Kurobe Gorge in Toyama Prefecture is one of the most famous V-shaped gorges listed in the "Three Great Valleys" and the "100 Best Unexplored Areas" in Japan. It spans a total length of 86 km and an elevation difference of about 3,000 m from top to bottom. The "Kurobe Gorge Torokko (Trolley) Train" is a popular attraction that ferries visitors through the magnificent canyon carved by nature while enjoying a comfortable swaying sensation. The train offers different scenery throughout each of the four seasons, making it a place you will want to visit time and time again.
Kurobe Gorge is the deepest and vastest gorge in Japan, formed throughout the eons by Kurobe River, which flows between the Tateyama and Gotateyama mountain ranges. The gorge was an unexplored region that did not attract people until Japan's Taisho Period (1912-1926). During this time, the development of the Kurobe Gorge was promoted when construction work began on a power plant to utilize Kurobe River, a steep river with high rainfall, for hydroelectric power generation.
The "Kurobe Gorge Torokko Train," now popular among tourists, was originally built to transport materials used in the construction of the power plant and was also a means of transportation for local residents. Over time, visitors to the region began to utilize the train, and in 1953 it was converted to better accommodate passengers. Since then, it has supported tourism in the Kurobe Gorge to this day.
In the Kurobe Gorge, you can take the trolley train to take in numerous spectacular views and beautiful scenes of nature. The "Shin Yamabiko Bridge" is a beautiful red steel bridge that you cross immediately after boarding the trolley train from Unazuki Station. The bridge stands a staggering 40 meters above the mountain stream, and if you are brave enough to look down from the window, you may find yourself holding your breath. Later, as the train continues on, the emerald green surface of Lake Unazuki comes into view, and the bright red of the bridge on the surface of the lake is an enchanting sight to capture in a photograph. The "Monkey Suspension Bridge" was built so that the monkeys that live in the mountains could cross to the other side of the river after the dam was built. If you are lucky, you can get a glimpse of them crossing the bridge in groups.
After departing Kuronagi Station, the first station on the trolley train line, you will arrive at a very thrilling spot. "Gobiki Bridge," which spans the deepest and steepest valley along the line, stands about 60 meters above the riverbed and is a spectacular sight to take in from the train window. The bridge was named after a mountain climber who fell back due to the sheer depth of the valley, and a breathtaking view is yours to behold from this vantage point.
After savoring the view from the trolley, visitors can alight and explore the rugged terrain on foot. Kanetsuri Station lies in close proximity to many unexplored spots such as "Kurobe Mannen Yuki" where you can see firn (compacted snow that lasts all year round), while Keyakidaira Station offers "Sarutobikyo," a signature spot of Kurobe Gorge selected as both a special national natural monument and a special scenic beauty spot.
Getting there and around
■From JR Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station (about 2 hours and 30 minutes), walk approx. 5 minutes from Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station to Shin-Kurobe Station, then take the Toyama Local Railway to Unazuki Onsen Station (about 25 minutes).
■From JR Nagoya Station, take the Shirasagi express train to Kanazawa Station (about 3 hours), transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station (about 35 minutes), walk about 5 minutes to Shin-Kurobe Station then take the Toyama Chiho Railway to Unazuki Onsen Station (about 25 minutes).
■From JR Osaka Station, take the JR Thunderbird limited express train to Kanazawa Station (about 2 hours and 40 minutes), transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station (about 35 minutes), walk about 5 minutes to Shin-Kurobe Station then take the Toyama Chiho Railway to Unazuki Onsen Station (about 25 minutes).
Just a few minutes walk from Keyakidaira Station, the last stop on the trolley train line, the "Footbath at Kawara（riverside) Viewing Platform" can be found right beside Kurobe River. Here, visitors can soothe their feet weary from walking while gazing at the pristine river and magnificent mountains that surround. The footbath also offers a different perspective to take in the spectacular view of the 34-meter-high Okukane Bridge.
Also a short walk from Keyakidaira Station, the last stop of the trolley train, visitors will encounter "Okukane Bridge," a scarlet bridge passing over Kurobe River. Its impressive height of 34 meters makes this bridge a superb spot to take in mountains such as Mt. Okukane and Mt. Meiken. Enjoy the scenery of the great valley carved by Mother Nature's hand alone. In the fall, visitors are treated to the breathtaking sight of the surrounding mountains as they transform into a patchwork of auburn, gold, and bronze.
Sarutobikyo Gorge, located a short distance from the trolley train's last stop, Keyakidaira Station, is one of only two spots in Japan designated as both a national special natural monument and a special scenic beauty spot, and is one of the most beautiful spots Kurobe Gorge has to offer. Here at Sarutobikyo Gorge, Kurobe River is at its narrowest, and the gorge's name derives from the fact that monkeys once jumped over it in the past ("Saru" meaning monkey and "tobi" meaning "to jump.") Currently, however, the road is closed due to falling rocks. Please check the latest conditions upon your visit.
By using the dedicated smartphone app "Omotenashi Guide," the tour guide's commentary broadcasted through the speakers of the trolley train is translated into English, Korean, and Chinese.
Unique Local Experiences
One of the enjoyable features of the tour is the sightseeing guide along Kurobe Gorge led by Muroi Shigeru, a Toyama-born actress. Using a smartphone application, non-Japanese speakers can enjoy both written information and audio in English and other languages in real-time.
Travel Advice and Tips
Visitors can choose from either the windowless (standard) or windowed (relaxation) carriages of the trolly train. For those who wish to take pictures and enjoy a sense of openness, we recommend the windowless standard carriages, while for those who want a relaxing trip during chilly weather, etc., we recommend the relaxation carriages (with windows).
Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather if you do decide to take the standard train. Since the train will turn around and return along the same route, one suggestion is taking a standard carriage on the outbound trip, then switching to a relaxation carriage on the return trip.
Established in 1937, Enraku is the crown jewel hotel of Unazuki Onsen, with its spectacular view of Kurobe Gorge. All rooms at Enraku face the gorge, allowing guests to enjoy the dynamic seasonal beauty of the valley from every room. Surrounded by ca....