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.