Lonely Planet Writer

A disused railway line in Japan has been reborn as a unique tourist ride

A disused railway line in Takachiho, Japan has been converted into a unique tourist ride that allows visitors to travel across the tracks in small carts while taking in stunning views of the picturesque, tree-lined valley below. Initially launched last year, this March will see the introduction of a new type of train cart aimed at bringing more people to the attraction.

The train ride offers stunning views of the surrounding Takachiho valley.
The train ride offers stunning views of the surrounding Takachiho valley. Image by 高千穂あまてらす鉄道

Located in Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island in southern Japan, the line was formerly used for a larger train service but ceased operation in 2005 following damage sustained by a large typhoon. Now called the Takachiho Amaterasu Railway, a tourist ride featuring a series of small “super-carts” was first introduced last year. The carts run at a leisurely 15-kilometres an hour over a 5-kilometre long route, passing over the 344-foot tall Takachiho Iron Bridge with the Iwato River below. They also pass through a 1150-foot long illuminated tunnel.

Takachiho Train
A picture showing the older train on the right and the new, smaller tourist ride on the left. Image by 高千穂あまてらす鉄道
Takachiho Train
The carts run at 15-kilometres an hour over a 15-kilometre long route. Image by 高千穂あまてらす鉄道

The Takachiho railway first began operation in 1989, run by the now defunct Japan National Railways. Following the closure in 2008, residents of the town rallied to take over maintenance of the line, leading to the formation of the company in charge of the new venture. The first prototype tourist experience saw a manually operated wooden trolley being operated to take passengers along the route, before larger passenger numbers led to updated carts.

Takachiho Train
The new carts have been created to accommodate growing numbers. Image by 高千穂あまてらす鉄道

Takachiho Amaterasu Rail now provides ten runs a day, usually operating every day except Thursdays. A new three-car cart capable of accommodating 30 passengers is being introduced next month in order to deal with growing demand. Tours are also available of the former Takachiho train station, with the buildings and platforms still being kept in the same condition as they were while the larger trains were in operation. The ridea cost ¥1200 for high school students and older, ¥800 for elementary school students and ¥400 for pre-schoolers. More information on the experience is available at the website.
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