Watarase Keikoku Tetsudo, or Watarase Valley Railway, is a popular railway for its old style cars and scenic views. The railway is connecting Kiryu Gunma Prefecture to Ashio Tochigi Prefecture. It runs 44.1Km or 27.4 miles. Both Kiryu and Ashio played big roles in the modernization of Japan in Meiji period.
From the beginning of Meiji period to World War Two, silk industry was one of the sources of foreign exchange for Japan. Kiryu had been a main site of silk fabric from 9th century and prospered by silk industry after the Meiji Restoration.
Ashio produced 1,200 tons of copper per year in the Edo period. In the Meiji period, as a result of the introduction of Western modern mining technology, Ashio copper mine became Japan's largest copper producer and became the largest in East Asia which produced thousands of tons annually. Both Kiryu and Ashio don't prosper anymore, but both towns have historical value and good old atmosphere.
Tobu Ryomo Limited Express
There are some way to get on the Watarase Keikoku Railway from Tokyo. I took Tobu Limited Express to Aioi Station and change to Watarase Keikoku Line. Tobu Limited Express starts from Asakusa Station and it takes about 100 minutes and costs 2,230 Yen.
Another way is taking JR Line. You take Tohoku Shinkansen Bullet Train from Tokyo Station to Oyama Station. Then change to JR Ryomo Line to Kiryu. It also takes about 100 minutes and costs 4,320 Yen. If you have Japan Rail Pass, you don't have to pay the fare. Kiryu is Watarase Keikoku Line's first station.
Connection Train for Sight-seeing tram
Watarase Keikoku Railway operates Sight-seeing tram. There is a kind of Sight-seeing tram which starts from Ohmama Station. In this case you need to get on the connection Train.
The Sight-seeing tram's operation days are limited so you need to check. And the tram is so popular that it's not easy to get a ticket. You can get on ordinary train cars anytime.
Ordinary train car
Tail of the train
There are four cars, two ordinary train cars plus two Sight-seeing trams. You need to make seat reservation for Sight-seeing tram and it costs 510 Yen. The fare from Kiryu to Ashio is 1,110 Yen. There is a special ticket riding unlimitedly (only Watarase Keikoku Line) whole day for 1,850 Yen.
In the Sight-seeing tram
You can get lunch box in the tram
Milky Way Illumination
There is a long tunnel, it takes 10 minutes to pass through. In the tunnel, Sight-seeing tram serves Milky Way Illumination.
Colorful autumn foliage
A diesel locomotive is pulling four passenger cars
Round trip between Kiryu and Ashio takes 4 hours, so day trip might be just riding trains. There are lots of place to see in Kiryu and Ashio, I recommend overnight trip. Autumn is a good season, but it must be enjoyable trip in any other season.