Covered by the JR Pass, this picturesque train ride takes you on a journey through Japan’s most untouched prefectures.
Get a real-life glimpse into the world described in Oku no Hosomichi by the famous Japanese poet Matsuo Basho on the scenic Resort Shirakami trains. These extensive lines travel through the valleys and small villages of Japan’s northern Tohoku region, which is nearly overlooked by most tourists.
Moreover, the affordability and convenience of the Japan Rail Pass make traveling around Tohoku by train arguably one of the most economical options for exploring the area.
A scenic ride
Connecting Akita and Aomori prefectures via a five-hour ride, the Resort Shirakami train is a breathtaking line that runs alongside both the Sea of Japan and the Shirakami Sanchi highlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although there are several scenic train lines in Tohoku, Resort Shirakami stands out not only for the panoramic views but also for its immersive cultural experiences. Brief explanations in both Japanese and English offer insight into the history of the breathtaking natural formations that characterize the area.
One of the best parts of the ride is that the train slows down at picturesque stops for photo-ops. You can see jagged rock formations jutting out from the ocean in front of you from the wide windows. From the flooded rice paddies and neat rows of leafy vegetables, local farmers with patterned hats often rise from their work to give you a gentle wave.
Resort Shirakami trains
Resort Shirakami operates three different trains: Buna, Aoike, and Kumagera. The Buna train is particularly recommended because it includes the Oraho counter, a special carriage that sells food, drinks, and souvenirs from the towns that line the route.
The trains’ interior was designed with locally sourced Akita sugi (cedar) and Aomori hiba (cypress) trees. Even the color scheme of the seats pays homage to Tohoku’s many summer festivals. Passengers can catch a glimpse of a live traditional shamisen performance and listen to folktales told in Tsugaru-ben, a dialect native to western Aomori. Sit back and enjoy the ride.