Japan

10 Most Scenic Train Rides In Japan With Jaw-Dropping Sakura Views & Autumn Foliage Included

Best scenic train rides in Japan


Think about trains in Japan and the first thing that’ll come to mind is probably the Shinkansen, or bullet train. But that’s not the only way to explore this diverse country by rail. In fact, you can even choo-choo through the various scenic train rides in Japan on a steam locomotive for your next chill-on-wheels trip. 

We’ve got bullet trains whizzing you through modern marvels, nostalgic chuggers taking you back in time, and everything in between. These promise a blend of cultural goodness and scenery so jaw-dropping, you’ll need a full-battery-camera ready. 


1. Hankyu Railway – Glimpse of famous shrines in Osaka & Kyoto


Image credit: Hankyu

Escape the ordinary and step aboard the Hankyu Kyoto-Train Garaku, a train that winds through Osaka, Kobe, Takarazuka, and Kyoto like a time machine disguised as a sightseeing train. The 42-minute journey from Osaka to Kyoto unfolds like a storybook with skyscrapers in urban Osaka and lively districts like Tenma flashing by the window. 

They have seats facing out the window so you don’t have to fight about who gets the window seat anymore.
Image credit: Osaka Kyoto Kobe

You’ll feel like you just walked into the 1980s because this beauty boasts traditional Japanese-inspired décor with minimalistic carriages in muted beige and browns. Each carriage has a unique motif, such as a tsubo-niwa garden and blossom trees. 

And here’s the kicker – the Kyo-Train Garaku offers a luxurious experience at train fares similar to any other public train in Japan. For the price of ¥700/day pass (~S$6.43), you get a window seat for views of the region’s natural landscapes. Plus, you can hop on and off as many stations as you like with the pass.

Image adapted from: @ntwahappy & @turisteaconbetsy via Instagram

It’s a must for tourists to stop at Arashiyama Station, where you can walk to Jojakkoji’s Niomon gate and see temples and shrines stand like ancient guardians. A few minutes walk from Jojakkoji is the infamous and peaceful Sagano Bamboo Forest, a great spot for your vacation OOTDs.

Travel duration: 42 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto

Get your Hankyu Tourist Pass.


2. The Odoriko Saphir – Scenic views on both sides of the train



The Izu coastline throws some serious punches with its sharp cliffs, hidden coves, and rocky shores.
Image credit: @japanrailcafe via Instagram

Say sayonara to jostling crowds and cramped seats in the regular trains as The Odoriko Saphir pampers you with all-first-class luxury. It’s a Limited Express train, meaning it’ll take you along major stops from Tokyo to Izukyu-Shimoda.  

You’ll chug past Mount Fuji and witness the Tokyo Bay and Izu coastline. The train knows how to do it right – it slows down at all the good bits, letting you admire views that look like it’s straight out of a postcard.

For the ultimate ocean view, snag a seat on the left side if you’re planning to head down to Izukyu-Shimoda.
Image credit: @japanmase via Instagram, Saphir Odoriko

Solo adventurers will love the seats in Car No.1 Premium Green. You’ll get from Tokyo to Ito with tickets starting at ¥8,470/adult (~S$77.80) for a 1-way trip. Psst, you’ll spend the journey on 360-degree rotating seats – so you can enjoy views from any side of the train. 

Those on a trip with a squad of 6 and want to level up to business class-looking seats can grab a Green Car private compartment instead – it’ll be like your own mini train party room. Also, it’s cheaper than the solo seats with just ¥41,820 (~S$380.10) for your whole crew. If you do the math, it’s just about ~S$64.02/person.


Image credit: JR Pass

Don’t worry about embarking on the journey on an empty tummy – this luxurious train has a cafeteria in Car 4. It comes with an onboard menu which includes the Odoriko Saphir exclusive consisting of “Izusan Recovery” Shrimp Wonton and Noodle Soup for ¥1,700 (~S$15.45) and Chinese Mitten Crab Cabbage Roll for ¥3,500 (~S$31.81).

Travel duration: 2 hours and 37 minutes from Tokyo to Ito in Shizuoka 

Get your tickets from Saphir Odoriko website.


3.  Dosan Line – Dine while facing picture-perfect views


Image credit: @cuspofcreation via Instagram

Get ready to say konnichiwa to food coma on the Dosan Line if you love a side of scenery with your meal. If you don’t mind splurging a bit for those delights, take a luxurious ride on the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari train from Tadotsu Station and Oboke Station. It offers Japanese meals and is a ticket to a jaw-dropping journey through Shikoku’s countryside, gorges, and lush mountains.

Get ready to soak up the stunning nature views through full glass windows.
Image credit: Visit Kagawa

Swerve through Shikoku island paradise with tickets starting at ¥13,900/adult (~S$127.67) and ¥2,070/child (~S$123.08) for a 1-way trip. The tickets come with local delights that’ll be served in a traditional yusanbako box. Think fancy feasts while passing by emerald valleys, canyons, and waterfall views that’ll make you question reality for a hot sec.

Image adapted from: @taraanngreen & @iyavalleyjapan via Instagram

Whether you’re a thrill seeker or a nature lover, the trains on the Dosan Line take you past the Iya Valley and Oboke Gorge, where you’ll see rocky ravines, boats cruising, and white rafting in the ravine.
Those who want to experience the sightseeing cruise (from ¥1,500/person, ~S$13.80) can hop off at Ōboke Station and get their tickets at the restaurant Obokekyo Mannaka. For some adrenaline-pumping activity, you can also try the white rafting (¥6,000/half-day tour, ~S$54.32). All it takes is a stroll about 20 minutes before you’re at the precipice of the Oboke Gorge. 

Travel duration: 57 minutes from Zentsuji/Kotohira to Oboke in Shikoku

Reserve your tickets on Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari website.


4. Oigawa Main Line – Travel on the cherry blossom-lined trail


Japan’s cherry blossoms are legendary, and so are the steam locomotives made in the 1930s on the Oigawa Railway. It takes you right into the heart of their pink paradise in Shizuoka Prefecture – between Shin-Kanaya and Kawane-Onsen Sasamado stations. 


Fun fact: Oigawa Railway has a real-life version of the Thomas & Friends trains.
Image credit: Travel Arrange Japan

The real showstopper is the Ieyama Tunnel. It’s not an actual tunnel, but a 1km stretch where the cherry blossoms form a tunnel of fragrant pink, creating a surreal, dream-like atmosphere from late March till early April.

Anime otakus who want to go to places that look like Studio Ghibli can take the train from Shin-kanaya Station to Ieyama Station. The 1-way ticket trip only costs ¥690/adult (~S$6.34) and ¥350/child (~S$3.21).

There’s a safe path with railings for visitors to take a stroll.
Image credit: @yktrvl_cd via Instagram

This train ride offers you a front-row seat to stunning views of the serene Oi River, valleys, and villages, and even Mount Fuji on clear days. Catch some of these from 71m above the river when you pass the bright red Sekinosawa Bridge near the Okuoikojo Station.

Those who crave a bit of excitement can just walk along the path next to the train track. You’ll get a surge of adrenaline when you’re standing on the high bridge with a train cruising right alongside you.

Travel duration: 29 minutes from Shin-kanaya Station to Ieyama Station in Shimada, Shizuoka

Get your tickets at Oigawa Railway website.


5. Gono Line – Ride alongside the Sea of Japan



Image credit: @yukihuji via Instagram

Believe it or not, there’s a train that’s practically surfing the Sea of Japan. The Gono Line runs so close to the water that you can almost smell the seaweed. Gono Line trains take you from Akita to Hirosaki/Aomori in Akita Prefecture and offer you a nature documentary on wheels, but way cooler. 

Image credit: @eri_fdd via Instagram

You’ll be sandwiched between the gorgeous sea and Tohoku’s serene beauty of the snow-capped Mount Iwaki in winter or paddy fields during spring. It’s even better when the train is very spacious and comfortable for long-distance travel. Just get any Japan Rail Pass package to ease your journey and stop anywhere you like.

Bonus for sun-seekers: you can watch the sun setting from the onsen, too.
Image credit: @ya_tsuka via Instagram

Get off the train at Senjojiki Station if you’re up for a seaside open-air hot spring sesh at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen with waves crashing nearby. The entrance fee is ¥600/adult (~S$5.52) and ¥300/child (~S$2.76).

Another place worth the mention is the very blue Aoike or Blue Pond, but just a heads up: it involves a little stroll. Just take a trip down to Jūniko Station and hop on a 15-minute bus ride to Shirakami Sanchi. It’s free entry, so just follow the trails and be ready to discover over 30 lakes in the area.

Travel duration: 3 hours 17 mins from Akita to Hirosaki/Aomori

Book a stay at the Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen.


6. Hisatsu Line – Traverse through volcanic mountain ranges



Image credit: @hirofumi.matsu via Instagram

Taking the trains on Hisatsu Line is an adventure in itself because it traverses through Kyushu, an area famous for its volcanic mountains. Opt for the regular trains if you’re short on time or just prefer things speedy, otherwise, get about a 2-hour trip on the Kyushu Shinkansen from Fukuoka to Kyushu Island. 


Image credit: @hitokumach via Instagram

You’ll wanna keep your phone handy because every mile is a photo op along the Hisatsu Line. From the train track, you’ll be able to see the Kumagawa River, one of Japan’s fastest-flowing rivers, dense forests, and charming towns.

Inukai Falls (left) and Onami Lake (right).

Image adapted from: @daisuke_abeee_ & @librarian via Instagram 

FYI, there’s a scenic hike around the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park to see over 20 volcanoes, waterfalls, and the famous Onami Lake up close. You can make this trip if you start your journey from Kirishima Jingu Station and a 10-minute drive to the National Park; all using your JR Pass.

Travel duration: 1 hour 43 minutes from Hakata Station to Kagoshima-Chuo Station

Get your JR Pass for the whole of Japan.


7. Takayama Main Line – Passes by traditional Japanese towns


The view from the “Wide View Hida” train on the Takayama Main Line never disappoints throughout any season.
Image credit: @jrcentral.london via Instagram

The Takayama Main Line that winds through the Japanese Alps around Hida mountains has got some serious Hogwarts Express vibes. Except that the line takes you from Gifu Prefecture to Takayama – not Hogwarts – and connects to Japan’s unique townships like Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa

Image adapted from: @cuuu.09 & @contadoroger via Instagram

Shirakawa-go is known for its charming glasshouse-style farmhouses that have 60° steep rooftops so that snow falls off them easily, while Kanazawa for its abundance of geisha districts and samurai cultures.

<embed>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nKpdBy6UyE<embed>

With plenty of time, you opt for the local trains that make stops at small towns to observe Japanese’s everyday life. Otherwise, you can hop on the express “Wide View Hida” train, known for its large windows to soak in the view along the way. It gets you beautiful landscape views between big spots like Nagoya, Takayama, and Toyama. 

Without a JR Pass it costs about ¥7,130/person (~S$65.60) from Nagoya Station to Toyama Station while a 1-way trip from Osaka to Takayama costs about ¥7,780/person (~S$71.58).

Travel duration: 4 hours 15 minutes from Nagoya Station to Toyama Station | 3 hours 43 minutes from Osaka to Takayama

Book a Hida Takayama & Shirakawa-go day tour.


8. Sagano Scenic Railway – Autumn views from open-air carriages


We’re giving extra credit to the autumn season when the forest turns shades of orange and yellow.
Image credit: @rubymoon_desu via Instagram

Covering a mere 7km from Arashiyama’s Torokko Saga Station, this 25-minute Sagano Scenic Railway is the shortest trail on the list. Don’t underestimate it, though. The track treats you to mesmerising landscape views all year round from Japanese maples to cherry blossoms.

The line takes a winter break from late December to February.

Image adapted from: @saganoromantictrain_1114 & @purplefries via Instagram

The highlight is their open-air carriages with vintage vibes, complete with wooden benches. But if you’re not up for a windblown hairstyle, no worries – there are closed cabins with windows, too. 

A 1-way ride between Torokko Kameoka and Torokko Saga Stations costs ¥620/adult (~S$5.70) and ¥300/child (~S$2.76). That’s cheaper than most fancy lattes, and way more scenic.


Image credit: @mario_san_l via Instagram

FYI, the railway train is
dubbed “Kyoto’s Romantic Train” as the natural beauty surrounding the route creates a romantic atmosphere. All while also offering a different POV from on the train of the lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and the Hozugawa River.
On your way back to Kyoto, you can hop on the Hozugawa River Boat for some extra fun or to take in the scenery in slow motion. The boat ticket will set you back about ¥4,100/person (~S$37.72), but it’s worth the experience.

Travel duration: 25 minutes from Torokko Kameoka and Torokko Saga Stations

Book the Hozugawa River Boat ride experience in Kyoto.


9. Tokaido Shinkansen Line – See Mt. Fuji in the background


The line takes you all the way from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station.
Image credit: Web Japan

Think you’ve seen enough of Mount Fuji? Hold your horses, because the trains on Tokaido Shinkansen Line are about to rewrite your Fuji viewing experience. Sure, the iconic peak may be a familiar sight, but zooming past on the bullet train offers a whole new perspective.

Before you whip out your phone and risk a blurry selfie, remember: the Shinkansen is all about speed, and Fuji’s cameo will be fleeting.

No matter which train you choose, you’ll zip past Mount Fuji in all its majestic glory.
Image credit: @june_endlessjapan via Instagram

Here are some tips: keep your eyes peeled once you’re about 40 minutes after blasting past Tokyo Station. That’s because the best view of Mount Fuji is right after the train passes Shizuoka Station. A 1-way ticket on a Shinkansen costs about ¥13,870/person (~S$127.61) for a Tokyo-Osaka trip.

If you’re all about that laid-back vibe and want to soak in the mountain views without any rush, just get on the slower Hikari or Kodama trains, which take 2 hours longer. They also offer glimpses of the snow-capped peak mountain, Shizuoka, and Fuji River. 

Travel duration: 2 hours 47 minutes from Tokyo Station to Osaka Station

Make an early reservation on Tokaido Sanyo Kyushu Shinkansen website.


10. Kurobe Gorge Railway – Chugs through >20 bridges & tunnels



The hillside turn fiery red and golden yellow around October.
Image credit: @ttn.tour via Instagram

The Kurobe Gorge, one of Japan’s deepest gorges, looks like it’s straight out of a movie. And what better way to appreciate it than via the Kurobe Gorge Railway? You’ll be crossing over 20 bridges and passing through about 40 tunnels. It’s a journey packed with scenic bridges, thick forests, and outdoor onsens from Unazuki to Keyakidaira Stations in Toyama’s Prefecture.
 Score a post-train soak at the riverside onsen, Riverside Bath (right), near Kanetsuri Station.
Image credit: @syapirasry & @sanderandtessanomadlife via Instagram

Hop off at Keyakidaira or Kanetsuri Station and explore at your own pace – think hidden waterfalls, ancient shrines, chill farming towns, and hot spring nirvana. You’ll find a red and 34m-tall Okukane Bridge over the Kurobe River, just across from Keyakidaira Station.

Image credit: @ontheway2008 via Instagram

Opt for the open-air carriage to feel the breeze and get an in-your-face dose of epic scenery from ¥290/person (~S$2.67) for a 1-way ticket. If you’re not up for that open-air thrill, you can still enjoy the same gorgeous view from a first-class coach for ¥530/person (~S$4.88).

Travel duration: 80 minutes from Unazuki to Keyakidaira Stations

Get your Kurobe Gorge Railway Pass.


Slow travel with Japan’s scenic train ride


The next time you plan for a train-quil holiday trip, look at these scenic train rides in Japan that are worth being on your Insta feeds. Whether it’s snow-capped peaks or fiery autumn foliage, each ride will provide breathtaking views that’ll be locked in your core memory. 

For more all things Japan, check out:


Cover image adapted from: Visit Kagawa, @yukihuji via Instagram, Saphir Odoriko

Haizreen Natasha

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