A bucket list item that every globetrotter should aim to check off this year is a scenic train journey through Japan's dynamic natural landscapes. There’s a host of attractive sightseeing options to choose from, including novelty engines and luxury locomotives, but few trains can compete with the scenery that JR East’s Tadami line offers in the colder months.
Opened in 1928, this magnificent railway spans a total of 135 kilometres from Niigata’s Koide Station to Fukushima’s Aizu-Wakamatsu Station. Last October, the train line made headlines after sections that had been damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and torrential rains were finally restored and reopened after being out of service since 2011.
The full re-opening marked the first time in over a decade that nature lovers and train enthusiasts could experience what is often referred to as one of Japan’s most beautiful rural railways in its entirety. Though the picturesque landscapes of the journey are reason enough to make the pilgrimage from Niigata to Fukushima, the abundance of ski resorts and natural hot springs dotted along the route make it especially great for a winter getaway.
Start in Fukushima's city of Aizu-Wakamatsu, where you can visit sites like the reconstructed fortress of Tsuruga Castle before soaking in the natural springs of Higashiyama Onsen – a small but gorgeous hot spring village with a history of 1,300 years.
Travel about two hours west of Aizu-Wakamatsu and you’ll pass the famous Daiichi Tadami River Bridge, which is favoured by photographers for its highly reflective waters and peaceful mountainscapes that transform with the changing seasons.
On the last leg of the journey, the train will cross into Niigata, which is renowned for its ski resorts. If you’re feeling sporty, you might consider getting off at Echigo-Suhara Station and heading to the Suhara ski area to hit the slopes. Not a ski or snowboard enthusiast? As an added bonus, the same station is also in close proximity to the Tamagawa Sake Brewery, where nihonshu lovers can get a taste of the local sake.
Check out more scenic destinations to explore year-round on the Tadami line website.
This article was published on October 31 2022 and updated on January 20 2023.
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