At some point during just about any trip in Japan, travelers will board a train taking them to a special destination. This month’s Rail In Focus is on Japan’s picturesque Oigawa Railway line, which is unique in that you can actually enjoy the route to the destination by itself. Japan Holidays offers an exclusive trip along this historical line for train buffs and tourists each fall: The Great Train Journey – set against spectacular fall foliage and including myriad destination stops along the way.

Kanaya Station, Oigawa Railway’s origin in Shizuoka, can be reached by train from all the key stations and even airports throughout Japan. A world separate from its neighbouring regions including Kyoto and Tokyo, Shizuoka’s Oigawa Railway is one of Japan Holidays personal favourite rail lines. There are two routes on this venerable line that showcase iconic cultural and natural wonders of Japan – the Main Line and Ikawa Line. The entire route stretches some 65km, with passengers enjoying a range of trains and locomotives to the final destination in mountainous Ikawa.

Travelers ride Steam Locomotives and specially-engineered trains from Kanaya to Ikawa on the Oigawa Railway.

The Main Line runs from Kanaya Station to popular Senzu Station. You’ll ride powerful steam locomotives – or SLs as they’re called – through beautiful fall foliage, hopping off and on along the route. You can enjoy a cup of bracing green tea – a Shizuoka special – stop at a cultural museum, or even enjoy a rejuvenating hot springs bath en-route with a view of the trains.

At Senzu Station, you’ll see a variety of engines ranging from retired trains revived to serve once again, to several different Steam Locomotives operating daily, and even Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, a popular attraction for families on weekends.

The C1 227 steams along the picturesque track during cherry blossom season.

Seen on the regular line between Kanaya and Senzu station, retired trains from all over Japan are re-deployed in a second or even third career. (Left to right – 21000 series from Nankai Koya Line; 16000 series from Kintetsu Minami-Osaka line; and the 7200 series originally from Tokyu Electric Railway in Tokyo/Kanagawa, then deployed from Aomori’s Towada Kanko Electric Railway.)

The second route – the Ikawa Line – heads north from Senzu Station along the historical Abt System Railway, climbing a steep, 9% grade through stunning mountain landscapes past pristine glacial lakes. Named after the Swiss mechanical engineer Carl Abt, who invented the “rack” system railway in the 1800s, your rail car literally cranks uphill on pinions that mesh with a toothed rack running in the center of the rails!

On this route, you’ll enjoy breathtaking scenery through the mountains, past hot springs spas, suspension bridges, the renowned Nagashima Dam, and our personal favorite stop, Okuoikojo Station, dramatically perched on a cliff in the middle of a lake! Here, you can hike further into the mountains or just enjoy the peerless view.

One of our travelers on The Great Train Journey of 2019 peers at the conductor’s seat in this specially-engineered rack system rail car.

Okuoikojo Station – incredible panorama and proximity to mountain hikes.

The Oigawa Railway is fantastic for anyone – whether you’re a train buff wanting to ride the rails, a nature-lover who enjoys scenic hikes, or a photo hobbyist. There’s something for everyone on this trip. This fall, Japan Holidays is offering The Great Train Journey of Japan 2020 tour, which takes you on the Oigawa Railway to one of the best trainspotting properties, the Kawane Onsen hotel. Sure, you could do this route on a simple daytrip from the JR line, but we strongly recommend spending a night at a unique onsen inn to really appreciate the glorious fall foliage colors Japan offers.