Drive a train and explore japan‘s railway history
Japan is known for its efficient and extensive railway system, and for railway enthusiasts, there is no better place to explore the country’s rich railway history than at the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park in Annaka. Located on the border between Gunma and Nagano prefectures, this park offers a unique opportunity to not only learn about Japan’s railway heritage but also to drive a locomotive yourself. With its stunning mountainous backdrop and a wide range of attractions, the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park is a must-visit destination for train enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
The Usui Pass, where the railway heritage park is located, has been an important mountain route since the eighth century. It has served as a crucial link between Gunma and Nagano prefectures, facilitating trade and travel between the two regions. In 1893, the first rack-and-pinion railway in Japan was built through the Usui Pass, revolutionizing transportation in the area. Trains traversed the pass for over a century, but services were eventually stopped in 1997 when the Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed rail network, was introduced. Despite the discontinuation of regular train services, the Usui Pass remains an iconic symbol of Japan’s railway history.
To reach the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park, visitors can take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo, which takes about an hour to reach Takasaki. Alternatively, there are highway buses available from Tokyo that take a little over two hours to reach Takasaki. From Takasaki, visitors can then take the JR Shinetsu Line to Yokokawa Station, which is only 33 minutes away. The park is conveniently located next to Yokokawa Station, making it easily accessible for both domestic and international visitors.
Attractions at the Park:
1. Model Trains and Railroad Memorabilia:
One of the main attractions at the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park is the collection of model trains and railroad memorabilia. Visitors can explore a variety of diesel engines and other locomotives, as well as purchase train-related souvenirs, including tote bags, enamel badges, and even full train sets. This is a great opportunity for train enthusiasts to expand their collection or for visitors to take home a unique memento of their visit to the park.
2. Drive a Locomotive Yourself:
Perhaps the most exciting and unique feature of the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park is the opportunity to drive a locomotive yourself. This is the only park in Japan that offers such a service, making it a dream come true for anyone who has ever imagined themselves as a train driver. However, it is important to note that to make a reservation for this experience, visitors must be able to speak and read Japanese and have an address in Japan. Driving a locomotive at the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park is an unforgettable experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rich history of Japan’s railways.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to note that the information provided in this article may be subject to change. It is recommended to check the latest updates and guidelines before planning a visit to the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park. Safety measures, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, may be in place to ensure the well-being of visitors and staff.
The Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park in Annaka, Japan, offers a unique and immersive experience for train enthusiasts and history buffs. From exploring model trains and railroad memorabilia to driving a locomotive yourself, there is something for everyone at this park. The rich history of the Usui Pass and its significance in Japan’s railway development make it a must-visit destination for those interested in the country’s transportation heritage. Whether you are a seasoned railway enthusiast or simply curious about Japan’s railway history, a visit to the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Plan your trip today and embark on a journey through Japan’s railway past.
Address And Maps Location:
407-16 Matsuida-machi Yokokawa, Annaka-shi, Gunma-ken