Ichibata Electric Railway
Access the region’s most famous sightseeing spots and scenic views of Lake Shinji via this beloved local train.By Laura Payne
The Ichibata Electric Railway–nicknamed Bataden–has served Shimane Prefecture since 1912. In addition to being a mode of transportation, it is a beloved local treasure.
When the railway was in danger of closing due to declining use in the 1970s, residents and local officials rallied to keep it open. Now, the railway operates trains for commuting and sightseeing while offering unique services.
Anyone who rides this railway today can access some of the region’s most famous sightseeing spots and scenic views of Lake Shinji.
Special trains and services
Some trains on the Ichibata line feature themed decor, such as retro wooden interiors or statues of Shimanekko (Shimane’s prefectural mascot). Riding these special trains requires no additional costs because they run throughout the day as a regular part of operations. If one rides the Ichibata line multiple times during a trip, an encounter with at least one of these special trains is likely.
Ichibata is also popular with cyclists because bicycles can be brought onto the trains and secured in designated areas for an additional fee. Many cyclists will ride their bikes one way along the north side of Lake Shinji before taking an Ichibata train back to their starting point.
One of the most popular attractions of Ichibata is a train driving experience offered at Unshu-Hirata station. After receiving instruction on how to operate a Dehani Type 50, one of Japan’s oldest running trains, participants can drive this model themselves on a track inside the station’s train yard. This experience is open to both adults and children.
Well-known attractions such as Izumo Taisha Shrine and Matsue Castle are accessible via Ichibata trains, but many more sights exist along the line.
At Matsue Shinjiko-Onsen station, visitors can relax in a free hot spring foot bath. If one alights at Unshu-Hirata station, a short walk is all it takes to reach Momen Kaido–a historic shopping street famed for soy sauce and sake (rice wine) breweries. Meanwhile, photographers often walk from Takahama station to Awazu Inari Shrine because if one is patient, it is possible to capture an image of a train passing by the shrine’s red torii gates.
Riding the eastern half of the line is also a sightseeing activity in and of itself because while viewing Lake Shinji from the train, fishermen, wildlife, sunsets and other sights are visible on the vast water.