In southern Hyogo Prefecture, between Kobe and Osaka, the old JR Fukuchiyama Line has emerged as a popular hiking trail for adventurous locals. The abandoned railway meanders along the beautiful Mukogawa Gorge (武庫川渓谷), and this fascinating hike offers picturesque views of the gorge, a chance to walk through train tunnels, and even a refreshing hot spring at the end. It is about 6 km, and takes between 2-3 hours to complete. The hike is pretty low-key and fun for all ages, so put on a sturdy pair of shoes and don’t forget to bring a good flashlight (or a headlamp) for those tunnels!
You can access the hike by train from Osaka station easily. Just take the JR Fukuchiyama Line bound for Shin-sanda (新三田) and get off at Namaze (生瀬) station. If you take a local train, it takes about 40 minutes. For a faster trip, take a rapid train to either Kawanishi-Ikeda (川西池田) or Takarazuka (宝塚), and change to the local train to start your hike at Namaze (生瀬) station.
From Namaze Station it’s a twenty minute walk to the trailhead. Head down the main road, keeping the Co-Op Mini supermarket on your left. Go through the overpass to the highway junction and take a left at the bridge with red railing (don’t cross the bridge!). Keep on the main road until you pass a large toll road overpass, then turn left on a paved path leading down to the river with a series of switchbacks. At the end of it, the trailhead will begin. It can be a bit confusing, so here’s a map to help you find it!
The beginning of the trail is so beautiful! It was lovely walking along the river gorge on a red path with scenic views to your right. With very few tourists and not a building in sight, visitors can feel enveloped in nature and participate in a truly local activity. Remember to bring your camera along!
Not too far along the hike, you will come across the first tunnel. There are six tunnels in total on this hike, with the longest being about 450 meters. The second tunnel is the longest. It may seem creepy, but don’t be afraid! When I visited, there were several groups of children from local elementary schools checking out the historic railway tunnels on field trips with their teachers. They looked like they were having a ball – once you get over the darkness, walking through the old tunnels is really quite a fascinating experience.
I highly recommend this hike to nature lovers. The colors of the river, the foliage and the rocks that make up the Mokugawa gorge are captivating. I visited in early autumn with another adventurous friend and we were equipped only with the flashlights on our iPhones, but we had such a great time wandering around the trails, taking photos and even hanging out in the tunnel entrances to have snack and water breaks.
In the middle of the hike, the fourth tunnel opens up to greet you with the sight of a stunning red railroad bridge. The contrast of the red against the greenery of the beautiful surroundings adds an ethereal feel to the experience – it felt like we had stumbled across an old relic. At first we thought the trail ends here, but thankfully there is a pedestrian crossing on the left and you can continue another 2km beyond the bridge. Feel free to take your time along the way and soak in the atmosphere.
The rest of the hike is more of a stroll. You’ll soon reach your first signpost of the day, pointing towards Takedao (武田尾), which is still 1.6km away. As I mentioned before, I visited in early Autumn, but I hear that the cherry blossoms on this part of the trail are gorgeous for springtime visitors. After crossing a wooden bridge and some stairs, you’ll find a sign indicating 600 meters to Takedao station (武田尾). If you’re interested in freshening up with a hot spring bath, don’t go straight back to the station; continue walking along the river for about 15 minutes and you’ll find a few ryokan that offer baths before 18:00.
Overall, I’d say that this is a very enjoyable, low intensity hike, great for people of all ages. The tunnels may be frightening at first, but it is an experience you won’t soon forget. Don’t miss out on this little gem of an adventure in Hyogo prefecture.
|Name||Fukuchiyama Tunnel Hike|
|Address||starts at: Namaze Station, 1 Chome-1 Namazechō, Nishinomiya-shi, Hyōgo-ken 669-1102|
|Access||[map]starts at: Namaze Station, 1 Chome-1 Namazechō, Nishinomiya-shi, Hyōgo-ken 669-1102[/map]|
|Opening Hours||24 hours|