An excellent way to see the beauty of Japan’s countryside is by taking the train. Below are some of the best train routes to enjoy the country’s natural scenery. You can use your Japan Rail Pass to enjoy the views on many of these routes.
1. Hisatsu Line (Kumamoto Prefecture to Kagoshima Prefecture)
Connecting Yatsushiro Station in Kumamoto Prefecture and Hayato Station in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Hisatsu Line is a JR Kyushu railway line that spans 124.2 kilometers of some of the most impressive natural scenery in Japan. It goes over the Kuma River, passes through the mountains of Kirishima, and goes past the thriving forests of Kyushu.
2. Hanwa Line (Osaka Prefecture to Wakayama Prefecture)
A good way to enjoy the sakura season is via the Hanwa Line, which is a commuter train line operated by JR West. It extends 63.1 kilometers from Osaka’s Tennoji Station to Wakayama’s Wakayama Station. Along the way, passengers get the best seats to get a glimpse of the countless cherry trees in full bloom in the valleys and mountains on this part of the Kansai region, especially towards the end of March.
3. Sagano Scenic Railway (Kyoto)
A popular sightseeing train line in Kyoto, the Sagano Scenic Railway is a 7.3-kilometer-long line that showcases the natural beauty of this historic city. Featuring train cars with wooden benches and traditional designs, it runs at slower-than-usual speeds, as it follows the Hozugawa River, to allow the passengers to take in the magnificent scenery. In autumn, it is one of the most popular ways to view Kyoto’s autumn foliage. It is not covered by the JR Pass, so passengers must purchase reserved seat tickets.
4. Takayama Main Line (Gifu Prefecture)
A train line that connects Gifu and Toyama, Takayama Main Line is a JR West Company railway line that provides opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous landscapes of the prefecture. The journey from Gifu Station to Toyama Station takes you on a memorable sightseeing experience, as you pass by the impressive rugged mountains and valleys, and the pristine and immaculate rivers on the way to Toyama. In the summer months, the surroundings are refreshingly green, and in the winter season, they are snow-covered and look magical.
5. Kurobe Gorge Main Line (Toyama Prefecture)
Run by the private railway company Kurobe Gorge Railway, the Kurobe Gorge Main Line is a sightseeing train that runs along the Kurobe River, affording picture-worthy views of the mountains, cliffs, valleys, and ravines of the Northern Japan Alps. It covers a distance of 20 kilometers, from Unazuki Station to Keyakidaira Station, and takes about an hour and 20 minutes to complete a one-way trip, passing through dozens of tunnels and going over 20 bridges. It is only open for operation around the middle of April until the end of November, and is most popular in the autumn season, when the trees along the slopes have turned red and orange.
6. Gono line (Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture)
The Gono Line, which is a railway line managed by the JR East, connects Akita Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture, two of Japan’s northernmost prefectures. Measuring 147.2 kilometers in length, it runs along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and offers beautiful views of the waters and the horizon. In the winter, it showcases a snow-covered scenery, including the breathtaking 1,625-meter tall Mount Iwaki.
7. Hakone Tozan Line (Kanagawa Prefecture)
The Hakone Tozan Line is a sightseeing train line owned by the Odakyu Group. It runs from Odawara Station in Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto Station in Hakone. Throughout the 15-kilometer-long ride, passengers are treated to the amazing sights of thick forested valleys and mountains, and colorful flowers by the tracks that are most especially stunning in June and July when in full bloom.
8. Oigawa Main Line (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Owned by private railway company Oigawa Railway, the Oigawa Main Line is a railway line that provides a connection between Kanaya Station in Shimada and Senzu Station in Kawanehon. It offers excellent views of the mountains, river, and countryside, and a chance to spot some interesting wildlife.
9. Sotobo Line (Chiba Prefecture)
Operated by the JR East Company, Sotobo Line is a railway line that links Chiba and Kamogawa. Starting in Chiba, it passes through some of the other cities in the prefecture, including Oami-Shirasato, Mobara, Isumi, and Katsuura, and offers scenic views of the rural countryside. As it runs along the coast and approaches Kamogawa, passengers can also enjoy fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean.
10. Chuo Main Line (Tokyo to Aichi Prefecture)
About 425 kilometers long, the Chuo Main Line is one of Japan’s major trunk railway lines. It links Tokyo and Nagoya, starting at Tokyo Station and ending at Nagoya Station. It passes through several scenic places, through the countrysides of Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano, and Gifu. In spring and autumn, the sights that it affords are simply breathtaking — cherry blossoms in full bloom and autumn foliage that cover the hills, mountains, and fields.