Kurobe

Kurobe Gorge

My daily rides to work provide a view of the sea of open air and rice fields. A welcome change of scenery but lacking the familiar vibrant shades of leaves in the fall that I’m accustomed to at home. A holiday weekend and a craving for autumn foliage encouraged us to take a trip to the nearby mountain attraction- an 80 minute train line through the Kurobe Gorge. Originally serving practically for industrial transportation into the mountains, the train line is now a unique feature of Toyama, operating from mid-spring to the end of November.

Trains depart from Unazuki, with 4 different stops throughout the mountain range and the choice of several classes of train seats (the highest being enclosed and heated). Prompted by adventure (and frugality) we opted for an open train. Although the resulting ride was decidedly wet and chilly it was agreed we had made the right decision- the open sides gave us a breathtaking view of the mountains in full autumn colour.

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The line’s practical beginnings are evident as the train winds through the mountains, passing by dams, bridges, and underground tunnels used in the winter. The ascension of the mountain becomes increasingly rugged as buildings and structures disappear from view. The expanse of mountains envelopes the train, providing somewhat of an unexpected sanctuary.

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At our final stop at the top of the mountain, Keyakidaira, the rain miraculously stopped and we warmed up with some much needed Udon and coffee. There are several paths that branch from the main lodge. Our first led us along the mountain side through the dense forest and across vibrant red bridges.

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_DSC0086_DSC0071There are several key features of Keyakidaira are its three onsen, “Owl tree” (a mysterious stump with the appearance of an owl), and its many winding paths along the mountain sides. The mountains are also home to monkeys which I had given up all hope of seeing until I saw a furry creature jump from the path ahead of me, across the railing and down into the trees. My first response was of second concern for this seemingly confused dog until I quickly realized in fact it was a monkey. We saw two more on our train ride back down the mountain, sitting leisurely on the side of the tracks and apparently unperturbed by the train barreling past them.

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Pizza Jamboree

During today’s rainy afternoon, we took the train up to the neighbouring city of Kurobe for some sight-seeing comfort food. A quick drive from Kurobe is an incredible expanse of mountains stacked with lush trees. The somewhat gloomy weather only made the mountains more mystical with hazy fog near their peaks.

Directly at the foot of the mountains is a somewhat ram-shackle town that attracts massive amounts of the tourists for its festivals and the train tour that winds through the mountains. Our plan is to return in the fall when the leaves have changed colour. Just the thought of this expanse of trees in bright red, orange and yellow takes my breath away.  

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Our dinner tonight was the source of great anticipation and excitement, pizza at the reputable “Pole Pole Jamboree”, affectionally nicknamed “Pizza Jam”. The inspiration for the restaurant’s title is a mystery, but their pies are nothing short of amazing! Each of us ordered the standard “Jamboree Combo”, which to the best of my knowledge (not being able to read the menu) included mushrooms, onions, olives, and a generous amount of gooey cheese. Other than processed single slices, cheese is difficult to come by in Japan and this was a very welcome treat. The same can be said for root beer, which apparently is generally disliked (I will never understand!). The pizzas come in several sizes, starting with 20 centimetres all the way to the 36 for the very hungry and brave.

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