Autumn Color Report 2017
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, nearly vertical cliffs, untouched virgin forests, and outdoor hot springs have made 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 mid 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.
The trains carry a variety of cars. The majority of them are open sided cars with 4 person bench seats; however, most trains also offer one or two types of 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 Atobiki Bridge and Suirokyo Canal high up above the river, but trains only stop here 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.