Dubbed one of the “Three Great Gorges of Japan” - and rightfully so.
Boasting rugged near-vertical cliffs framing a lush ravine dotted with tiny hot springs, pierced through by brilliant blue water from the Kurobe River, Japan’s deepest V-shaped gorge is also one of its most scenic.
To fully immerse yourself in this magnificent scenery, take the Kurobe Gorge Railway which services the whole 20.1 kilometers of the gorge. Starting at Unazuki Station you can choose to be seated in an open-car or indoor carriage. The trip lasts about 80 minutes from Unazuki Station to Keyakidaira Station right in the heart of the gorge, passing through 40 tunnels and over 20 bridges.
The small train meanders next to the forested ravine parallel to the river, with stops along the way for visitors to explore or bathe in the hot springs. Just before the final stop, the train passes through Sarutobikyo Gorge, a wonderfully photogenic portion designated as a “Special Place of Scenic Beauty and Special Natural Monument”, though the entire ride is definitely worthy of that snappy title.
The Kurobe Gorge Railway was initially created to aid the construction of the Kurobe Dam, but since the completion of the dam, it has been used for sightseeing and is open to the public from April to November each year (the same time as the nearby Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route). The most popular time to go is during fall where the whole mountainside turns a kaleidoscopic mix of subtle orange and vivid red.
At the entrance of the Kurobe Gorge stands the Shin-Yamabiko Bridge. The contrast of the crimson-red metal structure from its surroundings make it a popular photo op that is best captured from the Yamabiko Observation Platform, a short walk from Unazuki Station. Around Unazuki Station there are a number of hot spring facilities and a handful of free ashi-yu – open-air foot baths with water touted to be the clearest in all of Japan.