|The Front of a "Highland Rail" car with a sign promoting the local soccer club|
The single line begins at platform 7 of JR Matsumoto station and ends 14.4km later at Shin Shimashima Station. Yes, 新島々駅, how’s that for a name. From the terminus hikers in spring and summer and skiers when there’s snow pack onto busses that take them further into the mountains.
After being dropped off by Yuko I was able to ride one way into Matsumoto from the terminus on the one-man train. Leaving Matsumoto station I had to show my simple paper ticket to the JR attendant as the majority of passengers went through the automatic turnstiles. It’s a testament to how well the public transit system works in Japan that it allows this dual use of the JR station by the private line.
At the beginning of the trip the train was only 15% full or so, but nearing Matsumoto it became quite packed leaving some people standing. Originally, I was worried that this line wasn’t getting enough ridership, but it seems the people from the suburbs, students, tourists and hikers can really fill up the two cars. The line hugged the southern hills that made up the valley that the train travels through. Sometimes the tracks would hug the slope of the valley as it passed around the houses and other development rather than travel through it. There were some uniquely placed stations thanks to this.
|Matsumoto Dentetsu's platform at JR Matsumoto station|
These third party lines give the casual traveler to the massive train dork a great affordable way to relax and experience the landscape and get to see a decent cross-section of the people who live in that landscape. Given the chance, I couldn’t recommend riding these local private lines more, the Kamikochi line included.