Ride a Kurobe Gorge train and enjoy the autumnal leaves at the Kurobe Gorge.
The Kurobe Gorge is located around the middle and upper parts of the Kurobe River, which flows into the city of Kurobe in Toyama Prefecture. Because of its scale and magnificence, this great outdoor landscape has been selected as one of the three great gorges of Japan and one of the top one hundred hidden scenic spots in Japan. The starting point of a trip to the Kurobe Gorge is Unazuki-onsen hot spring. It is one of the largest hot spring resort areas in Toyama Prefecture, which is filled with facilities such as hotels and souvenir shops. Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station will be available on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line when it opens in March 2015, making access even easier.
The best time of the year to view the autumnal leaves at the Kurobe Gorge is mainly in mid-October to mid-November. The leaves start to turn red at high altitudes and reach their peak in early November. Helping you make the most of this event is the small Kurobe Gorge train that departs from Unazuki Station on the Kurobe Gorge Railway. The railway was originally created for transporting necessary materials during the construction of a hydroelectric facility, but is now available for general sightseeing.
Kurobe Gorge extends along one of Japan’s steepest v-shaped ravines. As you ride the Kurobe Gorge train slowly into the deep gorge, beautiful views appear one after another. The cars with open decks provide a feeling of exhilaration, getting so close to the bright red leaves that you feel that you could reach out and touch them. Then, right in front of you comes the bottom of the ravine which is dozens of meters deep. Enjoy the magnificent view of bright red autumnal leaves surrounding this precipitous natural gorge that can only be viewed at the Kurobe Gorge in autumn.
The Kurobe Gorge Railway is divided into several areas. The highlight of the Unazuki-onsen Hot Spring area, which is the starting point of the railway, is the one kilometer-long Yamabiko Trail. A bridge with the scenery of the gorge behind it runs parallel to the train line and you can see the Kurobe Gorge train crossing it.
25 minutes after the Kurobe Gorge train leaves Unazuki Onsen Station, it reaches Kuronagi Station. The valley gets more and more curved and displays beautiful scenery that can only be found in such a gorge. As you continue on, you reach the Kanetsuri area, which is famous for its outdoor riverside baths. Another highlight is the “Kurobe perpetual snow”, which lasts throughout the year without melting.
The Keyakidaira area, which is at the farthest end of the gorge, is a place where you can really feel that you are in the heart of the great outdoors. If you are lucky, you may be able to see animals such as snow monkeys and Japanese serows. With challenging mountain climbing routes, it is a perfect area for those who want to enjoy nature. However, it is recommended that you bring along warmer clothes when traveling to the Kurobe Gorge as the temperatures there are colder there than in the flatlands.
The three best spots to take photos of autumnal leaves!
Autumnal leaves in one of Japan’s greatest gorges and landscapes with bridges are certainly views that you want to take photos of to remember your trip. Therefore, we have asked the staff of the Kurobe Gorge Railway to give us their recommended spots for taking photos.
Recommended photo spot 1: Shin-Yamabiko Bridge
The Shin-Yamabiko Bridge is the first landmark that you will come across after departing Unazuki Station. At 166 meters long, it is the longest bridge on the line. The recommended spot for taking photos of this bridge is the Yamabiko Observation Deck, which is a three-minute walk from Unazuki Station. The various deciduous trees that grow here make it a beautiful spot with mosaic-like patterns of red, orange, yellow, and green leaves. The blue of the Kurobe River and bright red of the bridge serve as beautiful accents to the autumnal leaves.
Recommended photo spot 2: Babadani-onsen hot spring
Babadani-onsen hot spring is a fifty-minute walk along the mountain path from Keyakidaira Station, which is the last stop on the Kurobe Gorge train, and is also a scenic spot filled with autumnal leaves. Here, you can view the colorful autumnal leaves under the blue sky while being surrounded by the steam of the hot springs. Visitors can also stay at the lodges nearby. The rooms are shared and the lights are turned off at a fixed time, but viewing the autumnal leaves while relaxing in an outdoor bath is a special experience.
Recommended photo spot 3: Atobiki Bridge
Soon after leaving Kuronagi Station, you come to the tallest bridge on the railroad line. It stands at an extraordinary sixty meters in height. The recommended spot for taking photos of this bridge is the platform at Kuronagi Station. It is a spot that overwhelms you with its great wall of autumnal leaves that goes from way above your head to below your feet. The aqueduct bridge, which is also a famous scenic landscape, is located near Kuronagi Station as well.
An outdoor riverside bath with the atmosphere of a hidden scenic spot.
The Kurobe Gorge has an outdoor bath that you can relax in while surrounded by nature. It is known as Kanetsuri-onsen hot spring and is located in the Kanetsuri area along the Kurobe River. Below the riverside is the source of the hot spring, where water can be drawn from the soil if you dig down to a certain depth. This exhilarating hot spring bath under the spacious sky is open to everyone and is free. This rare area allows visitors to enjoy a hot spring bath in an open environment where they are surrounded by a gorge with autumnal leaves, the fast-flowing Kurobe River, and untouched nature.
During seasons when it is very crowded with tourists or when the water is only a few feet deep, you can enjoy it as a footbath. Because the bath is located on the riverside, there are some occasions when you may not enter due to the weather, such as during a heavy rain.
If you plan on staying at the Kurobe Gorge for a while, recommended places for lodging are the Kanetsuri area and the area surrounding Keyakidaira Station, which is the last station on the Kurobe Gorge train line. The Kanetsuri Onsen Ryokan inn may have a rustic appearance, but it lets you experience the pristine wilderness that can be seen only at the Kurobe Gorge, including the evening view from its outdoor bath and the star-filled sky.
Kanetsuri Onsen Ryokan
Address: Kurobe Okuyama Kanetsuri, Unazuki-machi, Kurobe-shi, Toyama-Ken
Hours: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (closed on Mondays except national holidays)
Access: About 10 mins. by walk from Kanetsuri Station on the Kurobe Gorge Railway