Getting around Yatsugatake (P4-5)

Enjoy a railway trip with the Koumi line

Traverse the south side of the Yatsugatake range from Kobuchizawa, past Minamimaki village and Koumi town on the eastern side, all the way to Saku with the Koumi line highland train.

Explore the appeal and charm of the Koumi line with railroad photographer Hiroshi Sakurai

A short and compact trip of just over 2 hours.

When departing from the in 2017 rebuild station of Kobuchizawa, the Yatsugatake mountains can be seen on your right and the Southern Alps on your left. Soon, the train will slowly make a wide curve between surrounding rice paddies towards the Yatsugatake and starts climbing. On a nice day the Yatsugatake range will stand out against the blue sky. This beautiful view at the beginning of the journey is heartwarming. Soon the train will enter the forest, traversing large and small valleys. The Yatsugatake shows itself between larch, white birch and broadleaved trees, the many summer houses and small pensions, meadows and highland vegetable fields. From narrow openings between Kai-koizumi and Kai-Ozumi stations you will be able to see Mt. Fuji.

The mountains after Nobeyama station to close-in on both sides. The end of a tunnel you pass through leads you into a valley and source of the Chikuma river. The sparkling river shows on you left hand. Further on, the landscape is dotted with old storehouses, rice fields and private residences. The train will cross the river multiple times keeping the river onetime on the left, other times on the right. At times the reflecting light will turn the water a deep blue.

Just about an hour after departure from Kobuchizawa, the landscape gradually changes into fields. In front of you Mt. Asama will loom in the middle of the flat rural scenery of Saku Daira.

The splendid scenery of the rice paddies changes with the seasons from mirror-paddies in spring, to summer green-paddies in, to golden in autumn.

While the train gradually returns to residential territory, the number of commuters and students increases, and the train becomes livelier. When nearing Komoro, the end of the line, it is hard to imagine that just shortly before you were traversing the highlands at an altitude of more than a 1000 meters, and crossing deep valleys.

After about 2 hours and 10 minutes the train reaches the end station.

About the Koumi line

The total length of the line is 78,9 Km, tying Kobuchizawa station in Yamanashi prefecture with Komoro station in the Nagano prefecture. The total traveling time is 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Enjoy the view on the Southern alps, Yatsugatake, Mt. Fuji, Mt. Asama and the beautiful source valley of the Chikuma river from your window.

It is a great train trip. But, a roundtrip to a stop half-way the traject would also be a good option for sightseeing.
You could also change from the Chuo main line at Kobuchizawa, to the Koumi line and travel to Saku Daira for the Hokuriku shinkansen, or to Komoro for the Shinano railway—enjoying the Tokyo – Kobuchizawa – Saku daira/Komoro – Karuizawa route.

The “High Rail 1375” sightseeing train started operations in 2017.
There are several round-trips from Kobuchizawa to Komoro on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. (Only one round trip per day in winter)

At night the “High Rail Hoshizora (Stars-sky) will stop at Nobeyama station for an hour to talk about and watch the stars in the night sky. In addition to a regular ticket, a reservation ticket is required. (adults: 820 Yen / Children410 Yen.
For more information please refer to the High rail homepage: (www.jreast.co.jp/nagano/highrail)


Japan’s highest railroad

Get a taste of the different enjoyments

“The best point of the JR railways is easily between Kiyosato and Nobeyama” where the Koumi line traverses the highest trajectory in Japan”, says the railway photographer Hiroshi Sakurai, who published a monthly series of 18 books, and communicates about the appeal of railroad trips around the world on TV and in publications. Furthermore, Mr. Sakurai lists a variety of tasty Ekiben (Station lunchboxes) that can be found at Kobuchizawa station, and the hybrid diesel train which was the first to be introduced in the world, as points of interest.

“But I think that just traveling by train could be enjoyable too.”, he says.
“One such example is the Koumi line trip. I think that enjoying the different characteristic landscapes such as highlands, valleys, and country side is one of the main appeals of traveling by train in Japan.” However, is it not because Mr. Sakura is such a fan that he thinks that “Just riding a train” would be enough to have fun?

“I also drive a car, however, the pleasure of riding on a train is very different from driving a car.
When taking a railroad trip, the amount of luggage you can bring is limited, and in a sense, you become one with nature, urban areas and farming areas—entering different locations.
Furthermore, there are many things you can not do when traveling by car: dozing off, reading, or eating to name a few. While traversing the highlands one can enjoy a lunchbox prepared with highland vegetables, or taking photos, which is only possible when riding on a train.
Please, enjoy respectively time and space when taking the Koumi journey”.

 

Hiroshi Sakurai

Born in 1954
He grew up in Saku city in Nagano with parents who worked at a station on the Koumi line.
He held his first railroad photo exhibition (at the Nikon Salon) of photos he took during his high school and college years. After he published his first photo collection ‘Frozen Smoke’, he worked 15 years as a photographer for a publishing company. since he became independent, he has been active as a traveling writer and cartoonist about railroads and station lunchboxes.