The beauty of Japan is legendary. The country has managed to preserve its pristine beauty even after being one of the most developed countries in the world. Ancient history mingles with futuristic ideas and structures, and you can still see geishas walking the streets in Kyoto, which is also a tech paradise. The beauty of the countryside is breathtaking and in different seasons, there are different aspects of the country’s beauty that leaves you spellbound. And the best way to absorb all that beauty is by experiencing through the most beautiful train rides in Japan. Check out our list and buy a railpass to go on the most fascinating scenic journey in your life.
13 most beautiful train rides in Japan
Mount Fuji – Tokaido Shinkansen line
This line is located in Shizuoka Prefecture in the Kanto region, and goes from Tokyo to Kyoto. The famed Mount Fuji can be seen in all its glory from this train. If you’re travelling from Tokyo to Nagoya or Kyoto, then the mountain can be viewed on the right hand side of the train, and if you’re travelling north towards Tokyo then it will be on the left, so plan the seat accordingly. The Japan Railway pass can be used for this line.
Snow Monkey Express
The Nagano Shinkansen train from Tokyo going to Nagano offers an unheard of sight. To catch this sight, board the Nagano Electric Railway’s Snow Monkey Express, one of the scenic train rides from Tokyo, which will carry you through the calm Japanese countryside before reaching a seires of hot springs, known as ‘onsens’. Here you will see dozens of snow monkeys, which have red faces, sitting near the springs and also enjoying a bath in the steaming hot springs.
You can get to the Snow Monkey Park via the bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, then get on the Nagaden bus. The limited express Shinano train to Nagano is also possible, but it takes double the time.
Oigawa Railway’s main attraction happens to be the train. It is an old-fashioned steam locomotive which provides an unique experience. The train meanders through the Shizuoka countryside. The view is best when its fall, the time for leaves to change color and attain the rich fall hues, making nature even more charming and breathtaking.
Hisatsu Line – Kyushu
If you’re a lover of stunning ocean views, then this is the train for you. The Kyushu islands have many attractions and the Hisatsu line passes through many parts of the Kumamoto Prefecture, offering beautiful views. The Kajji station or ‘Sea Road’ station, is another hint at the oceanic views on offer while traveling to Hityoshi city. The Kumagawa, one of the fastest flowing rivers, flows along this line, making it one of the best sightseeing trains.
Hakone Tozan Railway
While visiting Tokyo, you can take one of the scenic train rides from Tokyo, by first going to Odawara by a JR train and then transferring to Hakone Tozan Line. This line is famous for the views of the incredibly beautiful hydrangea flowers which bloom in June, and the colors of the trees in autumn. Hakone has many onsen resorts where you can pamper yourself for a day or two. The line is 15 km long and the view of the natural beauty will forever be etched in your memory.
The Hakone Railway has a great attraction, as you would be visiting one of the most famous Japanese sites – the Mt. Fuji.
Experience the beauty of the Tohoku coastline onboard Sanriku railway. A ride on this train reveals the gorgeous, deep blue ocean as well as mountains, momentous cliff drops along with giant boulders which emerge from the ocean floor. A ride on this train is an experience to remember all year round. To get to Morioka and the Sanriku, get on the scenic train rides from Tokyo on a bullet train. Then after a short road trip, you can hop on the Sanriku Northern line.
Sanriku was destroyed in the tsunami and earthquake of 2011, and it took three years to be rebuilt. The restoration of the Northern line is a matter of pride for the Tohoku residents and a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Japanese.
Hanwa Line – Kansai
Running from Osaka city to Wakayama, this line is perfect for viewing the sakura cherry blossom flowers. The pretty pink and white cherry blossom flowers’ beauty is legendary and you get a chance to absorb all that beauty from this ride. The swaying motion of the cherry blossoms will fill you with peace and happiness. The mountains and the entire countryside is full of these trees in this part of Kansai and the best time to plan a ride is end of the month of March.
Takachiho Amaretsu Railway
If you seek a thrilling experience along with the superb views of the countryside, then this railway is meant for you. It’s an open top train across a 352.5 m and 105 m high bridge, which has a Grand Super Cart. The cart has a glass bottom, allowing the scariest views of the deep ravines below. The cart goes quite slow, 15 km per hour allowing you to get wonderful photos of Takachiho stunning landscape. It’s not for the faint-hearted for sure! But other than this, you can test drive a real train, visit a train garage, and ride the vintage maintenance handcar.
Kurobe Gorge Railway
The Jurobe line was developed to help in the construction of the Kurobe Dam. It was later converted to one of the sightseeing trains of 20 km length through the majestic Japan Alps. There are an astounding 40 tunnels as well as 20 bridges and takes 80 minutes. It runs from mid-April to November end, when the landscape has the most beautiful colors.
Resort Shirakami luxury train (Gono Line, North Honshu)
This line will take you to the northern tip of the Honshu island, from the Akita Prefecture to the Aomori Prefecture. The Resort Shirakami is a Japan luxury train tour you can avail of for an opulent experience. It is booked in advance, but if you are keen on seeing the sights along this line, book a ticket on the special trains or other lines. The spectacular views of the snowscape and the raging waters of the Sea of Japan makes this a thrilling and unforgettable sightseeing experience from a train.
Sagano Scenic Railway Romantic Train
The Sagano is a popular sightseeing train in the Kyoto prefecture. It is a far cry from the superfast bullet trains of Japan. The train is a retrofitted freight one, with a diesel engine. It runs all along the Hozugawa River Ravine, giving tourists and nature lovers a chance to look at the scenery at a slow, comfortable pace. It is only a 7.3 km long track, taking 25 minutes from begging to end. Within that time, the train slows down to allow riders to click snaps.
The best time to go on this train ride is in the autumn when the fall colors make the view even more breathtaking. The train stops at two stations – the Arashiyama Torokko Station, from where you can visit another famous tourist spot – the Bamboo forest. And the other stop is the Hozukyo Torroko, where people get down to access the numerous hiking trails nearby. But do remember, that once you get off the train, your ticket becomes invalid. Don’t make plans for winter or on Wednesdays, as the trains don’t run then.
Twilight express Mizukaze
This is another luxury sleeper train which claims to provide riders the experience of a luxurious hotel going through the serene and beautiful Japanese landscape. The hotel on wheels offers meals by the best chefs, carriages with style and a route through the most fabulous locations. The rides begin and end at the Kyoto or Osaka stations, and the Shimonoseki Station in the Yamaguchi Prefecture. You could choose a 1 night 2 days one way journey or a 2 nights 3 days round trip.
The prices you pay are obviously much higher on a Japan luxury train tour, but it could be well worth the splurge. The Seven Stars, E 26 Series Cassiopeia, Sunrise Izumo/Seto, and Train Suite Shiki-shima are other noteworthy luxury sightseeing Japanese trains.
Takayama Main Line
The Takayama Main Line offers amazing views of the rugged mountains, valleys and the lovely rivers in the prefecture of Gifu as well as Toyoma. Snaking through the mountains, the rivers appear to be the perfect adornments for them. The mountains glitter with snow in winter and in summer the verdant green will take your breath away. You may even glimpse Japan’s famous mountains – Mount Yariagadake and Mount Hotaka, each over 10,000 ft.
Apart from the trains mentioned above, there are some other trains such as the Ninja trains, where ninjas lurk in every corner and you traverse to the land of the ninja – the Iga-Ueno. Japan is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and trip on a train is one of the best ways to experience its serene, glorious beauty.