Rails to Trails in Japan? The old Fukuchiyama line hike


Owen & Oliver with Mukogawa in the background


The “rails-to-trails” movement in the USA has seen thousands of miles of former railroad tracks become trails for hikers and bikers. Here in Japan, however, railways are still being used, especially for human transport, so it is rare to come upon hiking trails that were once a railway.

Yesterday we hiked the abandoned JR (Japan Railways) Fukuchiyama line, which is now a public walking path and this is unusual for Japan. The line used to connect the Osaka suburb of Takarazuka, a bedroom community for Osaka and Kobe, to Sanda, a city 25 kilometers to the north of Kobe and 35 kilometers north of Osaka.

The trail follows the Muko River through an impressive gorge created by the river. The water was pretty clean, with areas of rapids and idyllic swimming holes. We didn’t get a chance to stop because of our afternoon arrival, but it sure looked inviting.

 The great novelty of the hike are the six tunnels, some of which are so long that you need to bring a flashlight due to the utter darkness. The kids loved it! The trail also has some interesting relics from the railway, like rusty signs, little side tunnels etc. The trail in total is between 5-7 kilometers and takes roughly an 1 and 1/2 hours straight through. It is perfect for younger children and with the river and some side trails, it would be a nice full day with a picnic lunch on the rocks near the river.

You can access the trail by either getting off the functioning JR Namaze station or JR Takedao station and from our suburb of Minoh, it takes about 50 minutes by public transport and costs about 450 yen.

Family Journal: Arrival of Fall in Japan

Red Spider Lilies Protect the Rice Paddy Field

Despite temperatures being in the mid-80s F during the day, the calendar and other signs say autumn has arrived. Above are red spider lilies which bloom in September after heavy rains, often brought by typhoon systems. We had some heavy rain last weekend and on my bike ride Saturday, they were out everywhere. The bulbs are very poisonous and farmers plant them to keep pests away from their crops. In Japan, they are called 彼岸花 Higan bana, and are a common funeral flower and symbolize the afterlife.

One of the nicest things about Japan is their celebration and detailing of the seasons.  Not only fall, winter, spring and summer, but they further delineate the seasons by natural phenomena such as flowers, colors of leaves and arrival of certain types of fish to the market. September means Samna or Mackerel Pike or Pacific Saury are served often in restaurants and can be found in grocery stores. The name in Japanese refers to their appearance of like a knife. I think I will try to prepare it home.


Delicious Samna sushi!

I am loving my “new” road cycle. I inherited a bike from a departing teacher and took it to the local bike shop to put on new tires and tighten the brakes, gears, etc. The road cycle allows me to go much faster and get a better workout. The nearby Minoh forest national park is perfect for riding. Owen was riding the bike yesterday and loved it, so we may have to get into more road cycling.


Near the Minoh Waterfall

I am a single dad this weekend because Nadia is at a PYP workshop in Hong Kong this weekend. It is much easier than before because the kids are growing up and are much more independent. We had a blast playing with the frisbee yesterday and going to the local sushi restaurant with two other families.



Family Journal: September 16, 2017


Ocean and Oliver take advantage of free cotton candy! 

We are having a relaxing long weekend at home. Typhoon number 18 (Japan naming system) or typhoon Liam (see below). Autumn in Japan is typhoon season and like Florida and the southeast US, we do get some wild weather during this time. Fortunately, Osaka is in central Japan and usually by the time they get here, the winds are strong but not destructive. We have called off school at least once a year for typhoons due to high winds. They usually come up through the tropics to the north east.



It lightly rained all day so most of my day was driving around Ocean and Nadia as they shopped for items for her upcoming birthday party. Ocean’s favorite store is Daiso, the famous 100-yen shops of Japan. 40% of their products are cheaply made in China, although I think the quality of the products is a bit higher than the dollar stores in the USA. We went to dinner at Tomato & Onion, a family-style restaurant similar to Denny’s or Perkins. The kids love the do-it-yourself cotton candy machine.


Nadia and Ocean at Daiso 


Japan has all sorts of distinctive products that can only be found here. One I discovered this summer are the Gatsby “deodorant body papers”.  They are made by the Mandom Corporation and Gatsby is their line of men’s hair and skin products. The summer and early autumn in Japan is very hot and humid and I sweat profusely here, more so than any place I’ve ever been. The Gatsby wipes are perfect to cool down and wipe away the sweat.


They have different scents, I tried “citrus ice” and the photo above is “ice fruity”. They have another type of wipes for the head and face. I am not sure about the health of wiping chemicals on your skin, but when I am biking or walking to a meeting and sweating profusely, they sure work and cool me down so I am almost presentable.

We’ll see what typhoon #18 brings us on Sunday and Monday…It is not expected to be as harsh as Irma.



Sunday Morning Cycle


Not exactly Team US Postal Service

Despite living in a metropolitan area of close to 20 million people, my suburb of Osaka is minutes away from the Minoh National Park and the opportunity to get in the countryside is close at hand. I went on a 50-kilometer ride through the forests, farms and rice paddies with friends Sunday morning. We did the Tamno loop and in the mornings, the roads are popular with cyclists, although not crowded. There are some tough climbs, but once you get over the first major ridge up from the city, the rest of the day is fine.

I am enjoying cycling more and more. It is a great alternative to running as it is easier on the knees, but I still get to move through nature. It is a great way to spend a couple of hours. You can see a bit of the ride in the video below. We crossed the border between the Osaka and Kyoto prefectures several times. My next ride will be all the way to Kameoka, a city on the outskirts of Kyoto.

I would like to thank Steve for organizing the ride and for my friends for waiting for me to catch up!