Kamioka Gattan Go!

The northeast most town in Hida City, is Kamioka 神岡. It currently has about 10,000 people, but there used to be a lot more. 15 years ago, there were 30,000 residents. Many of those people were employed in the various zinc mines throughout the town and region.

And then in 2003 (I think) the zinc mine were closed. Apparently zinc was no longer as useful as it once was, and the companies sold, closed, or abandoned the mines in the area. Almost all the staff was cut, and residents began leaving the town and moving elsewhere for work.

With the mass exodus of residents, it no longer made sense to keep the Kamioka rail line open, so on December 1st, 2006, the rail line was closed, and abandoned.

It's still abandoned today, and is a rather prominent and visible symbol of Kamioka's urban decay.

Today, these railways have a unique present to contrast their flourishing past.

Gattan Go!

These days, you can ride the rails yourself on a bicycle contraption. A few years after the railway closed, the NPO Kamioka-town network NPO法人神岡町づくりネットワーク opened the Gattan Go! service! 2 or more people can reserve one of these railway bicycles and journey along Kamioka's railway for about 1000 to 1500 per person.

This past weekend, a few ALTs and I reserved a 4 person bicycle, and traveled on the old Kamioka railway. :)

The railway course is about 3km to the end, and another 3km back. It starts from the old Hida Onsen Station and continues to the Kamioka Mining Station.


Here's the old Hida Onsen Station, or 旧奥飛騨温泉口駅 (きゅう おくひだ おんせん ぐち えき). It's now the central station for Gattan Go! Inside there's a whole collection of trains, and some old photos of the line before it was decommissioned. There's a Cafe outside, and a few other fun things.

We arrived a little early, so we looked at the photo spread of previous railway riders, and photos of the railway in different seasons. It wasn't before too long that riders began returning from the time slot before us. Almost 10 groups continued to show up around the bend, and arrive at the station.

At 4:30, the "foreman" had everyone in our time slot move into the briefing room. He went through all the rules. No getting off the bikes. No stopping. Always wear a helmet. Blah, blah, blah… You could still take photos, but you had to do so while staying on the bike. Not a problem.

Luckily, our American group was the final group to leave the station, so we didn't have to worry about keeping a pace for everyone behind us. We all hopped on the bike, and shoved off.

And it was a beautiful downhill ride. :)



The first station we went past is the Kamioka Oohashi (or Big Bridge) Station 旧神岡大橋駅 (きゅう かみおか おおはし えき), which is easy to identify with the Mushroom Public Bathroom next to the exit. The station building was torn down, and removed. The entrance gate is totally wide open, so anyone could easy walk to the platform, then take a look around the railway.

After continuing along further, we entered the first of two major tunnels on the route. The first tunnel goes directly underneath the Kamioka elementary school. And even though it's absolutely pitch black inside, it's straight, so, you can always see the entrance and exit.

Upon exited the tunnel, you reach the main Kamioka Station 旧飛騨神岡駅 (きゅう ひだ かみおか えき), which is elevated over the west end of town. The former Kamioka station building is now a hair salon. I don't know if you can actually access the station platform anymore. I think you have to go through the inside of the building, and it was closed when I checked.





After we passed through Kamioka Station, we entered the second tunnel of the route, and this one is much longer than the first. The "elementary school" tunnel is about 600m, I think? This tunnel, the "Otsu Shrine" tunnel, is a bit longer at almost 1 kilometer. And it curves in the middle, so there's a point where it's absolutely pitch black and you can't see either entrance or exit.

It's just you (and your team) peddling into the darkness with no actual aim.

It's a bit creepy…

But, before we reached the light of the end of the tunnel, and were suddenly bathed in the light and heat of the day.




And after another 500m we go to the end of the line, the Kamioka Mining Station 旧神岡鉱山前駅 (きゅう かみおか こうざん まえ えき). At this point, an attendant stopped everyone and turned the bikes around for the return journey. We got to take a break, drink some water, and relax for a little while.

Before too long, we're back on the bike, and returning to the Hida Onsen Station.



Going from the Onsen Station to the Mining Station is pretty easy because the route is generally downhill. It still feels really flat, though. The return route is a fucking monster. There were so many parts on the route where we kept peddling as much as we could, and we were still slowing down, and dragging. I don't know if it was the bike we had, or if we're just that out of shape, but it was an actual workout to climb the tracks back to central.

We finally returned to the Onsen Station at 5:35. A good 5 minutes late. :) Good thing we were scheduled the last time slot of the day, and were the final group to depart.

Exhausted, and beat, we returned to our cars, and drove to a local yakiniku place for some delicious dinner.

Overall, it was a pretty fantastic and unique experience. All of these old stations are pretty prominent in Kamioka, and after seeing them for the first time, I really wanted to get a better view. Riding the bikes along these tracks was a great way to see everything up close, and take part of the history that was once the Kamioka railway.

As we finally departed Kamioka for the night, the tiny little castle shone beautifully in the darkening sky.


Another way to experience the old railways is on youtube. There's a few videos that people recorded from back in the day of the train traveling from the current Kamioka Inotani Station 神岡猪谷駅 all the way to the Hida Onsen Station.

This video was recorded in 1991: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpoF8ytO5OY

And this one is quite a bit more recent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SYVI5abGtI

In both videos, you can clearly see a whole lot of tanker cars parked at the Onsen and Mining stations, which carried all the zinc and whatever else they extracted from the Kamioka mines.

That first video is really helpful because it lists all the stations of the now abandoned line between the Inotani Station and the Onsen station:

猪谷 飛騨中山 茂住 漆山 神岡鉱山 神岡 神岡大橋 飛騨温泉

There's just 3 more stations outside of the central Kamioka area that are decommissioned: Hida Nakayama 飛騨中山, Mozumi 茂住, and Urushiyama 漆山. From the parts of the rail line we weren't able to ride on, there are some really beautiful bridges, and tunnels that are very very long. Especially between the Mining station and the Urushiyama Station 漆山駅. I think this requires some more exploring in the future. :)


Near the end of summer vacation, I went to these abandoned rail stations: September 1st

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