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Discovering Japan’s most scenic train lines!

Discovering Japan’s most scenic train lines!

People love travelling to Japan for different reasons, but one of them is usually for the amazing natural scenery. Regardless of the season, the country has some of the most breathtaking outdoor views, whether it’s in the northern region of Hokkaido (北海道) or the southern region of Kyushu (九州). But do you know that you can also enjoy some of these sceneries from the window of a moving train?

 

Railways have been part of the Japanese people’s livelihoods since the late 19th century, and with over 27,000km of railway tracks built across Japan, people use trains to commute and travel between urban cities and rural hometowns all year round. But trains aren’t just about getting from one place to another; the railway journey can be part of the travel itself, where passengers can witness amazing natural sceneries right from the comfort of their own train seat, as their train makes its way across rivers, mountain passes, and valleys. And what’s more, there are many viewpoints along these train routes where people can capture passing trains with beautiful backdrops, which make getting to the viewpoints absolutely worthwhile.

 

Over the years, the railway tracks in Japan have reached the far corners of the country, and some train lines offer impressive views of the surrounding areas. Many of such sceneries are found in the countryside away from the bustling urban cities, and many passengers have gone to great lengths to seek them out. Being able to gaze at wondrous natural sceneries coupled with a train, whether riding it or viewing it from afar, is a special feeling that many Japanese people and foreign visitors have to fall in love with, and it’s something that everyone must experience for themselves.

 

Map of train scenic routes in Japan. (Image credit: JR Times)

 

For this article, we are going to explore the different scenic train routes found all over Japan, and the viewpoints that passengers can find along these routes. Each of these routes offers passengers a unique view of its surroundings, and they can marvel at them to their hearts’ content. Most of these routes and viewpoints are out of the way from central locations, but the amazing sights alone make it completely worthwhile for people to go seek them out for themselves.

 

Hokkaido area

Senmō Main Line (釧網本線)

Section: JR Abashiri Station (JR網走駅) ↔ JR Shiretoko-Shari Station (JR知床斜里駅)
Operated by: JR Hokkaido

 

Senmō Main Line. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

We begin our journey by going to the northernmost region of Hokkaido, where a train line runs along a coast that directly faces the Sea of Okhotsk (オホーツク海). The Senmō Main Line is operated by JR Hokkaido, and between Abashiri and Shiretoko-Shari, the line runs very close to the sea, and passengers can witness an amazing view while travelling this section during winter.

 

From late January to March every year, huge blocks of ice from Russia’s Amur River are formed and they drift across the Sea of Okhotsk. Known as drift ice (流氷 ryūhyō), they can be seen along the coastal cities of Monbetsu and Abashiri in Hokkaido, and visitors from all over the world go there to marvel at the magnificent view of drift ice blanketing the sea.

 

Drift ice seen from the train window. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

The most popular way to see the drift ice up-close is to join an icebreaker cruise, but do you know that you can see them from inside a train too? Lucky passengers on board the train between stations Abashiri and Shiretoko-Shari can stand to catch a glimpse of the drift ice right from the train window on a clear day during this period, and it’s a sight they would not want to miss.

 

Hanasaki Line (花咲線)

Section: JR Akkeshi Station (JR厚岸駅) ↔ JR Itoizawa Station (JR糸魚沢駅)
Operated by: JR Hokkaido

 

Hanasaki Line along the Bekanbeushi River. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

The Hanasaki Line is a segment on the Nemuro Main Line (根室本線), and it's a quiet line with trains running infrequently daily, such as the rapid train service Nosappu (ノサップ) and Hanasaki (はなさき) where the former runs only once per day and the latter running only twice per day; and a local train that runs every 2–3 hours. It’s on this train line that we can see another facet of Hokkaido’s natural beauty, especially during summer and autumn.

 

Traversing the Bekanbeushi Wetlands. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Between JR Akkeshi Station and JR Itoizawa Station, the train traverses along the Bekanbeushi River (別寒辺牛川) and through the Bekanbeushi Wetlands (別寒辺牛湿原), which are among the region’s most picturesque natural sceneries. The river stems from Lake Akkeshi, and a variety of wildlife resides in this area, such as red-crowned cranes and Ezo deers.

 

Passengers will feel like they’re on an adventure as they make their way to the far eastern corner of Hokkaido while on the Hanasaki Line. In fact, as they enjoy the sheer beauty of the region’s natural surroundings, why not go all the way to the easternmost railway station in Japan? It would be a feat worth achieving for any traveller!

 

Hakodate Main Line (函館本線)

Section: JR Akaigawa Station (JR赤井川駅) ↔ JR Ōnuma-Kōen Station (JR大沼公園駅)
Operated by: JR Hokkaido

 

Hakodate Main Line with Mount Komagatake in the background. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

One of the most popular destinations among visitors to Hokkaido is the southern port city of Hakodate, and to get there from the region’s capital city of Sapporo, a popular mode of transport is the Limited Express Hokuto (特急北斗) which runs on the Hakodate Main Line as well as the Chitose Main Line and the Muroran Main Line. As passengers travel southwards from Sapporo to Hakodate, they should keep a lookout on one particular section where they will get to enjoy wondrous scenery.

 

As passengers reach closer to Hakodate, the train will pass by the Onuma Quasi-National Park (大沼国定公園), a sprawling natural park that features the placid Lake Onuma and Lake Konuma, and the majestic Mount Komatagatake. On a clear day, passengers on the train line can witness the magnificent view of the park right from their train as it makes its way between JR Akaigawa Station and JR Ōnuma-Kōen Station.

 

Hakodate Main Line during winter (left) and Hokkaido Komagatake (right). (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

It’s a scenery that passengers can enjoy throughout the seasons; in fact, the scenery transforms depending on the time of the year. The surroundings will be verdant green in the summer, and in winter, the peak of Mount Komagatake will be covered in snow. Keep a lookout on this section of the train line the next time you’re on a railway trip between Sapporo and Hakodate.

 

Furano Line (富良野線)

Section: JR Furano Station (JR富良野駅) ↔ JR Biei Station (JR美瑛駅)
Operated by: JR Hokkaido

 

The Furano Line with snow-capped mountains in the background. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

When it comes to summer in Hokkaido, perhaps no other destination is as popular among visitors as Furano, a city that has garnered reputation for its blooming flower fields. Every year, visitors from all over the world would come here and enjoy the flowers that spread across the hills and fields in the city, and one of the most popular ways to reach the city from within the region is by train.

 

Visitors would hop on the train on the Furano Line to make their way to most of the tourist attractions found along the line. As the train makes its way on the line, passengers will get to enjoy Furano’s idyllic countryside, wide-open flat pastures, and mountains in the far distance. In the section between JR Furano Station and JR Biei Station, passengers will even get to witness amazing fields of lavender and other flowers in the distance! It’s a vibrant sight that is both exciting and soothing, and passengers will not forget a scenery as mesmerising as this.

 

Passing by lavender fields. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Here’s a bonus tip for you. If you like a more authentic railway journey during the summer, hop on the Furano Biei Norokko Train, a special open-air train that runs exclusively during that season. It features large windows that can be pulled open, so you can enjoy the full view outside and the refreshing summer breeze blowing through you.

 

Eastern Japan area

Gonō Line (五能線)

Section: JR Henashi Station (JR艫作駅) ↔ JR Senjōjiki Station (JR千畳敷駅)
Operated by: JR East

 

Coastal view from Gonō Line. (Image credit: JR Times / Sue Lynn)

 

Do you know that the Gonō Line is often regarded as one of the most scenic train routes in Japan? The line stretches from Akita Prefecture (秋田県) to Aomori Prefecture (青森県), and a section of the line runs along Aomori’s western coastline. Needless to say, the coastal view on this section is a spectacular one that passengers ought to see for themselves.

 

Imagine a full view of the Sea of Japan (日本海) right before your eyes. That’s the kind of image you get to see firsthand when you take a train between JR Henashi Station and JR Senjōjiki Station along the Gonō Line. The sea stretches beyond the horizon, and together with the jagged rock formations on the coastlines, it makes for a splendidly picturesque view.

 

Resort Shirakami on the Gonō Line. (Image credit: JR East)

 

If you fancy an enjoyable railway trip along the Gonō Line, why not include taking the Resort Shirakami in your itinerary? Not only can passengers enjoy the magnificent view of the sea right from inside the train, but they can also appreciate the Joyful Train’s chic interior designs and on-board performances. With a train that brings joy to all its passengers, enjoying a beautiful scenery is made so much better.

 

Kitakami Line (北上線)

Section: JR Wakasennin Station (JR和賀仙人駅) ↔ JR Yudakinshūko Station (JRゆだ錦秋湖駅)
Operated by: JR East

 

Kitakami Line across Lake Kinshu in autumn. (Image credit: 岩手県観光協会)

 

The Kitakami Line spans across prefectures Iwate (岩手県) and Akita, and as the train traverses the region’s mountainous terrains, passengers should look out for one scenic section along the line.

 

Kitakami Line across Lake Kinshu in winter. (Image credit: 西和賀町 / 橋本翔也様)

 

From JR Wakasennin Station to JR Yudakinshūko Station, the train line will pass by Lake Kinshu (錦秋湖), a man-made lake created by the Yuda Dam built on the Waga River. In autumn, especially from the start to the end of October, the lake will be surrounded by fiery red and golden hues of the autumn foliage, and in winter, it will be covered with pure white snow, which seems magical.

 

Ban’etsu West Line (磐越西線)

Section: JR Yamato Station (JR山都駅) ↔ JR Hideya Station (JR日出谷駅)
Operated by: JR East

 

The Ban’etsu West Line across the Agano River. (Image credit: 新潟県観光協会)

 

Stretching across prefectures Niigata (新潟県) and Fukushima (福島県) is the Ban’etsu West Line, which is famous for its scenic route that features placid rivers and magnificent mountains. In particular, the Agano River (阿賀野川) runs along a portion of the train line, and passengers will get a great view of it from their train.

 

Mountains in the distance along the Ban’etsu West Line. (Image credit: やえざくら / PIXTA)

 

Between JR Yamato Station and JR Hideya Station, the train line crosses the meandering river several times, and passengers can get a view up-close from the train window. At the same time, they will also get to see beautiful mountains in the distance when travelling along the line. The river’s calm water, coupled with the surrounding greenery, is particularly mesmerising to watch, and the slow, rhythmic moving train makes it a relaxing experience that is a treat for the senses.

 

For a more nostalgic railway trip along this line, the SL Banetsu Monogatari offers passengers a chance to travel along this line while onboard a steam locomotive train. To experience the natural surroundings while on a historical relic is a unique experience that everyone should consider if they fancy a unique railway experience in Japan.

 

Tadami Line (只見線)

Section: JR Aizu-Nishikata Station (JR会津西方駅) ↔ JR Aizu-Kawaguchi Station (JR会津川口駅)
Operated by: JR East

 

Tadami Line on the No. 1 Tadami River Bridge in winter (top), autumn (bottom-left), and summer (bottom-right). (Image credit: kenko hoshi / JNTO (top), KrobkruengJapan (bottom-left), 福島県観光物産交流協会 (bottom-right))

 

The Tadami Line is another scenic train route in eastern Japan that spans across prefectures Fukushima (福島県) and Niigata (新潟県). Along this route, passengers will be passing by one of the most iconic train sceneries in Japan.

 

Between JR Aizu-Nishikata Station and JR Aizu-Hinohara Station (JR会津桧原駅), the train will cross the No. 1 Tadami River Bridge (第一只見川橋梁) that stands high above the Tadami River. Railway enthusiasts might be familiar with the scenery of a train crossing an arched bridge in a valley that is blanketed by vibrant autumn foliage or magical white snow, and they would be happy to know that it’s this section. Many people from all over the world would also gather at viewpoints that specially capture this scenery from afar, so you can also consider experiencing this view for yourself.

 

View from the Kaneyama Fureai Viewpoint. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Another scenic location along the Tadami Line can be found within walking distance from JR Aizu-Kawaguchi Station. Walk for approximately 800m from the station, and you will reach the Kaneyama Fureai Viewpoint (かねやまふれあい広場), where you get to see the train pass by the river with a mountain backdrop. It’s the kind of scenery that looks like it’s straight out of a painting, and this is another spot along the Tadami Line you wouldn’t want to miss.

 

Ōito Line (大糸線)

Section: JR Inao Station (JR稲尾駅) ↔ JR Hakuba-Ōike Station (JR白馬大池駅)
Operated by: JR East

 

Lake Kizaki in autumn (top, bottom-left) and winter (bottom-right) at JR Inao Station. (Image credit: JR East / Kobori (top), JR East / Carissa Loh (bottom))

 

The Ōito Line is a train line that traverses the region of Shinetsu (信越), and perhaps unbeknownst to most people, the line passes through some of the region’s most picturesque natural environments.

 

Hakuba Three Mountains in summer (left) and winter (right), seen in the background of the Ōito Line. (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch (left), alps / PIXTA (right))

 

Passengers on the train along Ōito Line will get to see the scenic Nishina Three Lakes (仁科三湖), which comprises of Lake Aoki, Lake Nakatsuna, and Lake Kizaki. Furthermore, on clear days, passengers will be able to witness the grand Hakuba Three Mountains (白馬三山) in the far distance, which are a visual spectacle especially during autumn and winter. Best of all, passengers can also hop on board the Resort View Furusato, and enjoy Nagano’s amazing views and relaxing rural ambiance.

 

Shinonoi Line (篠ノ井線)

Section: JR Inariyama Station (JR稲荷山駅) ↔ JR Obasute Station (JR姨捨駅)
Operated by: JR East

 

Shinonoi Line at night. (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

There is another train line in Nagano that offers a breathtaking view that is even regarded as one of Japan’s Three Best Train Window Views (日本三大車窓 Nihon Sandai-shasō). Passengers along Shinonoi Line will have a panoramic view of the Zenkoji Plains as their train makes its way to JR Obasute Station, and they can also alight at this station to fully enjoy this magnificent scenery that seems to stretch across the horizon.

 

Panoramic view from JR Obasute Station's platform (left) and rice terraces (right) seen from the station. (Image credit: photoAC (left), 信州千曲観光局 (right))

 

Passengers at JR Obasute Station will be able to see the rice terraces and the town of Chikuma in the distance. This is one of my personal favourites when it comes to scenic train routes, and I would love to come back here again just to enjoy the view once again. Best of all, the Resort View Furusato also makes a stop at JR Obasute Station, so passengers can get to enjoy two amazing train views from a single train.

 

Central Japan area

Tōkaidō Shinkansen (東海道新幹線)

Section: JR Mishima Station (JR三島駅) ↔ JR Shin-Fuji Station (JR新富士駅), JR Hamamatsu Station (JR浜松駅) ↔ JR Toyohashi Station (JR豊橋駅)
Operated by: JR Central

 

Tōkaidō Shinkansen, with Mount Fuji in the background. (Image credit: JR Central)

 

The next scenic train route is probably one of Japan’s most famous train sceneries: the shinkansen passing by, with the majestic Mount Fuji (富士山) in the background. This iconic scenery is the Tōkaidō Shinkansen making its way through central Japan, and if you have travelled between Tokyo and Osaka on the shinkansen, you would probably have travelled this section yourself.

 

Operated by JR Central, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is Japan’s most heavily used shinkansen route, plying between major cities Tokyo and Osaka. It passes through several prefectures along the way, including Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県), and in this prefecture, between JR Mishima and JR Shin-Fuji Station, the train will pass by the all-famous Mount Fuji.

 

Tōkaidō Shinkansen cutting across Lake Hamana. (Image credit: JR Central)

 

Another section in Shizuoka Prefecture to look out for while on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is between JR Hamamatsu Station and JR Toyohashi Station, when the train will cut through the picturesque Lake Hamana (浜名湖). It used to be a freshwater lake many centuries ago, but an earthquake in the late 15th century caused it to be connected to the Pacific Ocean, turning its water brackish. Since then, the lake has become a source for cultivating Japanese eels, kelp, and oysters.

 

The next time you’re travelling by railway between Tokyo and Osaka, make sure to have your camera ready to capture the scenery along these two scenic sections on the line.

 

Ōigawa Railway Ikawa Line (大井川鐵道井川線)

Section: Sessokyō-Onsen Station (接岨峡温泉駅) ↔ Okuōikojō Station (奥大井湖上駅)
Operated by: Ōigawa Railway

 

Aerial view of the Ikawa Line across the Oi River. (Image credit: Ōigawa Railway)

 

Another scenic train route can be found in Shizuoka Prefecture, and this one boasts one of the most spectacular scenes that passengers will ever see while on a train. Ōigawa Railway Ikawa Line operates within Shizuoka Prefecture, connecting Senzu Station (千頭駅) and Ikawa Station (井川駅), with the latter also being the highest station in the prefecture with an altitude of 636m. What’s amazing about this train line is that it traverses mountains and valleys many times, and thus passes through as many as 61 tunnels and 51 bridges in total. One of the bridges is the Okuoi Rainbow Bridge that stretches over the Oi River, and connects to Okuōikojō Station that is situated in the middle of it.

 

The Ikawa Line across the Oi River. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

The magnificent scenery around the station and on the train line, especially of the surrounding hills and the river below, has attracted many visitors over the years, and passengers can marvel at the glorious view right from the train and the station.

 

Western Japan area

Himi Line (氷見線)

Section: JR Etchū-Kokubu Station (JR越中国分駅) ↔ JR Amaharashi Station (JR雨晴駅)
Operated by: JR West

 

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The view from JR Amaharashi Station on the Himi Line. (Image credit: まちゃー / PIXTA)

 

If you love sea-views, check out the Himi Line, which is operated by JR West. The line runs within Toyama Prefecture (富山県), and offers a direct open view of the Toyama Bay (富山湾), which is famous for its deep blue water and for being a treasure trove of amazing seafood.

 

Gorgeous view of the Tateyama Mountains from the Amaharashi Coast. (Image credit: とやま観光推進機構)

 

The best view that passengers can enjoy while on this line can be seen on the section between JR Etchū-Kokubu Station and JR Amaharashi Station, where they can get an unobstructed view of the Amaharashi Coast (雨晴海岸). It’s a coastal scenery that passengers can enjoy right from the train, and best of all, they can even see the magnificent Tateyama Mountains in the far distance on a clear day. Imagine seeing a winning combination of snow-capped mountains in the background, and a beautiful bay in the foreground. Isn’t that amazing!

 

⑭ San’in Main Line (山陰本線)

Section: JR Orii Station (JR折居駅) ↔ JR Miho-Misumi Station (JR三保三隅駅)
Operated by: JR West

 

The San’in Main Line, directly facing the Sea of Japan. (Image credit: JR West)

 

In the western region of Chūgoku (中国地方), there is a train line that runs on its northern coast named the San’in Main Line. It is an extensive train line that stretches over 600km in total length, spanning between the city of Kyōto and Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県).

 

A beautiful view of the Sea of Japan on the San’in Main Line. (Image credit: ホーリ / PIXTA)

 

A large section of the train line runs along the coastline of Shimane Prefecture (島根県), and passengers on the train along this section will have a full, unobstructed view of the Sea of Japan before their very eyes. Specifically, the section between JR Orii Station and JR Miho-Misumi Stations runs very closely along the sea, and people onboard the train will even feel like they’re floating above it!

 

San’yō Main Line (山陽本線)

Section: JR Yū Station (JR由宇駅) ↔ JR Ōbatake Station (JR大畠駅)
Operated by: JR West

 

The San’yō Main Line and the Seto Inland Sea. (Image credit: TAKASHI KARAKI)

 

The San’yō Main Line is a major train line that runs along the southern coast of the Chūgoku Region, and stretches all the way from Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県) to Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県). While the San’in Main Line on the northern coast of the region runs along the Sea of Japan, the San’yō Main Line on the southern side runs along the Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海).

 

The line passes through several prefectures, including Yamaguchi, and as the train travels along the prefecture’s coastline, passengers on board can enjoy the splendid view of the Seto Inland Sea and its numerous small islands. Particularly, the section between JR Yu Station and JR Ōbatake Station is where the train runs very closely along the sea, and passengers can have a panoramic view of it that will leave them speechless.

 

The TWILIGHT EXPRESS MIZUKAZE on the San’yō Main Line. (Image credit: / PIXTA)

 

Do you know that you can also enjoy the view of the Seto Inland Sea on a luxury train? JR West also operates the TWILIGHT EXPRESS MIZUKAZE (TWILIGHT EXPRESS 瑞風), where guests will feel like they’re on a classy hotel that runs on railway tracks. The train also runs on the San’yō Main Line as well as the San’in Main Line, and guests can enjoy the beautiful surrounding landscapes on a lavishly furbished train.

 

For more information on the train, check out the article here.

 

Shikoku area

Seto-Ōhashi Line (瀬戸大橋線)

Section: JR Kojima Station (JR児島駅) ↔ JR Utazu Station (JR宇多津駅)
Operated by: JR West / JR Shikoku

 

The Seto-Ōhashi Line, which runs along the Seto Ohashi Bridge. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Next, we move down to the island of Shikoku (四国), and to get to this island from Honshū by rail, one can take the train on the Seto-Ōhashi Line. It is a combination of three lines—the Uno Line (宇野線), the Honshi-Bisan Line (本四備讃線), and the Yosan Line (予讃線)—that is co-operated by JR West and JR Shikoku. What’s amazing about this line is that it crosses the Seto Inland Sea, via the Seto Ohashi Bridge (瀬戸大橋).

 

The view of the Seto Inland Sea from the bridge. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Between JR Kojima Station and JR Utazu Station, the train line runs under the bridge and travel between the two regions. Passengers will enjoy the amazing feeling of crossing the sea while on board the train, especially when the sea runs right under them. Moreover, the distance between the stations is over 17km, and it takes approximately 20 minutes to cross the sea via the train, so passengers will have ample time to fully enjoy the view.

 

Being able to enjoy a panoramic view of the sea from the train alone feels wonderful, but to be able to cross the sea onboard the train? It’s an indescribable feeling that passengers simply to experience for themselves to understand!

 

Dosan Line (土讃線)

Section: JR Iyaguchi Station (JR祖谷口駅) ↔ JR Ōboke Station (JR大歩危駅)
Operated by: JR Shikoku

 

The Dosan Line over the Iya Valley. (Image credit: JR Shikoku)

 

People who have visited Shikoku can vouch for the region’s beautiful and pristine valleys and gorges, and one of the ways to enjoy them is actually by rail. The Dosan Line is a train line that cuts through the centre of the island, and spans between prefectures Kagawa and Kōchi. It is on this line where visitors to the island will get a glimpse of the sheer natural beauty of the island’s valleys.

 

Parts of the train line runs along the Yoshino River, and between JR Iyaguchi Station and JR Ōboke Station, it passes by the Iya Valley (祖谷渓), a gorgeous valley that is known for its steep mountainous slopes and deep rocky gorges. It also passes by the scenic Oboke Gorge (大歩危), which is characterised by its steep sided slopes. It’s a popular place for sightseeing cruises and whitewater rafting, so if you’re travelling on this line, why not take part in them too?

 

The Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari. (Image credit: JR Shikoku)

 

If you fancy a deluxe railway experience through the valleys of Shikoku, then why not consider hopping on the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari? It is an exclusive and luxurious sightseeing train operated by JR Shikoku, and guests can enjoy amazing hospitality services on the train while enjoying the beautiful scenery outside from its large windows. The train makes only one round trip per day from JR Tadotsu Station to JR Ōboke Station, and because of its limited capacity and operation, passengers are encouraged to make bookings for it ahead of time.

 

For more information on this train and other amazing attractions in Shikoku, you can check out our article here.

 

Yosan Line (予讃線)

Section: JR Iyo-Kaminada Station (JR伊予上灘駅) ↔ JR Kitanada Station (JR喜多灘駅)
Operated by: JR Shikoku

 

View from JR Shimonada Station on the Yosan Line. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

If you like another view of the Seto Inland Sea, you can travel along the Yosan Line, an extensive train line that stretches almost 300km in total length, stretching between prefectures Tokushima and Ehime. Operated by JR Shikoku, the bulk of the line runs parallel to the Seto Inland Sea, and there’s one section where passengers can get an amazing view of it, from the train and also from a particular railway station.

 

Panoramic view of the Seto Inland from JR Shimonada Station. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

Between JR Iyo-Kaminada Station and JR Kitanada Station in Ehime, the train line runs very closely to the Seto Inland Sea, and passengers onboard the train will have full, unobstructed view of it. Many railway enthusiasts and photographers have come here to enjoy the amazing view, and it’s often regarded as one of the best scenic train routes in Japan. On top of that, JR Shimonada Station (JR下灘駅), which is adjacent to JR Iyo-Kaminada Station, is an iconic railway station has been featured in promotion posters for the Seishun 18 ticket for its incredible sea view.

 

Kyushu area

Ōmura Line (大村線)

Section: JR Sonogi Station (JR彼杵駅) ↔ JR Matsubara Station (JR松原駅)
Operated by: JR Kyushu

 

The sea-view along the Ōmura Line. (Image credit: 長崎県観光連盟)

 

Lastly, we move to the southern region of Kyushu, where a certain train line offers yet another amazing view for their passengers. The Ōmura Line is located within the prefecture of Nagasaki (長崎県), and is operated by JR Kyushu, connecting JR Haiki Station (JR早岐駅) in Sasebo with JR Isahaya Station (JR諫早駅) in Isahaya. Along the line is a view that is another treat especially for sea-view lovers.

 

The view from JR Chiwata Station's platform. (Image credit: 長崎県観光連盟)

 

Passengers onboard the train along this line will get an open view of the Ōmura Bay (大村湾) between JR Sononogi Station and JR Matsubara Station. Better yet, the view from JR Chiwata Station (JR千綿駅) is especially astounding. The route is relatively quiet, so passengers can have the view of the bay all to themselves and enjoy the tranquil ambiance on the train on top of it.

 

⑳ Hisatsu Line (肥薩線)

Section: JR Okoba Station (JR大畑駅) ↔ JR Masaki Station (JR真幸駅)
Operated by: JR Kyushu

 

View of Yatake-goe from the Hisatsu Line. (Image credit: shira / PIXTA)

 

And for our final scenic train route, we look at the Hisatsu Line, operated by JR Kyushu and spanning across prefectures Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima.

 

Do you know that one of the Three Best Train Window Views can be found along this train line? One is the view of the Zenkoji Plains at JR Obasute Station mentioned earlier in the article, and another is the view of Yatake-goe (矢岳越え), a pass with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Kirishima Mountain Range and Ebino Plateau. This view can be seen on the Hisatsu Line between JR Yatake Station (JR矢岳駅) and JR Masaki Station, and even more amazing, on a clear day passengers on this train line will get to see Sakurajima and Kaimondake in the far distance!

 

A railway switchback at Okoba Station. (Image credit: tetsuo1338 / PIXTA)

 

There’s one more surprise for adventurous passengers and railway enthusiasts. At JR Okoba Station, the station adjacent to JR Yatake Station, they can find a railway switchback. The Hisatsu Line travels on steep slopes that are challenging for trains to climb. Hence, a railway track resembling the letter ‘Z’, known as a switchback, is built so that trains can reverse before resuming their journey, enabling them to climb steep gradients more easily. So while gazing at the incredible view of the surrounding areas, don’t forget to check out this ingenious feat too.

 

Closing

With railway tracks built throughout the whole of Japan, there are bound to be many train routes that showcase some of the country’s finest sceneries, whether it’s the sea or the mountains. It’s one of the reasons why travelling by rail is so much fun in Japan, so why not explore the lines above, and discover many others more the next time you set foot in the country? There’s always something to look forward to (and to look at) while riding the trains there.

(Tip: if you’re planning to explore the train lines above that are in the Tohoku or Nagano / Niigata areas, you can do so with JR East’s rail passes below!)

 

JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)

The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) is an affordable pass that offers unlimited train rides on JR East lines, including bullet trains, within the valid area for 5 consecutive days. It's only ¥30,000, making it a considerable option for rail travellers. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, on the JR-EAST Train Reservation. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.

 

JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)

The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) is an affordable pass that offers unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for 5 consecutive days. At only ¥27,000, you can save a lot of money if you travel extensively by trains in the region. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, on the JR-EAST Train Reservation. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.

 

The JR-EAST Train Reservation. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Header image credit: (clockwise from top-left) photoAC, kenko hoshi / JNTO, Hokkaido Railway Company, JR West

 

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