Outside of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other major Japanese cities, there are a plethora of sites and attractions that are absolutely worth visiting. Japan’s countryside has an abundance of stunning and breathtaking natural beauty that can make your trip a lot more fun and memorable.
A great way to enjoy the incredible landscapes and scenery that rural Japan has to offer is by making use of the trains. Across the country, there are several rail lines that afford fantastic opportunities for some of the most amazing views in the world. The following are some of them:
Hakone Tozan Line
The Hakone Tozan Line is probably one of the most popular sightseeing train lines in Japan. Run by Odakyu Group, it serves as a link between Odawara Station in Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto Station in Hakone.
During the 15-kilometer long journey, you can enjoy beautiful views of the densely wooded mountains and valleys along the way. And, in the summer, particularly in June and July, the areas around the train tracks become covered with brightly colored flowers in full bloom.
Sagano Scenic Railway
The Sagano Scenic Railway is among the more popular touristy things to do in Kyoto. It is 7.3 kilometers long, and shows the best natural attractions the city has to offer. It is best to jump aboard this sightseeing train line after exploring the long list of Kyoto’s world heritage shrines, temples, and sites to get a taste of nature. Its train cars feature traditional styles and designs, like wooden seats, and run slower in comparison to regular trains.
During the 30-minute journey, you get to enjoy views of the Hozugawa River, the forests of Arashiyama and Kameoka, and the mountains surrounding Kyoto. It tends to get too crowded in the middle of spring and autumn, when tourists rush to get seats for the best viewing spots for sakura and autumn foliage.
Tabito Dazaifu Sightseeing Train
The Tabito Dazaifu Sightseeing Train is a railway line that covers the Dazaifu and Fukuoka areas. It is known for its colorful train cars, well-decorated interiors, and themed designs that showcase Dazaifu’s must-see attractions.
As a passenger, you can avail of commemorative cards that feature the five different good luck themes of the train cars — health and long life, safety in childbirth, protection from evil, safety in the home, and success in scholarship. When you board your train, you can stamp your cards with the available special stamps and inkpads on board to remember your journey.
The Hanwa Line is a commuter rail line that runs between Wakayama Prefecture and Osaka Prefecture. Operated by JR West, it is about 63 kilometers long, with one end at Tennoji Station in Osaka and the other at Wakayama Station in Wakayama.
If you are in this part of Japan during cherry blossom season, make sure to ride this particular train line, as it offers excellent sakura viewing seats. It passes by Kansai region’s sakura-covered mountain ranges and valleys that transform into a mesmerizing sea of bright pink once the flowers are in full bloom.
Chuo Main Line
The Chuo Main Line is a 425-kilometer long railway line that provides a convenient connection between Aichi Prefecture and Tokyo. If you are in Tokyo, you can catch it at Tokyo Station, and enjoy a scenic ride to its terminal point, Nagoya Station, in Nagoya.
Along the way, you are treated to the diverse natural sceneries of the rural towns of Gifu, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, and Nagano. If you ride it in April, you can get lucky and catch the countless cherry trees in peak bloom. Moreover, in November, you can get a chance to view the stunning autumn colors that blanket the countryside.
The Gono Line is a train line that runs in the northern parts of Japan. It links Aomori Prefecture and Akita Prefecture, and is almost 150 kilometers long. Its tracks follow the Sea of Japan coast, so any journey is guaranteed gorgeous views of the pristine waters and skies.
Any time of the year, you can enjoy a serene train ride aboard it to take advantage of many opportunities for great photos of nature, waterscapes, and landscapes. If you visit in December, January, or February, you can capture the all-white, winter wonderland scenery around, most notably the snow-covered caps of towering Mount Iwaki in the distance.
The Sotobo Line is a 93.3-kilometer long line operated by JR East. It runs between Chiba Station in Chiba and Awa-Kamogawa Station in Kamogawa.
Along the way, you can enjoy views of the attractive natural scenery surrounding the cities of Katsuura, Onjuku, Isumi, Ichinomiya, Chosei, Mobara, and Oamishirasato. You can also see the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, as the tracks run not too far away from the coast.
The Hisatsu Line is a JR Kyushu line that connects Kagoshima Prefecture and Kumamoto Prefecture. It is 124.2 kilometers long, and runs between Hayato Station and Yatsushiro Station.
The train ride takes you to the hidden gems of Kyushu that not a lot of tourists get a chance to see. In the autumn months, the scenery along the way is most especially breathtaking, as the thick forests that cover the mountains display bright and dazzling shades of red and orange.
Kurobe Gorge Main Line
The Kurobe Gorge Main Line is a private railway line that operates in Toyama Prefecture. It measures 20 kilometers in length, and runs between Keyakidaira Station and Unazuki Station.
If you decide to do an entire one-way ride, you get to see some of the most interesting and captivating natural views in the country. Your eyes will feast on very impressive mountains and valleys covered with thriving forests, amazing views of the abyss, cliffs, and rock formations, and many more. It is highly recommended to try it in the autumn season, as the autumn foliage that blankets the Northern Japan Alps is simply splendid.
Oigawa Main Line
The Oigawa Main Line is a private train line that operates in Shizuoka Prefecture. It is 39.5 kilometers long, and runs between Kanaya Station in Shimada and Senzu Station in Kawanehon.
Most of the journey is through the quiet and isolated parts of the region, passing through long stretches of fields, mountains, and countrysides. Along the way, you can stop by a hot spring town to enjoy a quick and relaxing dip, or a small town where you can start your hike to the Southern Alps National Park.