The Kurobe Gorge is a natural wonder located in the Japanese Alps.
The gorge is known for its nearly vertical cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and stunning views.
Visitors can enjoy various activities in the area, including hiking, fishing, and sightseeing.
How to Travel the Kurobe Gorge
The best way to travel the Kurobe Gorge is by the Kurobe Gorge Railway.
The railway is a narrow-gauge train that runs through the gorge.
It is the only way to access some of the best views in the area.
The ride lasts only 80 minutes and you pass through more than 40 tunnels and travel over 20 bridges.
The train makes a few stops before arriving at the final destination of Keyakidaira Station.
Some of the stops include:
- Unazuki Station (This is the departure station)
- Kuronagi Station
- Kanetsuri Station
- Keyadaira Station (This is the final station where you get off the train and enjoy the rest of your trip to Japan)
The train runs from April 27 to November 30 each year.
There are a few weeks close to opening and closing where only part of the line is in service, so if you want the full experience, visit between May 26 and November 23.
Visit the Kurobe Gorge Railway website for any schedule changes.
This is the railway schedule from May 26 to November 23.
|Unazuki Departure||Kuronagi Departure||Kanetsuri Departure||Keyakidaira Arrival|
|8:17 am||8:41 am||9:13 am||9:33 am|
|9:00 am||9:24 am||9:57 am||10:18 am|
|9:21 am||9:45 am||10:19 am||10:39 am|
|10:03 am||10:27 am||11:01 am||11:21 am|
|10:44 am||11:09 am||11:43 am||12:03 pm|
|11:27 am||11:51 am||12:25 pm||12:45 pm|
|12:09 pm||12:32 pm||1:07 pm||1:27 pm|
|12:50 pm||1:14 pm||1:50 pm||2:12 pm|
|1:32 pm||1:56 pm||2:34 pm||2:54 pm|
|2:14 pm||2:38 pm||3:16 pm||3:36 pm|
|2:56 pm||3:22 pm||3:58 pm||4:18 pm|
Tickets are sold as a one-way fare.
There are 3 different price points for the tickets:
- adult fare
- child fare
- and first class
The cost of the ticket will depend on where you board, and how far you plan on traveling along the gorge.
This is the adult fare breakdown. The most popular ticket is from the first stop at Unazuki station to the final stop at Keyakidaira station.
This trip would cost ¥1,980, or approximately $13.88.
|Boarding From||Traveling to Kuronagi||Traveling to Kanetsuri||Travelling to Keyakidaira|
|Unazuki||¥660 ($4.63)||¥1,410 ($9.88)||¥1,980 ($13.88)|
|Kuronagi||¥760 ($5.33)||¥1,320 ($9.25)|
This is the child fare breakdown.
Children are classified by being between the ages of 6 and 11.
If they are younger than 6 years old they travel for free, and older than 11 they are classified as an adult.
A children’s ticket from Unauki station to Keyakidaira station is ¥990, or approximately $6.94.
|Boarding From||Traveling to Kuronagi||Traveling to Kanetsuri||Traveling to Keyakidaira|
|Unazuki||¥330 ($2.31)||¥710 ($4.98)||¥990 ($6.94)|
|Kuronagi||¥380 ($2.66)||¥660 ($4.63)|
For an additional ¥530, or $3.71, you can upgrade your tickets to have a more comfortable seat.
Discounts are not available on discounted tickets, which means you can’t upgrade a child’s ticket.
Keep In Mind – Not every train has first-class seating available. Availability will depend on the time of year, so it’s best to check the Kurobe Gorge Railway website for the most accurate schedule.
Kurobe Gorge History
The Kurobe Gorge was formed by the Kurobe River, which continues to flow through it today.
The river carved its way through the mountains over millions of years, creating the steep cliffs and stunning views that can be enjoyed today.
The Kurobe Gorge railway wasn’t always a popular tourist attraction.
Construction on the railway started in 1923 as a way to transport building materials down the gorge for water power stations. By 1937 the railroad was finished and construction of the power stations began.
Tourists saw the opportunity to use the railway to travel through the gorge to see the fall colors and the stunning views, and after many requests, the line was renovated to accommodate tourists in 1953.
When to Visit Kurobe Gorge
The Kurobe Gorge is stunning all year round, but for different reasons:
- From April to early June you’ll have the pleasure of seeing everything growing and blooming. You’ll have the cool color palettes of blues from the river and skies and greens from the trees. The stark contrast of the red bridges will make them pop and take the focus in all of your photos.
- Mid-June to July might seem like the best time to see the gorge, but traveling during this time will leave you in the fog. This may seem like a terrible time to travel, but the fog actually creates a mystical and ethereal look that can be quite beautiful and can look exactly like expensive Japanese artwork.
- From August to early November the leaves will start to change color, making for some incredible fall foliage. The colors will gradually become more and more vibrant as the weeks go on, so if you want to see the peak of the colors, plan your trip for the end of October.
The Kurobe Gorge is a very popular destination not only for tourists but also for locals and people living in Japan.
This means that weekends are going to be extremely busy. If you want to avoid some of the crowds, aim to go during the week.
What Is There to See?
Without getting off the train at a single stop there is a lot to see on the 13-mile trip.
In the open-air passenger cars, you’ll have panoramic views of the gorge, the tunnels, and the bridges.
For Some People – That trip through the scenery is enough. For the rest of you, there are things to do and see at each stop.
There is Wi-Fi available at each of the stations if you want to take a peek at the next stop to see what’s available there.
If you like checking things out, you might want to arrive at Unazuki station well before your train is set to leave.
If you have any large baggage that you don’t want to carry around, you can use one of the coin lockers available at this station.
Just remember to return to gather your belongings!
Now that you aren’t carrying everything around with you, it’s time to check out some of the sights.
The Peace Statue
Follow the trail by the Unazuki Shrine out to the Peace Statue.
The statue looks out over the Unazuki Onsen and was built as a reminder of the victims of the Second World War and honors all those who lost their lives.
Take the Yamabiko Bridge over to the Yamabiko Trail.
From here you can stop at the Unazuki Dam Observation Platform, and check out the Unazuki Dam Museum, the Unazuki Powerplant, and the Unazuki Dam.
The Unazuki dam is the newest in the gorge and it was built in 2001.
This dam helps control any flooding and helps provide hydroelectric power at the Unazuki Powerplant.
On the way back take the Shin-Yamabiko Bridge and stop at the Yamabiko Observation Platform before going to the station to catch your train.
There is one path to explore at the Kuronagi Station.
Follow the path ad you’ll first come to an observation platform that overlooks the Kuronagi River and the Aquaduct Bridge.
If you continue further along the path, you’ll arrive at the Kuronagi Onsen. This onsen is nestled deep in the forest and is a 20-minute hike to find.
Even Better – You’ll find two hot springs beside the river here, and it’s a great place to spend the night.
As you leave Kuronagi Station towards Kanetsuri Station, you’ll pass over the Atobiki bridge.
This bridge goes over the top of the steepest and deepest parts of the gorge.
It is nearly 200 feet in the air and spans a distance of 210 feet. Keep your eyes and camera open, but don’t look down!
There are a few things to see at this station.
One of them has an observatory platform, and the other is a hike down to an open-air onsen.
Kurobe Mannen Yuki Observation Deck
This observation deck is located on the north side of the station.
From here you have a great view of the Kurobe River and the Kurobe Mannen Yuki- Kurobe’s Perpetual Snow.
As the snow from My Hyakkan slides down into the valley, it is put under pressure and recrystallizes. It looks like snow (or Tiramisu if you’re hungry), but it won’t ever melt.
This is the riverside open-air hot spring. It’ll take about 15 minutes to walk the 1640 feet down to the onsen, but you’ll find a secluded hot spring to relax in.
If you’re on a later train you might want to consider spending the night. After 4 pm, the hot springs remain open, but only to overnight guests.
Just like the starting station, the final station has plenty to see and do.
Start with the Keyakidaira station you arrive at.
There’s a souvenir shop if you’ve missed the other ones, or decided along the way that you do, in fact, want to bring home a souvenir to remember this trip.
From the Station – You can head up to the Rooftop Observation Platform or the Panorama Observation Platform. If you head East you’ll find access to the Kurombe Dam Trail.
Take the Okukane Bridge North away from the station.
The bridge itself makes for incredible panoramic views as it goes directly over where the river splits.
This is the “People-Eating Crag”.
The trail here is carved into a stone, and if you stand at one end and look down the trail, it looks as though the rock is about to swallow the hikers.
From here you have access to incredible views of Mt. Meiken, and if you’re lucky, you might even see ibexes, a type of mountain goat.
Meiken Onsen and Babadani Onsen
There are two onsens north of the station:
- Meiken onsen
- Babadani onsen
The Meiken onsen building sits along a cliff and serves meals with mountain-grown vegetables and freshly caught fish from the river.
The Babadani onsen is the furthest from the station and will take about an hour to walk from Keyakidaira station.
This onsen is surrounded by nature and has hot water running into the hot spring from the rocks.
Riverside Picnic Site
From the Keyakidaira head south towards the Riverside Picnic Site.
This picnic site has great views of Mt. Okukane and the Okukane Bridge. You can sit and enjoy a footbath after you eat, or rest your aching feet before having lunch.
Sarutobikyo Observation Platform
Continue along the path from the Riverside Picnic Site and you’ll eventually end up at the Sarutobikyo Observation Platform.
You’ll see a hidden onsen here, and you’ll have an incredible view when the trees change color.
Not to be Confused with Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
With similar names, you might end up booking the wrong trip.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is nothing like the Kurobe Gorge. The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Trail has views of snow.
There are snow walls, paths carved out of snow, panoramic views of snow, you get the idea.
The Alpine trail runs along the Japanese Alps, but is at the opposite height of the gorge; instead of being at sea level, this route is between 6,000 and 9,500 feet.
Transportation is also quite different here. The Kurobe Gorge has one train you can ride from one end to the other.
Along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, you’ll take buses, railways, cable cars, and ropeways.
It’s a little more adventurous than a train, and a lot scarier if you don’t like heights.
If you’re looking for a breathtaking and unique travel experience, the Kurobe Gorge is worth checking out.
With its stunning views and natural landscapes, this gorge will leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Plus, with so much to see and do in the area, you’ll never run out of things to explore.
What are you waiting for?
Plan your trip today!