There are few things better than sitting in a train, the wind blowing through your hair, while admiring the sun-kissed leaves signalling the beginning of autumn. I wrote about Naruko Gorge in my previous entry, so here’s another gorge to add to your list when visiting Japan. Kurobe Gorge is nestled in the mountains of the Northern Japan Alps, and it is one of the deepest gorges in the country. Let’s check out this fun, exhilirating railway ride to this gorge, check out the local food specialties, and see what’s there to do!
How to get there:
Train schedules and fares: Hyperdia
To get to Kurobe Gorge, you have to first get to Shin-Kurobe station (around 2.5 hours from Tokyo). The trip up until Shin-Kurobe is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. From Shin-Kurobe, you have to transfer to the Toyama Chiho Railway Line to Unazuki Onsen station (630 yen, not covered by the Japan Rail Pass).
One thing of note is that the Toyama Chiho Railway’s trains has a car that has a bar! This isn’t very common when riding trains in Japan, so it’s a nice treat. You have to hurry and get seats in this car though, because it usually gets full.
When you get off at Unazuki Onsen Station, you’ll have to buy tickets for the Kurobe Gorge Railway (fares, schedules, and reservations can be found here). I would recommend that you make a reservation through the site, as it can be made without any extra charge and you can skip the long lines at the station.
Then, it’s time to board the railway! They even take a commemorative photo of you which you can then purchase for Y1000. It felt like a mini amusement park ride because the conductor was so animated and she would describe the various points of interest along the way.
What to see:
Not too soon after the ride begins, you’ll be presented with a spectacular view of the Shin Yamabiko Bridge which marks the entrance to Kurobe Gorge. It is the longest bridge to span the Kurobe River with a length of 166 meters.
There were a lot of great sights too see along the way. The 80 minute ride felt like it was over so soon!
For this trip, we headed to the highest and the terminal station, Keyakidaira Station, which is 600 meters above sea level. The station has a lot of attractions, such as a viewing deck, a souvenir shop, and an information center.
They offer free guided tours led by the elderly at specific times during the day. If you can catch them at these times, I’m sure you’d have a great experience! There are 4 tours a day which lasts for 30 minutes to 1 hour. They are held at 10:30am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 1:30pm. The times may vary so just check it out when you’re there.
Since we weren’t able to make it in time for the guided tour, we just walked around the area ourselves. First, we had a local specialty, Toyama Black Ramen, in Keyakidaira station. The name comes from the strong soy sauce flavor of the soup, which gives it a black appearance.
When we had our fill, we exited the station and you’ll immediately spot the Okugane Bridge. It is a red, 34-meter tall pedestrian bridge which connects the station to Babadani and Meiken Onsen, which are 15-60 minutes up the trail.
Further across the bridge and you’ll see Hitokui Iwa (man-eating cliff), where the path is cut directly into a steep cliff, which makes it look like a stone face is swallowing the trail.
We crossed the bridge back and headed towards Sarutobikyo Gorge, which is around an hour walk. In the middle of the way, you will spot a free foot bath where a lot of people are resting their weary legs.
Our feet were already killing us because of the rocky path, but when we got to Sarutobikyo Gorge, it was worth it! The river is sky blue and is framed majestically by the gorge. It also has an observation deck where you can admire the flow of the river along the cliff.
We made our way back to the station after our journey. Everyone was snoozing on the train already because of all the walking! When we got off Unazuki station, we remembered to buy Masu Sushi, which is like a sushi cake made of trout! The packaging was so pretty, it felt bad to just throw away the bamboo container when we were done with it.
A good bonus in Shin-kurobe Station is that you get a nice view of the Japanese Alps for free! You don’t need to pay for observational decks in the city because the station actually has a high elevation to see the alps.
The best way to end the day and to try out another local specialty is to head to Shiro Ebi Tei and eat glass shrimp! The restaurant Shiro Ebi Tei in Toyama Station serves a nice heaping bowl!
I hope you guys liked this cover! Have you had Masu Sushi, Glass Shrimp, or Toyama Black Ramen? Are there other gorges you loved in Japan? Let me know what you think in the comments section below! Keep on traveling!