The Kurobe Gorge (黒部峡谷, Kurobe Kyōkoku) is a beautiful, forested ravine in the rugged mountains of the Northern Japan Alps. Cut by the Kurobe River, it is one of the deepest gorges in Japan. Its steep cliffs, untouched virgin forests and outdoor hot springs make it a famous destination to see natural scenic beauty. It is not to be confused with the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, which is nearby, but accessed from a completely different direction.
The main attraction of the gorge is the Kurobe Gorge Railway, a sightseeing train originally built to aid the construction of the Kurobe Dam. Today the small trains operate along a winding, 20 kilometer stretch between Unazuki and Keyakidaira stations. The exciting 80 minute journey leads across more than 20 bridges and through over 40 tunnels, and offers visitors panoramic views of the gorge below. The trains stop at a few stations along the way where visitors can get off and explore.
The trains operate seasonally from late April through November, and are most popular in autumn when the forested slopes along the railroad turn bright orange and red with beautiful fall colors. Since the mountains cover a large elevation range, the Kurobe Gorge enjoys a long fall color season which usually runs from mid October to mid November.
Most trains carry two types of passenger cars. The majority of them are open-sided cars with 4-person bench seats without backrests; however, most trains also offer some enclosed cars with more comfortable seating at an additional fee. When purchasing a ticket, you will be assigned a car number, but seats within the car are unnumbered. For the best views, sit on the right side of the train when heading into the gorge.
Unazuki Station, the departure point of the Kurobe Gorge Railway, is located in Unazuki Onsen, a small hot spring town at the entrance to the gorge. The town offers a few hot spring baths, hotels, ryokan, museums and walking trails which lead into the gorge.
Kuronagi Station is the first stop along the Kurobe Gorge Railway. The small, isolated station is perched on the steep forested cliff above where the Kuronagi River flows into the Kurobe River. The station offers good views of the Atobiki Bridge high up above the river, but trains stop here only briefly so you may not want to get off unless you plan to visit Kuronagi Onsen.
Kanetsuri Station is the first really developed station along the railway. A paved trail leads from the station past a food stand and a few ryokan down to the river below.
Keyakidaira Station, the terminal station of the Kurobe Gorge Railway, lies about 600 meters above sea level where the Babadani River meets the Kurobe River. Trails lead to the various attractions around the station, which houses its own observation deck, souvenir shop and an information center.
The Kurobe Gorge should not be confused with the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Although geographically close to each other, they are accessed from different directions.
Take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kurobe Unazuki Onsen (2.5 hours, about 12,000 yen one way, 1 train/hour, covered by the Japan Rail Pass). Toyama Chiho Railway trains depart from Shin-Kurobe Station (next to the shinkansen station) to Unazuki Onsen Station (25 minutes, 640 yen, 1-2 departures per hour, not covered by the Japan Rail Pass). The sightseeing trains into the Kurobe Gorge depart from a separate railway station, Unazuki Station, a short walk from Unazuki Onsen Station.
Take an hourly departing JR Thunderbird limited express trains from Osaka or Kyoto to Kanazawa and transfer the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen for Kurobe Unazuki Onsen Station. The entire journey takes about three hours, costs about 9,500 yen, and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Toyama Chiho Railway trains depart from Shin-Kurobe Station (next to the shinkansen station) to Unazuki Onsen Station (25 minutes, 640 yen, 1-2 departures per hour, not covered by the Japan Rail Pass). The sightseeing trains into the Kurobe Gorge depart from a separate railway station, Unazuki Station, a short walk from Unazuki Onsen Station.