Japan has an extensive train network that connects almost all parts of Japan. Riding a train through rural Japan may be a quite unique experience for foreign visitors. This post was written by one of the staff members of our company NeoWing who loves travel and photography. Enjoy!
Tadami line is a 135 km long JR East line that connects Aizu-Wakamatsu station in Fukushima prefecture and Koide station in Niigata prefecture. It is a single-track, non-electrified local line. Most of the trains that run on this line are diesel locomotives while steam locomotives and trolley trains run occasionally, which are popular among the tourists and rail-fans.
At a leisurely pace, Tadami line runs through the serene countryside where people live closely to the nature in satoyama, the border area between mountain foothills and flat land. Especially along the Tadami River, the view from the train is stunning. The train goes over a number of bridges passing cherry blossoms in spring, fresh greenery in summer, colored leaves in autumn, and snow in winter.
Unfortunately, the section between Aizu-Kawaguchi station and Tadami station has been closed since 2011 after the bridge was washed away by severe rainstorm. Buses are running as free alternative transportation at the moment and reopening of the section has not been announced. In this article, we will introduce the highlights of the travel by Tadami line between Aizu-Wakamatsu and Aizu-Kawaguchi stations.
Aizu-Wakamatsu is a city in Fukushima prefecture where Aizu-Wakamatsu station, the starting point of Tadami line is located. It is a popular tourist site especially for those who are into Japanese history. There’re many historical buildings including Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle, also known as Tsuruga Castle, local crafts shops, traditional restaurants, as well as sake(rice wine) breweries in the city.
There are only seven trains run daily on Tadami line that depart from Aizu-Wakamatsu station to Aizu-Kawaguchi direction. One of them operates only until Aizu-Bange station. Travelers must check the time table when traveling on a train as it can be unexpected. For instance, the second train among the seven trains that depart Aizu-Wakamatsu everyday is at 7:37 am and the next one is 1:09 pm. (As of May, 2015.)
The train departs Aizu-Wakamatsu and runs through the city to the southern side of Aizu Basin. In the morning on weekdays, you will encounter students having lively conversations on the train. It is very different from how people in Tokyo are silent on the commuter train.
Find out more about Aizu-Wakamatsu on the official website by Aizu-Wakamatsu city.
Aizu-Hongo is known as the town of Aizu-Hongo yaki pottery. There is not much to see around the station but there is an area with many potteries in about 10-min walking distance. Some potteries allow visitors to tour around the pottery and buy the works, while some offer classes to experience making a pottery.
Aizu-Bange station is a relatively big station and is one of the few manned stations along Tadami line. (There are only six manned stations between Wakamatsu and Kawaguchi.) This town is the hometown of “the first Enka (traditional Japanese ballad) singer”, Kasuga Hachiro, and there is his statue in front of the station, as well as a memorial park and a museum in the town.
For those interested in Buddhist statues, there is one of the highest wooden Buddhist statues in Japan designated as a national important cultural property in this town. You can visit the 8.5 m tall Tachiki Kannonin Eryuji temple.
As the train departs Aizu-Bange, the train goes into mountain areas. The diesel engine starts to roar and the speed slows down.
Continues to the next post: Travel Japan on a Train: Tadami Line (2/3)
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