Monday, February 28, 2011

Shigaraki Kogen Railway

Shigaraki Station 信楽駅
One of the nice things about Japan is that there is always something to explore. Someplace to go. I love flipping through Mapple's railway maps of Japan. Extremely useful for any train journey throughout Japan--even if your command of the Japanese language might not be as good as you wish it was. Flipping through the pages of the Kansai edition, I found a third sector railway line that I hadn't ridden yet.

Third sector lines like the closed Miki Railway or its neighbor the Hojo Railway are former JR lines that were slated for closure after the split up and privatization of Japan National Railways in the late 1980's. Like the two lines mentioned above municipalities ended up buying and running the lines instead of letting them die. Some like Miki Railway have eventually proven to be too much of a drain on the local coffers and ended up closing.

The Shigaraki Kogen Railway or KTR has stayed in operation since being jointly bought by the city and prefecture in which it runs. Thankfully KTR allows access to a touristy area based around the local pottery industry adding to its ridership.

Looking down the line to Shigaraki from near Kibukawa Station
I rode up the short 14km length of the KTR's one line on a cold snowy winter's day. The cold desolate landscape reminded me somewhat of eastern Montana. I enjoyed watching at the small, almost inconceivable, stations pass by along this one-man line.

Matching the areas fame for pottery KTR sells a clay tablet ticket that I didn't have the chance to buy since I had already paid for my paper ticket. I'm not the kind of guy to pay for a ticket twice. Maybe next time. It would make a great addition to my office wall.

Shigaraki Station 信楽駅
Because I was short on time and it was really cold out, I decided to take the next train back to Kibukawa station where the line starts and intersects with the JR and Ohmi Railway lines to continue my train journey for the day. I'm planning on going back to Shigaraki, although by car, the next time my mother comes out. I think she'll enjoy looking at the pottery shops there.

KTR is also infamous for a fatal accident that occurred along the line in 1991 killing 42 people and injuring 614 others. One of Japan's deadliest railway accidents.


angryparsnip said...

What a great post.
This trip sounds really interesting and I would love to explore the pottery shops.

I also love the Tanuki big and small all over the train station ! I wish I was there for a photo with them !

cheer, parsnip

David said...

Next time you come out we'll go up there.