Breaking 21 years of silence on the Shin’etsu Main Line
Abandoned Railway Walk: Journey Through History, Journey Toward the Future
The Shin’etsu Main Line Shinkansen ended service between Yokokawa and Karuizawa on September 30, 1997. It’s been nearly 21 years since the Shin’etsu Main Line’s last journey along the steep 66.7% slope over Usui Pass. At Yokokawa Station you can hear the nostalgic whistle of the EF63 steam locomotive which visitors can learn to drive. Nearby there are several mouth-watering restaurants and volunteer tour guides available to teach tourists about the ongoing history of Yokokawa.
“No Entry”—A special path normally off-limits to visitors
On October 14, 2018, the Annaka City Tourism Association began the Abandoned Railway Walk, a special tour that leads participants on a hike along the former Shin’etsu Main Line.
*The Walk will be held at regular intervals. Please check antrip.jp for the most recent event information.
Visitors are allowed to walk along the Shin’etsu Main Line only on as participants of the Abandoned Railway Walk.
We started preparations back in May and welcomed our first Walk participants just before the autumn leaves season. Designated as an Important Cultural Property in Japan, Usui Pass Railways and the Usui Main Line have a rich history. This history and countless stories of human triumph have been preserved here for posterity.
The Abandoned Railway Walk is an attempt to break 21 years of silence, experiencing a rich history while opening new doors to the future.
The 25 Tunnels that Connect Karuizawa and Annaka
The Abandoned Railway Walk runs between Yokokawa and Karuizawa, between Gunma and Nagano Prefectures.
The path runs over Megane Bridge and through the historic remains of the Usui Line. At the former Kumanodaira Station (an Important Cultural Property), take a break and enjoy the traditional Toge no Kamameshi (“mountain hotpot”).
Along the way participants will hike through 25 tunnels which lead to the international resort town of Karuizawa. (11.2km total)
Megane Bridge: Japan’s Largest Arch Bridge (Usui Bridge #3)
Megane Bridge is one of the highlights of the Walk. Construction began in April of 1892 and was completed in December of the same year. Standing at 31 meters tall measured from the riverbed, this bridge combines both function and aesthetics, and is the largest brick arch bridge in Japan.
The 4-arch bridge is lovingly called “Meganebashi.”
There are a total of 5 bridges along the line that are still standing (#2—#6), all of which are made of brick and designated Important Cultural Properties.
Kumanodaira Station and Onward
The former Kumanodaira Station (Important Cultural Property) marks the entrance to the Usui Line tunnels and is normally off-limits to visitors. We hope you enjoy the Toge no Kamameshi lunch (Japan’s oldest ekiben, or “station bento”) at Kumanodaira Station along the abandoned railway.
After Kumanodaira Station, we’ll enter the Shin’etsu Main Line tunnels that are normally off limits.
The Abandoned Railway Walk is a journey through history, a journey toward the future.
Attire / Equipment
Be Careful of Leeches!
There are leeches along the route, so be sure to wear long sleeves and avoid exposed skin.
If a leech latches onto you, use salt water or other repellants to remove it.
Also, please avoid entering the bushy areas off the path.