My daily rides to work provide a view of the sea of open air and rice fields. A welcome change of scenery but lacking the familiar vibrant shades of leaves in the fall that I’m accustomed to at home. A holiday weekend and a craving for autumn foliage encouraged us to take a trip to the nearby mountain attraction- an 80 minute train line through the Kurobe Gorge. Originally serving practically for industrial transportation into the mountains, the train line is now a unique feature of Toyama, operating from mid-spring to the end of November.
Trains depart from Unazuki, with 4 different stops throughout the mountain range and the choice of several classes of train seats (the highest being enclosed and heated). Prompted by adventure (and frugality) we opted for an open train. Although the resulting ride was decidedly wet and chilly it was agreed we had made the right decision- the open sides gave us a breathtaking view of the mountains in full autumn colour.
The line’s practical beginnings are evident as the train winds through the mountains, passing by dams, bridges, and underground tunnels used in the winter. The ascension of the mountain becomes increasingly rugged as buildings and structures disappear from view. The expanse of mountains envelopes the train, providing somewhat of an unexpected sanctuary.
At our final stop at the top of the mountain, Keyakidaira, the rain miraculously stopped and we warmed up with some much needed Udon and coffee. There are several paths that branch from the main lodge. Our first led us along the mountain side through the dense forest and across vibrant red bridges.
There are several key features of Keyakidaira are its three onsen, “Owl tree” (a mysterious stump with the appearance of an owl), and its many winding paths along the mountain sides. The mountains are also home to monkeys which I had given up all hope of seeing until I saw a furry creature jump from the path ahead of me, across the railing and down into the trees. My first response was of second concern for this seemingly confused dog until I quickly realized in fact it was a monkey. We saw two more on our train ride back down the mountain, sitting leisurely on the side of the tracks and apparently unperturbed by the train barreling past them.