June 21, 2024
Nagaragawa Railway


Gujo Hachiman is a little onsen town, tucked away into the mountains of Gifu. Known for their summer Ōbondori dances, and its pristine, fresh water. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that two rivers run through the town. The Kodara River joins the Yoshida River, before flowing into the Nagara River – one of the three great rivers of the Kiso. To get to Gujo Hachiman by public transport, the best (and most scenic) way is with the Nagaragawa Railway.

The Nagaragawa Railway is a quaint, little, sightseeing train, built in the style reminiscent of the 1920s Taishō era streetcars. There are 3 different kinds of trains on the Nagaragawa Railway; the Morigo (No. 1), the Ayugo (No. 2), and the Kawakaze (No. 3).

View from the Nagaragawa Railway

(View from the Nagaragawa Railway)

The Nagaragawa Railway follows along the Nagara river

(The Nagaragawa Railway follows along the Nagara river)

The gleaming emerald water amidst the mountains is an awe inspiring sight

(The gleaming emerald water amidst the mountains is an awe inspiring sight)

All of the trains are single-car trains, and its bold, red exterior makes it easy to spot in any season. The interior of the train is made with wood from the forests of Gifu, and seating in the train is in the style of booths – much like an old-school diner, with bespoke wooden tables that lie in between the seats. Bar counter seating lines some of the windows, too, making it the ultimate spot for sightseeing. Drinks and small snacks can also be purchased at the service counter on board. The three trains differ slightly in design and style, but the interiors of all services conjure a sense of wonder and nostalgia at the quaint, and well-maintained environment inside the cabins.

The train’s route follows the course of the Nagara River as it cuts through the mountain passes, dividing the valley in which Gujo Hachiman sits. You can get some magnificent views of the mountains and the clear, gleaming rivers. There is a special service train (which runs three times a day in the summers on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays), there is a guided tour on the train into the mountain passes. This special train pauses at the most scenic points of the journey, letting tourists take in the view of the valley and the gleaming Nagara river.

As these trains are small compared to the full sized, 10-carriage varieties that we see regularly, it takes a little luck and some nimbleness to hurry aboard when you spot one at Mino-ota Station.

GETTING THERE

The Nagaragawa Railway begins its journey from Mino-Ōta Station in Gifu. If you’re getting there from Nagoya Station, you can take the JR Tokaido Line to JR Gifu Station. Switch platforms for the JR Takayama line, and alight after 7 stops at Mino-Ōta station. Tap out, and follow signs for the Nagaragawa Tetsudo station. The journey from Nagoya Station to Mino-Ōta station takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Tickets for the Nagaragawa Railway can only be bought at a little manned booth on the platform, or from the conductor before the train leaves the station. Reservations for the tourist train can also be made in advance by telephone to the railway company.

Call the Nagara Tourist Train Reservation Center (☎ +81 575-46-8021). For more information about the Nagaragawa Railway, please visit their website at  The website is also offered in English and Chinese in addition to Japanese.

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