Kurobe Gorge is an Unexplored Region That Can Only be Reached by Trolley Train!
The Kurobe Gorge trolley train runs along the Kurobe River from Unazuki Station to Keyakidaira Station in Kurobe City. The tracks span 20.1km, and it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to traverse it one way. There are many highlights of Kurobe Gorge along this railway! This guide will introduce you to spots where you can fully enjoy the unexplored wilderness and a hidden hot spring. Then, the hot spring resort "Unazuki Onsen," which makes a great vantage point for seeing the vast nature of Kurobe Gorge, will also be introduced. Please enjoy it along with your trolley train trip.
An Unexplored Region Discovered Due to the Construction of Power Plants on the Kurobe River: The History of the Kurobe Gorge and Railway
The Kurobe Gorge Railway is affectionately known as the trolley train. There is a long history before trains started running in the unexplored area of Kurobe Gorge. This area, which was off-limits to people in the past, has a steep river and receives plenty of rainfall, making it a suitable topography for building hydroelectric power plants. In 1923, the trolley train tracks were laid to serve as a railway for transporting construction materials. Although the construction work was extremely challenging, several power plants were successfully built up the Kurobe River, including Yanagawara, Kurobe River No. 2, Kurobe River No. 3, and Kurobe River No. 4. Among them, the Kurobe River No. 4 Power Station is commonly called “Kuroyon,” and is still talked about as one of the greatest construction projects of the century. The trolley trains used to transport materials continued to run to serve the local people in their day-to-day lives, but gradually, tourists began to ride them as well. In 1953, the trolley train transitioned to passenger transport under the name "Kurobe Railway," and tourism in Kurobe Gorge began to prosper.
Kurobe Gorge, One of Japan's Most Famous V-Shaped Gorges
Kurobe Gorge, one of the most famous V-shaped gorges in Japan, is deeply carved into the Northern Alps. It is also one of Japan's Three Major Gorges and one of Japan's Top 100 Unexplored Regions. The Kurobe Gorge originates from Mount Washiba in the center of the Northern Alps and forms a steep, deep V-shaped gorge in the upper and middle reaches of the Kurobe River, which is 86 km long and flows down 3,000 m in altitude.
Although the area is covered with deep snow in winter, it is crowded with tourists from mid-April to the end of November when the trolley train operates. The untouched nature and seasonal valleys seen from inside the car are truly spectacular views, especially during the autumn leaves when the entire canyon turns bright red and yellow, which is the best season.
A Trolley Train Running through Nature
A trolley train runs through the magnificent valley from mid-April to the end of November. There are two types of passenger cars, and it's fun choosing one to match your mood and reason for travel.
Regular passenger car
An open type with no windows. The rows of seating are for four people each. Fares only. You can feel the wind blowing through the car, listen to the murmuring of the Kurobe River, and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Relaxing passenger car
A type with windows that can be opened and closed. The seats are convertible cross seats that seat three people in a row. Regular fare plus 530 yen. You can enjoy your trip in peace, and depending on the time of day, there are barrier-free passenger cars with large entrances and exits.
All seating capacity is fixed, so everyone can sit and enjoy the trip. The canyon can be chilly even in summer, so if you're going to take a regular passenger car, it's best to bring a jacket!
Enjoy the Spectacular View from the Window of the Trolley Train!
The best part of riding a trolley train is enjoying the spectacular scenery from the windows! Along with the clear waters of the Kurobe River, you can enjoy fresh greenery in spring and fiery autumn leaves in autumn. On the way there, the best viewing spots are concentrated on the right-hand side in the direction of travel, so be careful where you sit. In addition, the on-board announcement will introduce you to the highlights of Kurobe Gorge. Enjoy the spectacular views while listening to the wonderful narration by Shigeru Muroi, a native of Toyama Prefecture!
Between Unazuki Station and Kuronagi Station
As soon as you leave on the first train from Unazuki Station, you'll find many things to see!
Immediately after leaving Unazuki Station, there is a crimson iron bridge you’ll first cross. The height above the mountain stream is about 40 meters, and when you look down from the train, you can't help but cheer! The name comes from the fact that the sound of trains crossing the iron bridge can be heard in the hot spring town, similar to an echo, or “yamabiko” in Japanese.
An artificial lake created by the completion of the Unazuki Dam. The emerald green surface of the lake and the great nature of Kurobe Gorge are so beautiful that it makes you want to capture it in photos. There is a suspension bridge (monkey bridge) built to allow monkeys to cross to the other side of the lake, and if you're lucky, you might even see them crossing!
Shin-Yanagawara Power Plant
The beautiful appearance reminiscent of an old European castle floating on a lake is actually a canal-type hydroelectric power plant! It was built in 1993 to replace the Yanagawara Power Plant, which was submerged due to the completion of the Unazuki Dam.
Between Kuronagi Station and Kanetsuri Station
Once you pass Kuronagi Station, the natural beauty of the valley continues!
The blue iron bridge that you cross immediately after leaving Kuronagi Station. The bridge spans the steepest valley along the line, which is about 60 meters to the bottom of the Kuronagi River! It is called "atobiki” (which means “trail behind”) because climbers instinctively stepped back due to the depth of the valley. You can enjoy the thrilling scenery from the train window!
"Dashiroppo'' can be seen behind the Dashidaira Dam, which is located a little before Dashidaira Station. The top of one large mountain is divided into six towering peaks. In the calm atmosphere of the gorge, the sight of the ridge cutting into the lake looks like an ink painting.
Nezumigaeshi no Ganpeki (“Rat-Preventer” Cliff)
A large rock wall approximately 200 m high that can be seen from the area approaching Nekomata Station! It got this name because it is so steep that even a mouse chased by a cat could not climb it and had to turn back. During autumn, you will be fascinated by the beautiful autumn leaves on the rock surface.
Get off the Trolley and Experience an Unexplored Region!
After enjoying the scenery from the train window, let's get off the trolley train! The area around Keyakidaira Station, the last stop from Kanetsuri Station, is full of attractions such as spots where you can feel the great outdoors, secret hot springs, and opportunities to walk in unexplored areas. You cannot get off the train with a round-trip ticket, so if you want to go to a spot along the way, buy a one-way ticket to the first station you want to get off at.
Around Kanetsuri Station
You can also enjoy spots unique to this unexplored region around Kanetsuri Station.
From Kanetsuri Station, go down the stairs heading to the Kurobe River for about 10 minutes. Enjoy playing in the water on this riverbank! Cool off in the summer by soaking your hands and feet in the cool water. A hot spring also gushes here, and you can enjoy rock baths and footbaths.
Kurobe Mannen Yuki Observation Deck
The snow that falls on Mt. Meiken piles up in the valleys due to avalanches, and winter can sometimes arrive before all the snow from the previous winter has melted, hence the name "perpetual snow.” You can see the snow-covered valley up close to the observation deck on the opposite bank. The best time to visit is from around May to early summer. It’s about a 3-minute walk from Kanetsuri Station.
Kanetsuri Station Switchback, A Rare Sight in Japan
The Kurobe Gorge has precipitous cliffs. With slopes on both sides, Kanetsuri Station is very narrow – wide enough for only one train to pass at a time – so the station uses a method called "switchback" to switch between inbound and outbound trains. From the main railway, a train first moves into a track on the side and stops. When it departs, it backs up to reenter the main line and moves along. This “switchback” system, which is one of only a few in Japan, is a must-see not only for railway fans!
Around Keyakidaira Station
We will introduce the representative spots around Keyakidaira Station.
This spot, which is representative of Kurobe Gorge, has been selected as both a national natural monument and a special place of scenic beauty. It is the narrowest part of the main river in the Kurobe Gorge, and boasts spectacular scenery of the cliffs on both banks. It’s also known as the Keiun Canyon. (As the promenade is currently under repair, travelers cannot go to Sarutobi Canyon at this time.)
The vermilion-painted bridge that spans the main stream of the Kurobe River offers a spectacular view of Mt. Okukane and Mt. Meiken. The impressive scenery from a height of 34 meters will take you in. The contrast between the vermillion color of the bridge and the mountains seen from the rooftop observation deck of Keyakidaira Station is a must-see.
Hitokui Iwa (Man-Eating Rock)
When you cross Okukane Bridge from Keyakidaira Station, you will see a sidewalk carved out of a rock wall. The rock surface looming overhead looks as if it will swallow people walking, making it very impressive! It is a popular photo spot.
Keyaki-Daira Visitor Center
Introducing the nature and development of Kurobe Gorge. They provide real-time information on spots around Keyakidaira and the status of mountain trails. There are large wooden benches in the square, where you can easily take a break while strolling.
Let's Visit Secret Hot Springs Only Accessible by Trolley!
We will introduce the secret hot springs among the secret hot springs of Kurobe Gorge.
Kuronagi Onsen Ryokan (Kuronagi Station)
The oldest onsen (hot spring) in the canyon, discovered in 1645. The large mixed open-air bath is adjacent to the riverbed, so you can spend a relaxing time surrounded by nature. There is also an open-air bath and indoor bath for women only, so you can also enjoy day trip bathing. About a 20-minute walk from Kuronagi Station.
Kanetsuri Miyamaso (Kanetsuri Station)
Adjacent to Kanetsuri Station, with perpetual snow on the opposite bank of the Kurobe River, you can leisurely enjoy the nature of Kurobe Gorge. You can see the trolley train running from your room window, and you can also enjoy overnight stays and light meals.
Sarutobi Sanso (Keyakidaira Station)
About a 5-minute walk from Keyakidaira Station. Sarutobi Sanso is a place where you can stop during your walk to take a day trip bath or have a relaxing meal. The open-air baths, surrounded by the virgin forest of the gorge, are separated by gender, allowing you to enjoy the atmosphere of a hidden hot spring. You can also enjoy dishes using rockfish and wild vegetables.
Meiken Onsen (Keyakidaira Station)
Meiken Onsen is located on the cliffs along the Babadani River. The open-air bath has a spectacular view overlooking the gorge! Soaking in a hot spring while listening to the sound of a waterfall is something special, and the clean rooms and wild vegetable dishes will soothe the fatigue of your travels. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Keyakidaira Station.
Babadani Onsen (Keyakidaira Station)
About a 60-minute walk from Keyakidaira Station, this inn located deep in the Kurobe Gorge is truly an unexplored hot spring! The open-air bath along the valley has a great sense of openness. On the riverbank, you can enjoy creating your own private open-air bath using the hot spring water and river water.
Before or After Your Trolley Ride: Refresh Yourself at Unazuki Onsen
Unazuki Onsen, the gateway to Kurobe Gorge, is Toyama Prefecture's largest hot spring resort. Since it opened in 1923, it has been crowded with tourists. The hot springs at Unazuki Onsen are famous as “hot springs for beautiful skin”! The colorless, transparent, slightly alkaline spring quality is said to be the clearest in Japan, and is gentle on the skin, making it the perfect treat for yourself. We recommend visiting during the winter season as well as from April to November when the trolley train runs. The temperature of the hot spring water is as high as 90 degrees, warming you from the core and soothing your mind and body. In the hot spring town, in addition to sightseeing spots and delicious gourmet food, there are many attractions such as footbaths and day-trip hot springs that you can stop by while strolling! Please relax and enjoy yourself.
Take a Leisurely Stroll through a Hot Spring Town Full of Emotion
This small hot spring town is perfect for a walk.
A Hot Spring Fountain
The symbol of the hot spring town located at Unazuki Onsen Station on the Toyama Chihou Railway. It was built in 1973 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Unazuki Onsen. The abundant, approximately 60-degree hot water drawn from Kuronagi Onsen of Kurobe Gorge steams with vigor.
Yamabiko Bridge/Yamabiko Walkway
A view spot where you can see Kurobe Gorge, Yamabiko Bridge, and the trolley train all at once. The former railway "Yamabiko Bridge" has been turned into a walkway, and you can fully enjoy the charm of Kurobe Gorge while taking a stroll. Why not wait for the trolley train to pass and take a photo?
Kurobe Unazuki International Hall SELENE
The “Kurobe Gorge Japanese Painting Exhibition,'' drawn by painters representing the contemporary Japanese art world, is on permanent display. There is also a corner where everyone from children to adults can easily experience creating. It also has a cafe and shop, so it's recommended when you stop by Unazuki Onsen!
Omokage Observation Platform
The mysterious giant object in the hot spring town is actually an observation deck! It was designed by the famous Spanish architect Enric Miralles and is said to be inspired by the appearance of a bird taking flight into the sky. You can see the Kurobe River and the surrounding mountains, making it perfect for taking commemorative photos.
Kurobe River Electricity Memorial
A memorial hall that introduces the history of Kurobe River power development, the nature of Kurobe Gorge, and hydroelectric power generation. Inside the hall, there are displays of models of watermills, including the "Kuroyon,'' a major construction project of the century that is conveyed through valuable images and graphics from before the war. Enjoy a theater where you can experience the trolley train running on the Kurobe Gorge Railway!
Winter is here! Unazuki Onsen Ski Land
Unazuki Snow Park is a ski resort located about a 5-minute walk from Unazuki Onsen Station. The slopes are completely open for skiing and snowboarding! There are two lifts, and even beginners can enjoy the compact slope with confidence. There is also a kid’s zone, so kids can enjoy playing in the snow to their heart’s content! We also have rental equipment such as tools, sleds, and clothing. Please feel free to enjoy winter sports in combination with hot springs. There are also events such as a snow carnival and snow fireworks festival every February!See More
Gourmet Food to Enjoy at Unazuki Onsen
Enjoy gourmet food only found here!
A specialty cheesecake store located on the first floor of Unazuki Onsen Station. The popular texture and cheese flavor practically melt in your mouth! The “Phantom Alpen Cheesecake,” which is available only in the store cafe space, has an expiry date of only 10 minutes!
A stylish coffee shop located right next to Unazuki Onsen Station. Mozart's music plays inside the restaurant, and you can witness the Mozart-inspired interior design and menu. Why not stop by for a break while strolling?
Right next to Unazuki Onsen Station. "Kajika" is a popular restaurant serving dishes such as “kamameshi” and “oden.” In 2021, a kamameshi vending machine was also made available in front of Unazuki Station of Kurobe Gorge Railway! You can easily eat outside without having to wait. The menu is extensive and authentic.
Unazuki/Kurobe Eating Tour Coupon
Visit, look, choose, and taste it! Let's enjoy all of "Kurobe" that can only be tasted here! Choose your three favorites among the popular restaurants in Kurobe City and eat around.♪ Why not try out some delicious sweets and local food at great value? Each coupon costs 500 yen (tax included) and includes a discount ticket for admission to the Kurobe Unazuki International Hall SELENE.
Take a Break at a Footbath or Day Trip Hot Spring During Your Walk
There are many footbaths and day trip hot springs in Unazuki Onsen town that you can easily enjoy!
Footbath at the Station. "Kuronagi"
A footbath located on the platform of Unazuki Onsen Station. A simple and gentle alkaline hot spring drawn from the Kuronagi source of Unazuki Onsen. You can use it from both inside and outside the station, allowing you to relax and refresh while watching the trains come and go.
An Unazuki Onsen Public Bath: "Yumedokoro Unazuki"
A public bath located about a 1-minute walk from Unazuki Onsen Station. Both the indoor bath "Momo no Yu'' and the open-air bath "Tsukimi no Yu'' are fed directly from the source. Footbaths and medicinal hot springs are free! There are also plenty of amenities and an "Unazuki Onsen Tourist Information Center" on the first floor, so please feel free to stop by.
Foot Bath Cafe, Bonfino
A cafe right next to Unazuki Onsen Station, where a trolley train runs right in front of you. There is a footbath with natural hot spring water on the open deck, and you can enjoy our carefully selected coffee and ice cream while relaxing!
Unazuki Onsen Foot Bath "Omokage"
Warm your mind and body while feeling the slow flow of time at Unazuki Onsen! The footbath located in a corner of Unazuki Park, about a 5-minute walk from Unazuki Onsen Station, is a place for locals and tourists to talk. Natural stones from the Kurobe River are used for the soles of your feet.
A Day Trip to a Natural Hot Spring: Tochi no Yu (Tochi Hot Spring)
A hot spring bathing facility located on the shores of Unazuki Lake. The natural hot spring open-air bath with the Kurobe Gorge and lake in front of you is in the best location! You can also see a trolley train running on the opposite bank. There are rest areas such as terraces and snacks available, so you can have a relaxing time.
Gorgeous Fireworks Lighting Up Kurobe Gorge
At Unazuki Onsen, there are fireworks festivals in summer and winter, and it is filled with tourists every year. The beautiful fireworks set against the backdrop of nature and the thrilling echoes reverberating through the mountains are thrills unique to Unazuki! Especially in winter, the sight of colorful fireworks shooting off against the clear night sky is truly magical.
In summer, the fireworks display is yearly on August 18th, while in winter, it’s every Saturday from 8:30 pm during the period.
Let's Stay at Unazuki Onsen
For those who are thinking, "I also want to enjoy the secluded areas of Kurobe Gorge" or "I want to be healed slowly in a hot spring," you can stay at Unazuki Onsen and enjoy both. Enjoy your trip in an open-air bath with a panoramic view, and during dinner, you can fully enjoy the delicacies of Toyama Bay.
Unazuki Onsen 100th Anniversary Ticket
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Unazuki Onsen, special tickets that combine round-trip tickets, souvenir tickets, and day-trip bath tickets will be sold, along with 100th-anniversary original towelsClick here for more details
You Might Also Like
The Best Kaisendon Seafood Bowls Around Toyama Bay
Toyama Black Ramen and Where to Eat It
At Toyama’s Hot Springs, Let Famous Hot Springs and Spectacular Views Soothe You, and Bounties from the Mountains and the Sea Satiate You
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route: A Spectacle-Studded Journey Across the North Japan Alps
Try Out Waterfall Meditation at Oiwasan Nisseki-ji Temple and Taste Kamiichi Town’s Famous Somen Noodles and Wild Vegetable Dishes
Kurobe Gorge: Secluded Hot Springs, Scenic Walks, and Spectacular Scenery
Perfect Places for Panoramas of the Tateyama Mountains
Must-visit: Toyama's Best Autumn Foliage Spots!
Stylish Stays in Toyama
Uncovering Toyama’s Cultural Heritage
Experience Toyama Sustainably
Enjoy Spring in Toyama! Events and Festivals Edition
Sake Tasting in Toyama
ACanal Cruise from Fugan Canal Kansui Park to the Port Town of Iwase, which Prospered through the Kitamaebune Trade (Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture)
Toyama Gift Guide: Snacks and Souvenirs at Toyama Train Station
Stroll Around the Uchikawa Area in Kimono and Ride a Cruise Towards Toyama Bay (the Uchikawa Area, Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture)
Rent a Bicycle and Go Cycling Along the Scenic Coastline of Toyama Bay (Himi City to Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture)
Rent a Bicycle, and Let's Ride Along the Toyama Bay Cycling Course!
A Selection of Recommended Souvenirs from Toyama