Seeing Japan from the slow train – part 4: Kashiwazaki to Takayama

I wanted to try and maximize daylight in the Takayama area so I took an early train from Kashiwazaki. I had noticed a coffee shop near the station the night before and planned on stopping there for breakfast before departing, but it was closed. Breakfast ended up being a can of coffee and a baked item with some resemblance to a chocolate doughnut from the convenience store in the station, and so fortified I climbed aboard the nearly empty Sunday morning local for Naoetsu and there connecting to Toyama. The route basically followed the Sea of Japan coastline with occasional tunnels where mountains dropped directly into the water and slight diversions inland to avoid coastal features.

All in all it was a pleasant route with good scenery on both sides (and another station in a tunnel – given that I ride subways frequently it should not come as a surprise, but somehow it does when the tunnel is through a mountain rathar than under a city). As the train approached the local hub of Toyama it began to fill up, and though I had considered an exploratory stopover, my first impression of the city was that my day would be better spent in the mountains. The layover between trains was about half an hour, so I did have time to walk around the station a little.

The next train was a fairly short local to Inotani, and it was uncomfortably crowded as we left. It turned out that there was some event going on a few stops out of Toyama, and once most of the people got off at that stop there were only a handful of us left to enjoy another scenically impressive approach into the mountains. A final transfer at Inotani would have wrapped up the trip and dropped me off in Takayama in early afternoon after a stunning stretch of mountain valley railroad scenery, but after changing trains at Inotani I opted to get off a few stops early and spend a few hours in Hida- Furukawa before continuing on to Takayama.

As much as I like being able to jump on and off at stations based on first impressions, one thing to be very aware of is that the local service can be a bit irregular – although there are trains between Hida-Furukawa and Takayama nearly hourly, most of them are expresses or limited expresses which are not covered by the local railpass I had. The end result of this was that by getting off at Hida-Furukawa I had locked myself into a 4 hour stay before the next available train came through (which it turns out was just about right for what I wanted to see there).

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