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Rail fun in Kochi: 7 must-ride sightseeing trains and local train lines

Rail fun in Kochi: 7 must-ride sightseeing trains and local train lines

Kochi Prefecture (高知県 Kōchi-ken) is located on the southern side of the Shikoku Region (四国). It boasts a lush natural landscape with clear waters of the Shimanto River (四万十川 Shimanto-gawa) and forested mountains, making it the perfect destination for visitors seeking to explore stunning nature, rich history, and delicious food while avoiding the hustle and bustle of Japan’s major cities.

 

And what better way to take in the beautiful sceneries and visit Kochi’s exciting attractions than by rail travel? With aplenty to choose from, here are our top seven picks on local trains and sightseeing trains—as well as trams—to hop on in your next trip to Kochi, Shikoku!

 

1. Tosaden Kotsu Sanbashi Line: The tram line that takes the top spot in Japan thrice over

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

While the number of tram lines across the country has gone down, in Kochi there is still one line that remains an important mode of transportation. This is the Tosaden Kotsu Sanbashi Line (とさでん交通桟橋線 Tosaden Kōtsū Sanbashi-sen), which connects the suburbs to JR Kochi Station (高知駅 Kōchi-eki). Centered around Kochi's famous Harimaya Bridge (はりまや橋 Harimaya-bashi), it stretches east to west and north to south, for a total length of 25.3km, the longest in Japan. It is also the oldest still-running tram line in Japan (opening in 1904), and has the shortest distance between stations (63m between Seiwagakuen-mae Station and Ichijyobashi Station), making it a total of three top spots it claims in Japan.

 

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

The fare is a flat rate of ¥200 within a set area. There are also convenient one-day train tickets for tourists; ¥500 for any tram line in the city or ¥1,000 for all train lines in the area.

 

2. Gomen-Nahari Line: Local trains that run along the Pacific Ocean

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

The Gomen-Nahari Line (ごめん・なはり線 Gomen-Nahari-sen) run by Tosa Kuroshio Railway (土佐くろしお鉄道 Tosa Kuroshio Tetsudō) connects 20 stations over 42.7km between Nankoku City (南国市 Nankoku-shi) and Nahari Station (奈半利駅 Nahari-eki) in the eastern part of Kochi Prefecture. Much of the line is elevated and runs alongside the coast, allowing passengers to look out from the window at a spectacular ocean view. In particular, the view between Yasu Station (夜須駅 Yasu-eki) and Akano Station (赤野駅 Akano-eki) can't be beat. You come out of the tunnel and are immediately greeted by a wide blue expanse of sky and ocean. Depending on the time of year, there is also an observation deck on the train where you can feel the sea breeze.

 

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

The train is decorated with each station's characters drawn by Kochi-born manga artist Yanase Takashi (嵩 柳瀬). The pop-art illustrations catch the eye with motifs centered around each station's local specialties.

 

3. Step into an animated world on the Dosan Line Anpanman Train

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

The Dosan Line (土讃線 Dosan-sen) Anpanman Train (アンパンマン列車 Anpanman Ressha) runs between Okayama Station (岡山駅 Okayama-eki) in Okayama Prefecture (岡山県 Okayama-ken) and Kochi Station in Kochi Prefecture. The train is themed around the popular children's program "Go! Anpanman", decorated with the characters of the series not just on the exterior but inside the train on the ceiling as well. There are also 24 special "Anpanman Seats" where the curtains and seats are also decorated, making passengers feel as if they stepped directly into an animated world.

 

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

When you get off at JR Kochi Station, make sure you also stop by the Anpanman Train Plaza where you are able to see Anpanman Train dioramas and miniature trains on display.

 

4. The Shiman Torocco Trolley, filled with all that Shimanto has to offer

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

The Shiman Torocco Trolley (しまんトロッコ) is a tourist train that runs on the Yodo Line (予土線 Yodo-sen) that runs alongside the Shimanto River and its tributaries. The train comprises two cars, one of which is a windowless open-air carriage, and the other is a regular train carriage. We recommend riding in the trolley car to fully experience the majestic Shimanto River scenery. (Passengers are unable to get on/off the trolley car in some areas.)

 

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

During the ride you can also look forward to a little wagon shop selling local products inside the train. Rice balls made with the Shimanto brand Sankanmai Rice or snacks made with seasonal ingredients like yuzu or strawberry can be enjoyed on the train while you watch the scenery go by. They also make great souvenirs! The train runs from JR Kubokawa Station (窪川駅 Kubokawa-eki) to JR Uwajima Station (宇和島駅 Uwajima-eki). The trip takes approximately 2hr 30min one-way, and runs mainly on weekends and holidays in spring, summer, and autumn. (The in-train shop is only available on Saturdays and Sundays.

 

5. Meet kappa creatures on the Kappa Uyo-uyo Kaiyodo Hobby Train

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

This is a unique train themed around the kappa (カッパ) creature from Japanese folklore. It runs daily between JR Kubokawa Station and JR Uwajima Station. The train is decorated with kappa enjoying the clear waters of the Shimanto River, colored in reds and greens that reflect the rich natural scenery along the river.

 

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

Inside the train is a showcase displaying various kappa figurines. Don't miss your chance to take a picture with the kappa family sitting on the seats, too! This train allows you to view the majestic Shimanto River and rustic scenery along with an experience linked to Japan's unique folklore.

 

6. The Tetsudo Hobby Train dressed up as a shinkansen

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

This train is modelled after the 0 series (0系 Zero-kei) of shinkansen bullet trains, the world's first high-speed railway network, earning it the moniker "Japan's slowest shinkansen". The train runs daily between JR Uwajima Station and JR Kubokawa Station. Inside the train, you will also have the chance to sit in one of the original 0 series seats.

 

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

There is also a showcase displaying different shinkansen models from the past all the way up to including the present. The floor of the train is decorated with the locomotive that featured prominently in the history of JR Shikoku. The train has many displays that allow you to follow the history of the railways and trains in Japan.

 

Fun fact: The unique trains that run on the Yodo Linethe Shiman Torocco Trolley, Kaiyodo Hobby Train, and Tetsudo Hobby Trainare collectively known as the "Yodo Line Brothers".

 

7. Shikoku Tosa Toki no Yoake no Monogatari

(Image credit: Visit Kochi)

 

Shikoku Tosa Toki no Yoake no Monogatari (志国土佐 時代の夜明けのものがたり) is a two-car tourist train that runs between JR Kochi Station and JR Kubokawa Station.

 

The first car, named “Kurofune” (クロフネ), is decorated around the motif of a steamboat seen by Kochi’s hero and the man who played a major role in Japan’s history and culture, Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬). The second car, “Sorafune” (ソラフネ), takes us into the future with decorations evocative of a spaceship straight out of science fiction. The train creates a unique atmosphere of being both in the past and in the future; reflected in the name, meaning "The Dawn of a New Era”. This special train allows you to enjoy Tosa-style hospitality, including foods made with local Kochi products and sake.

 

In short, the best way to experience more of what Kochi Prefecture has to offer will be via rail travel. Try taking all seven trains on these local lines during your next trip to discover the stunning nature and rich history behind this quaint prefecture. 

 

This article is adapted from Kochi Visitors & Convention Association.


Header image credit: Visit Kochi Japan

 

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