Taking the slow train from Nagoya to Toyama


Our slow travel series explores how you can take more mindful journeys by train, boat, bus or bike – with tips on how to get where you’re going without extra flights, and what to see and do along the way. Here, Lonely Planet’s resident Japanese train expert John Walton takes us across the Japanese Alps from Nagoya to Toyama by train. 

When you think about Japanese train travel, you might think about speeding to or from Tokyo on a high-speed Shinkansen, rocketing at up to 200 mph (320km/h) through tunnels and over elevated concrete viaducts.

That experience is indeed a big part of train travel in Japan – but some of the Japanese rail journeys I love the most are a rather slower affair.

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The Hida, one of Japan’s regional Limited Express trains, is one of them. Weaving its way from bustling Nagoya’s enormous main railway station along the old pre-Shinkansen Tokaido Main Line before veering off through smaller cities and into the mountains, it provides some of the most quintessentially Japanese experiences you can have.

Between Tokyo and Kyoto, this ride is perfect both for first-time Japan travelers or for return visitors who want to get off the beaten path. Nonstop, it’s a four-hour trip, but much of the joy is in breaking up your journey, including at one – or both – of the hot-spring resort towns along the route.

A view of the rebuilt Nagoya Castle, Nagoya, JapanNagoya Castle is well worth a visit © Getty Images

You can start at either end, but Nagoya is usually slightly easier to reach for most travelers. I strongly…

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