nihonshu and 8 kilometers of walking to do, I decided to postponed my exploration some other time but when I turned in the corner I found it. Seems like it wanted to be found. Maybe it heard me 🙂

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It is huge and looks very Ancient. They built a temple around it as well as the station.

I was searching for the story of this tree and I finally found “The Big Kusu Tree of Kayashima“. After reading the story it reminded me of another tree in Mt. Takao , although this tree was considered to be lucky.

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Looking up.

After all these years, the tree is still strong and sturdy and not giving in to the concrete that is surrounding it. If this tree could talk what stories could it tell.

Winter 2013 : 10 Hours train ride to somewhere

Yes, you probably think I’m crazy but that was how long it took me to get to my destination last winter break. Of course I was using the Seishun 18 ticket, so basically I can only use the trains that does not require any extra fee, mostly local on this trip.

I had no regrets though, it was a very scenic and relaxing train ride. I passed several prefectures before finally arriving to my final destination.

The train finally arrived in Kamo(加茂) Station in Kyoto Prefecture that will take all the way to Kameyama(亀山) Station, Mie Prefecture.
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Sunrise while en route to Kameyama Station.
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Going deeper to the mountain area of Mie Prefecture , everything was blanketed in snow.
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Even the rail tracks were covered in snow
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The train to Kameyama was a one-manned train and only 2 cars. The train ride was about an hour and 30 minutes and had to wait in Kameyama Station for 24 minutes for the next train to Nagoya.

The train to Nagoya was slowly filled up with people as we pass along the Mie Prefecture so I did not have much room to move around the train to take some picture. It was still scenic though but no snow. The ride was about an hour and 20 minutes and had to wait about 7 minutes for the my next train to Gifu and then change again to another train for Minoota Station(美濃太田)

While going to Minoota, I noticed that some of the stations are unmanned, just like the way to Takeda. Passengers need to pay at front of the train directly to the driver based on where you get on.
En Route

The ride to Minoota was only 30 minutes but unfortunately, the train was late for about 20 minutes. I have to wait for 82 minutes in Minoota for the last train transfer so it was not that bad. I did not find any convenience store or any cheap places to eat like Yoshinoya or Matsuya, fortunately though the hotel in front of the station have a lunch buffet for 1200 yen including drinks so I ate the much needed sustenance and have coffee.

Slowly entering the mountain area of Gifu Prefecture.
En Route

Snow covered station
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One station away to my final stop, the train have to wait for the Limited express train for about 20 minutes. Had a few minutes to walk around and enjoy the view. Can you figure out where I’m going now? 🙂

En Route

Panoramic View around the station.
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I arrived about 40 minutes late than my original ETA but it was okay. Oh and yes I am in snowy Takayama City , Gifu Prefecture.

Shinkansen or Bullet trains are fast and can take you from destination A to B but it does not have any views compared to the local train ride. It does need a lot of patience though and correct timing to connect your train or it will be another hour or two before the next train especially if you are crossing one Prefecture to the next. BUT if you have time, it is definitely worth a try.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

Literally.

I found another interesting place again from Heart of Japan and since I do not have any specific plans for my winter break, I asked some friends if they were interested. Five gave a positive answer, so on the first day of my winter vacation we were off to explore the abandoned railway of the Fukuchiyama Line.

There are two ways to approach the old railway, from JR Namaze Station or from JR Takedao Station. The latter is much easier to navigate but we opted to start from the former, following the  direction given by Heart of Japan.

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Let the hike begin

The warning
The warning sign. To summarize it : “This is not a hiking trail so Enter at your own Risk”, and we did. If you are coming from Takedao station, you will see the same warning.

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Beautiful view of the river. This would be a great place during spring and autumn.

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Another warning this time it says “Be careful of falling objects”.

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Notice the pieces of wood?. Those were the old railway.

First Tunnel
It’s time to enter the first tunnel. I found out that my head lamp was useless and that my iPhone camera was much better. It was a bit scary for me, I’m kinda afraid of the dark but this time it won’t get in the way of this adventure, so in we go.

Inside First Tunnel
We are going in. No turning back now.

Going Out of the First Tunnel
We made it. We can see the light 🙂

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Another warning: ” No lights inside the tunnels.”.

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I’m doing it 🙂

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To the second tunnel we go. This would be very beautiful during the spring.

Entrance to the Second Tunnel
Entrance to the second tunnel and I think the longest one. There are lots of wooden tracks inside so you really need a good light to make sure you don’t stumble and hurt yourself.

what's waiting for us?
After coming out of the 3rd tunnel we found this. A close track crossing the river.

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It would have been really interesting if this was open but unfortunately the other side of this was blocked by a big tree.

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There was a small bridge on the side to cross the river and the side view of the track bridge. At the end of this track you can find some of the wooden track drag to the side and turn into semi-benches. So we decided to make a stop and have some lunch and warm drinks before moving on.

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The other side of the track, trees were blocking the way 🙂

After we came out of the fourth tunnel we saw again the big warning sign and a very nice view of the river.
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We found some old charcoal so somebody was probably making a fire near the it.

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Need directions? The Sakura Trees are just 300 meters away.

5th Tunnel
The fifth tunnel. You can already see the end of it from the entrance.

JR Takedao Station
JR Takedao Station. We safely made it.

It was definitely a very interesting hike. It is very easy but dark and you just need a good walking shoes and a very good flashlight 🙂

Scenic Train Route To Takeda Castle

It takes around 2 more hours to get to JR Takeda Station from Himeji by the JR Bantan Line. The train was only operated by one person, the driver and has only two cars. Trains in the city are operated by two people, the driver and the person in the back of train to close the doors. So when I got on the train I got excited since it was an old model with big windows, so I am in for a treat with the view and I was not wrong.

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Foggy mountain after a few minutes of train ride from JR Himeji Station. Hmmm, the ride looks very promising.

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Snow covered trees !!!

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Suddenly it snowed, we were all excited but a bit worried that we will not be able to get to the top of the ruins because of the snow.

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This would be a nice place to swim and have picnic in the summer.

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JR Takeda Station. Unfortunately though by the time we left Teramae Station, snow turned to rain and it did not stopped until we left the castle.

Stations on the Bantan Line are not equipped with ICOCA or IC card reader so it would be advisable and less hassle if you just get the normal train ticket. Trains also run like buses, you get a piece of paper when you get on and you look at the big electronic board in front of the first car for the amount the you need to pay when you get off. Exit is on the first car. Some stations like Teramae and Takeda have train staff manning the gate so the driver does not collect any payment from these stops. You pay at the station but again they do not have IC card reader so computation for the train fare are done manually and you are given a note that you have paid and when you get back to the big city or a station with and IC card reader , you can have it reset there.

It was a very nice ride. I love local trains 🙂