Thursday, December 2, 2010

Upcoming rail trips to Asia

There are two rail trips being planned that I know about. The first is ground transit only with no flights within the country being visited. The second only has a single flight.

In March, John Raby is hosting a trip to the Leshan region in southern Sichuan to ride on a steam passenger line as well as visit coal railways in the area. The tour will be kept small (10 people max) to allow all participants to directly experience China and to encounter regular people along the way. This is very much an unpackaged tour and as such involved lots of real Chinese food and the ability to walk up to 10km a day over uneven surfaces. The trip also involves lots of flowers along the track; the trip is being planned for the beginning of March for flowers and the (possibly) good weather.

ends and starts in Chengdu, Sichuan Province
aprox. £ 1000 ($1550)

Airfare from London (through Amsterdam) is available for £571.
Americans can get to Chengdu by flying to Beijing and then taking a train.


Farrail is running a tour of steam engines used in the sugar industry. This tour is all rail except for a flight at the end from Surabaya to Jakarta. This trip would be good for someone who is interested in how things work.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where should I go?

I am planning my next trip, and I am wondering where you think I should go.

Should I go investigate China's new high-speed trains? I am curious to see if the system is as extensive as it looks on the map. I have never heard of anyone actually taking some of them. Even if the system is not as extensive as it looks, I will get to go to Wuhan by high-speed train, and Wuhan is awesome.

Should I take the train from Singapore to Thailand, investigating Malaysia's rail system on the way? I might actually be able to take the train into Cambodia, although that may still be a freight-only line.

Should I investigate Vietnam's railways? At least one new intercity rail line has opened in the last year along with some new commuter track in the major cities. Vietnam may have a lot more possibilities in a couple of years, though.

How about Siberia? I have heard that winter is the best time to go.

Any ideas are welcome. What would you like to read about?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

China working on Silk Road 2.0

In the past few years, governments throughout Asia have worked together on the Silk Road project to create freight and passenger rail links between each other and Asia. A major links include a line Singapore through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam then up north into China and a line though Russia into the central Asian countries that used to be part of the USSR to Iran and Turkey.

It looks like China may be looking to support rail links that bypass a couple of its traditional enemies. It looks like Chinese money is available to support a high-speed rail link with Thailand and an ordinary speed rail link to Vientiane, Laos. Both of these lines would run through Myanmar. They are also supporting a high-speed rail link between India and Pakistan.

The project that is probably farthest along is the project in Laos. Questions have arisen about the nationality of the workers and the origin of the goods that will be transported by the railways. If most of the workers who build the tracks are Chinese, and most of the goods that are transported are Chinese, some people wonder if this railway will actually benefit Laos.Some of these may be genuine concerns and some may be simple xenophobia.

I have concerns because China is loaning the money to Laos. These are not grants. Many underdeveloped countries are in trouble because they went into debt for projects that did not bring economic development. This is especially a concern for Laos because very few Laotians have the skills necessary to work on a project like this. Right now the plans are to import large numbers of Chinese rather than educate locals for these jobs.

Who is going to operate these trains when they are finished? It is my understanding that the train that connects the border near Vientiane with Thailand is actually run by the Thailand's railways. Now this railway has apparently spurred enough development in the area to pay for its construction. People who used to be subsistence farmers are now able to sell excess crops and some crafts. But these are people who are geographically close to major urban centers. Some people are in fact carrying their goods into Thailand rather than taking the train. Is similar development possible in more isolated areas?

I hope so. I also hope that the government of Laos acts in the best interests of its citizens and demands that China pay for infrastructure for which they are the primary beneficiaries. Laos should also look for other funding for any railways they would like to build. There are other sources of revenue.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hanoi is expanding its Metro

On September 25, Hguyen Tan Dung, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Hanoi's third subway line, and yesterday the project received an additional 73 million Euros in financing. A couple more subway lines are in the planning stages. The third line is projected to transport 200,000 people a day which are good numbers for a 12.5km line.

Vietnam's rail system is slowly improving. Should I visit and report back here?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anyone going to Gansu?

I was talking with the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Portland, and I asked him if any of his American (or Korean or Canadian or etc.) friends had travled to China by train and would like to write about it. He asked me to encourage my readers to travel to Gansu in northwest China to help the economy there. The government of China is powerful, but the people are still struggling.

Gansu is beautiful and ethnically diverse. If you cannot visit, you can taste the food in Portland at Frank's Noodle 822 NE Broadway.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Afghanistan plans to join the Asian rail network

Good news: Afghanistan has developed a national rail plan based on the lines that are already being built and the international support that those lines have already received. The Asian Development Bank is financing most of the cost of a freight line from Hayratan, Uzbekistan to Mazar-i-Sherif in northern Afghanistan.

There are plans to extend this line to a line being built by Iran to the Afghan border near Herat. There might be a branch to Turkmenistan. Northern Afghanistan is relatively stable, so this line is realistic.

In addition, the Chinese may finance a line from Mazar-i-Sherif to Kabul that would continue on to Jalalabad and the border with Pakistan. This line would have to go through area where there is fighting which reduces the likelihood of its ever being built. However, if the Chinese provide grants )like for the line that is being built to Mazar-i-Sherif) construction might inject enough money into the local economy to create stability.

(This post was based on several articles from the Railway Gazette International.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Future Express: A TV show that takes place on trains

Future Express is a series of documentaries that show on Link TV. Each show is made up of interviews on a train ride through a single country. Usually the filmaker Rob Hof, rides from one end of the country to the other.

Click the links to watch the shows that cover Asia:

Turkey - Rejected Love (I particularly like this one.)

Rob Hof has also done a 13 episode documentary about a train trip from Vietman to Turkey that I have not seen yet. If anyone has, I would love to hear what they think of it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Solar and Water Conservation Together in One Station

Taiwan's Central News Agency reports that the new Nanke Station, Tainan is entirely powered by solar energy during the day. The sun also provides natural light inside the station.

It looks like the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) is letting the high-speed rail line concentrate on transporting cross-country passengers while the TRA shifts to transporting more people inside provinces. This is probably a good thing as public transportation in Taiwan has traditionally been inadequate in Taiwan. In addition to the new station, there is going to be free shuttle service to and from the nearby Southern Taiwan Science Park as well as a bicycle rental shop in the station area.

The station also saves water. The roof will be able to collect rainwater and store up to 210 cubic meters of water.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Guide to Using the Shanghai Metro

Here is a guide to using the Shanghai Metro written by Ted and posted to the social networking site Multiply.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vietnam's Future Rail Plans

There is money available from foreign donors for upgrading rail within Vietnam as this would help the economies of eastern Asia as a whole as improve the natural environment. Currently, both Korea and Japan have offered their own development plans. Korea is offering less money than Japan, but that money is grant money. Also, the money can be used for upgrades to conventional speeds or to high speed. The Japanese have been offering a lot more money, but the money is all loans and the Vietnamese would be required to buy Japanese made equipment. There is also at least 2 billion in potential aid from other sources to build a rail connection to Cambodia, some coming from Australian business groups. China may also be a source of aid money.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dong Daegu

Of Interest: entertainment district, multiple bus stations
Lodging: multiple, hotels and motels
ATM: multiple banks in the area
Other transit: subway station, intercity and express buses

Dong (East) Daegu is Daegu's KTX station. It is in the midst of East Daegu's entertainment district. There are a lot of bars and restaurants nearby, and people come here to walk at night. There also two or three bus stations in the area. Therefore, this area has the most forms of lodging of any area of Daegu.

Daegu is relatively spread out for a Korean city. It actually takes up as much space as Seoul, even though it has less than one-fourth the people. The subway is the best way to get from one part of the city to the other. It goes downtown. So do most saemaeul and mugunhwa trains.

Heading south, Busan is a little over an hour away by KTX high speed train. It takes an hour and a half by regular speed train.

Heading north, Daejeon is fifty minutes away by KTX and two hours by regular speed train while Seoul is an hour and fifty minutes by KTX and two hours and forty-five minutes by regular speed.

KTX trains are frequent. Other trains are hourly.

Occaisional trains head into the mountains to end at Yeongju three hours away.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Another recycling idea

As you may know, every now and then I publish a fun way to reuse old train tickets. I have a new post on my American blog that would work well for anyone with a lot of old Korean train tickets.

Asian Trains - making environmentalism fun since 2009.

Traditional Lunches for the High Speed Train

Taiwan Railways has lost customers to the new high-speed line, but many of those customers miss the old railways food. In response, Taiwan Railways has opened box lunch stands at Taichung and Kaohsiung Stations. These are the next biggest cities after Taipei.

On opening day in Taichung, the box lunch stand sold twice as many lunches as at Taichung City Station, the station for the conventional rail line. Lunches cost around $2.50 US, and they are big. Probably the high speed train lunches are small and expensive.

(Just a note. Even if the traditional railways get half the passengers that the high speed rail does, that is still a lot of people.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Malaysian Station in Singapore

If you are going to (or from) Singapore by train, you may need to check where and how you get on the train and where you go through immigration.

Malaysia's customs, immigration, quarantine facilites will move to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint near the Singapore-Malaysia border by July 2011. These facilities are still within the borders of Singapore, and they may move again in 2018 if planned improvements to Singapore's internal rail system are built.

Some businesses near the new station are looking forward to business from commuters, although some people think that the area is not upmarket enough to attract outsiders. There was very little near the old station.

This resolves a longstanding dispute concerning land owned by Malaysian Railways within the border of Singapore. Previously, Malaysia enforced border controls at a station that was much closer to downtown Singapore.

And you have to go through immigration before getting on any train to Malaysia. This limits the ability of these trains to connect different areas within Singapore.

The disputed land is along the old tracks. Two private teams will jointly own and develop six parcels of the disputed land, one from Malaysia and one from Singapore. Having people from both Malaysia and Singapore jointly own the land solves the issue of the Malaysia owning land within Singapore.

In addition, the teams may trade any the parcels of land for parcels of equal value in a couple of other areas in Singapore. That part may be a giveaway to the developers.

Update: According to the official agreement, the current station is going to be preserved and will the centerpiece of the areas new development. Another disused station has also been give historic protection as part of the agreement.

Links to an in depth new story and the official announcement can be found through the Cycling in Singapore site as well as discussion of ways to turn the Malaysian Railways corridor into a bike path.

A more scholarly discussion of the agreement can be found at the Reinventing Urban Transport site.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another link to a good post about a station in Japan

sleepytako writes posts that I consistently like. In particular, he has written a beautiful post about the station at the end of the Nishi-Shigi cable car line at

I hope that all of my readers will click on the link. sleepytako expresses a very Japanese way of feeling in a way that is accessible to people who have never been to Japan.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

More on Taiwan

Click the link for a photo guide from one of my Multiply Buddies about how to take the metro in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Daejeon subway also uses round tokens. It is kind of weird putting a coin on a subway.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Taiwan's High Speed Line Sees Increase in Ridership Since Public Takeover

Recently someone forwarded an interesting press release from Taiwan's main news agency to a rail-oriented Yahoo group that I belong to. Apprently, the past year has been the best ever for ridership on Taiwan's high speed line. Currently, the one line serves 3 million passengers a year.

What is interesting about this is that the line has basically been nationalized over the past year. Previously, the private owners were constantly complaining that they couldn't make any money. That ticket sales and other sources of revenue only covered 97% of their operational costs.

The fact is that for a piece of infrastructure to cover 97% of its own costs is unusual. Roads and airports in particular require massive subsidies.

So various government entities allowed private interests to abandon the line to them, and then they lowered prices. Because it is always less of a subsidy for people to take the train than for them to drive. Or fly. And with the volume this line gets, it is less of a subsidy than if those people took the bus.

And of course now that they don't have to make a profit, the line is considered wildly successful.

Shanghai Metro - longest in the world?

Currently, Shanghai claims that with the opening of line 10 last month, Shanghai Metro became the longest such system in the world.

Of course, that depends on what counts toward that total.

Not including portions run by Korail and Incheon Subway, Seoul's Metropolitan Subway system runs 314 km. However, that is counting some track that runs outside of the boundaries of the city of Seoul, and does not include some that is actually within the city's boundaries. So 314 km is too short. Counting every line that could possibly be considered part of the system, the subway is 755 km long. Of course, that ends up trips that never even enter the province where Seoul is located and that are between towns of less than 100,000.

So Shanghai runs a lot of trains that I hear are clean and fast, and you can probably go anywhere you might want to on them. But not necessarily any better than in, say, Paris, which strictly defines what is the metro and what are the suburban commuter trains.

(Also, the maglev to the airport is cool, but very few people take it because the maglev is more expensive than some airplane tickets and the ordinary subway is fast and comfortable enough for most people.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Opera in Daegu

Currently, Korail has a scroll on its Korean site to remind riders that they can take the train to Daegu's Opera House. Daegu is famous for its opera festival and for its Italian-style opera house.

The opera house is less than a thirty minute walk from Daegu Station, but it is probably quicker to take the subway. You are also less likely to get lost. The Daegu Opera House stop is clearly marked in both English and Korean.

It is definitely quicker to take the subway if you are coming in on the KTX. The KTX stops at East Daegu Station (Dong Daegu) which as the name implies is in the eastern part of town.

(Hopefully, an entry on Dong-Daegu Station is coming soon.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Terminology in Japanese Posts or What the Heck is a Prefecture

Shinkansen - bullet trains - super express - These are all names for Japans high speed trains.

Prefecture - province

City - The Japanese term that this is translated from includes the surrounding countryside, often more like counties than cities.

Castle - usually a reconstruction from the 50's or 60's of a group of fortified buildings from the 16th or 17th century. If you are interested in history, pay attention to which parts of what you are seeing are actually old and which ones are recent reconstructions.

If anyone has a question about what something means, send me a message or post a comment, and will explain here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Yeogiyo Can Help Plan Your Trip

If you need to travel within Korea, The Yeogiyo, a Korean site for English-speakers, can tell you about both train and bus schedules and book tickets for you. Hotel bookings are also available.

Just go to their Bus/Train Tickets page.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Of Interest: modern sculptures
Lodging: yes
Tourist Office: yes

I only made a brief stop in Tsuruga. Just long enough to find out that no one in the tourist office speaks English, but they do have a nice English-language brochure and map. Also, the local city hall has decided to beautify their town by purchasing a fair amount of public art. There are several modern sculptures placed throughout the town.

Tsuruga is a little less than an hour from Kyoto by express train. You can also take the shinkansen to Maibara and change to an express, but it takes about the same amount of time. Local trains take 45 minutes to an hour to get to Maibara along the Hokuriku line. Trains along this line sometimes only go between here and Omishiotsu which is fifteen minutes away. The trains end there because Omishiotsu is the first stop in Kyoto Prefecture. Train lines often end at prefectural borders.

According to the signs, technically Omishiotsu is the end of the Hokuriku line. However, what line a piece of track is or is not a part of does not really determine where the trains actually go.

Tsuruga is in the middle of an express route that connects Osaka and Toyama. Kyoto is on the way to Osaka. Going the other way this route passes through Fukui (30-45 minutes away), and Kanazawa. Occaisionnally these trains continue on to northern Japan, with ending points are far away as Niigata or Aomori.

The Obama local train starts in Tsuruga and runs to the city of Obama about an hour away. (The people in the area think that it is kind of funny that the US President has the same name as a small Japanese town.) Some of these trains continue on another hour to Higashi-Maizuru, on the edge of neighboring Kyoto Prefecture.

Trains on most routes run once an hour, sometimes less.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Purpose of Escalators and Elevators in South Korea's Train Stations

In South Korea, the primary purpose of putting escalators and elevators in subway and train stations is to help people who have difficulty walking up stairs and people who have luggage or heavy packages. Escalators and elevators are also in place to help people traveling with small children.

Secondarily, escalators are in place to improve the flow people through stations.

There used to be signs in some stations asking people who were capable of taking the stairs to do so, asking them not to delay people with disabilities.

(According to comments on, the Toronto's Union Station has taken down signs telling people to "stand on the right, walk on the left" because everyone is supposed to stand.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another Way that Saving the Environment Makes Life Better

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how fighting climate change makes life better. So does recycling. Instead of throwing away your Netflix flaps (or any other, oddly-sized piece of paper), you can use them to make art.

(Originally from the Donkeylicious blog.)

* I know that this should probably go on my US blog, but it fits so well with my climate change post. *

Update: More recycling art. Now you can reuse your metro tickets to make Star Wars X-wings and Millennium Falcons. Warning: The instructions for the Millennium Falcon are nine pages long.

This was originally done with Paris metro tickets. I would like to hear if you can do this with Seoul or Busan tickets. I think they are the same size.

Also, if makes some art with Korail, I will any pictures or links here.

A Guide to Asian Trains

The focus is on telling the reader about the walkable area around train stations. Basically, I hope to give readers a sense of where stations are in relation to the places that give them their names. If I am lucky, in some cases the reader can gain a sense of what those places are like.

Each post starts with a list of information, and hopefully a picture. A full list includes places of interest, whether or not lodging is available in the station area, whether or not there is a tourist office, location of ATM's, and location of internet access. In some cases I may include information about whether a station is handicapped accessible and whether the restrooms are decent or not. Places of interest can include anything with half an hour walk from the station. Routes must be safe for pedestrians and easy to follow. Routes may be a little more complicated if maps are easily available in the station.

The body of each post should tell the reader where they can go by train from that station along with travel times. Some older posts may not include this information.

If you are interested in a particular piece of information that is missing, please leave a comment or send me a message. A link to my email is in my profile.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Of Interest: downtown Fukui
Lodging: yes
Int'l ATM: Fukui's central post office is down the main street leading away from the west exit

I was not here very long, so I don't have a lot to write.

From Fukui, JR West trains can take you along the Hokuriku main line to Kanazawa in one direction and Tsuruga (one hour via local trains, half that via express trains) in the other. JR West trains travel along the Etsumi-Hoku line within Fukui and the neighboring city of Ono. A tram line connects Fukui to neighboring cities (Sabae, Echizen) while also providing transportation for short trips. Further transportation within the Fukui area is provided by the Echizen Railway. Their trains connect Sakai and Awara through one line while Katsuyama is accessible through another.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

Recently, I was nominated for the Kreativ Blogger award by Gerardine Baugh.kreativ blogger6
Thanks Gerardine!

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Thank the person giving you the award.
2. Copy the award to your blog.
3. Place a link to their blog.
4. Write seven interesting things about yourself. (About myself? That's hard.)
5. Nominate 7 bloggers.
6. Put links to those bloggers in your blog.
7. Leave a comment letting those bloggers know about the award.

So here it goes:

1. I have lived in France, Spain, Korea, and the US.

2. I am from the plains of Colorado.

3. I prefer wildflowers to dramatic vistas.

4. Partly I like to travel by train because I get motion sick. I can read on the train.

5. I like it when people sit next to me on the bus because it is more social.

6. I don't like writing about myself.

Here are the blogs that I am nominating:

Tokyo Dreaming - Expresses the soul of Japan. I wish I could write this well.

Author Khanh Ha - Short fictional passages and musings on the creative process.

Sleepy Tako - An American living in Japan documents his local travels.

Riding in Riverside - One of the best transit blogs around.

Bill Guffey - Thumbnails of his paintings.

XX Cinema - Information about movies by women.

Neapolitan - A very interesting perspective on life.

(For more information about the Kreative Blogger award, visit the blogs of Carol J. Gavin and Fletch.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to travel on a Korail Train

You need to go to the ticket counter to buy tickets. The machines only work for people who have a Korail membership which can be a little hard to get, especially for foreigners. Most people who work the ticket counters in major cities speak English. Usually the ticket agents in very small towns are also very helpful, the medium-sized places can be the hardest places to deal with.

There is a Korea Rail Pass for sale overseas to foreigners, but unless you are traveling a lot within a short period of time, it is not a good deal. Ticket prices are so reasonable that you can travel that you can travel the whole country for less than a single Shinkansen tickets. Train tickets are also cheaper than in the US. A trip on California's Capitol Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento costs $25-30. A similar distance on the Korean train can cost as little as $7-9. And that is assuming a bad exchange rate for the Korean won. (KTX trains are more expensive, as are some trains that serve rural areas.)

(The Capitol Corridor has almost the same kind of seats as the Saemaeul trains.)

Reservations are necessary on all Korail trains. Smart cards cannot be used for payment. If the train is not crowded, lots of people change seats. Some of the ticket attendants don't like it when people do this, but most of us just ignore them.

Basic Terminology for Korean Posts

KTX - Korea Train Express, Korea's bullet train, based on TGV technology. There are three classes of service: regular, first, and movie car. Standing tickets are sold last minute if a train is sold out. KTX trains sell out during rush hour and the beginning and end of holiday periods. A snack wagon moves around the train.

Saemaeul (New World) - Conventional express trains with two classes of service: regular and first. There is a snack car serving hot and cold food with bench seating. The car has four computers with internet, a music room, and a relaxation room, all for rented at reasonable rates.

Mugungwha (Rose of Sharon)- conventional trains with two classes of service: regular and standing. I think that standing tickets can only be bought the day of travel. These trains sell out frequently, even at non-peak times. Mugungwha trains have the same snack cars as Saemaeul trains.

Place Names

"-ju" Historically a place of great scholarship. A place to look for historic buildings, museums, and traditional culture.

"-san" Mountain. If part of a city name, expect a lot steep streets. If in a name for a subway stop, good hiking is probably within walking distance.
I will add more as I think of them.

"-do" Province.

"-si" Usually translated as city, but really means a county that includes an urban area. There is no word in Korean that directly corresponds to our word "city".

"-gun" A rural county

The province and county names should be in the tags for all station posts.


"dong" east

"seo" west

"nam" south

"bok" north

"jung" center

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Of Interest: access to Chungnam Province (nothing near station)
Lodging: no
Tourist Office: no
ATM: There is an ATM in the station, but it may not take international cards. There is no bank within walking distance.

The Cheonan-Asan station was originally built solely as a KTX station. Since then, Asan Station was also built crossing under the KTX station. Asan Station currently hosts commuter trains from Seoul, line 1 of the Seoul subway, and trains of the Janghang line.

There is nothing in the area, although apartments are being built. The edge of the city of Cheonan is about thirty minutes walk away. Bus service is not very good to either Cheonan or Onyang-oncheon (the main urban area in Asan), the buses are take to long to get anywhere. It is best to change to another train. KTX ridership increased after Asan Station was built, making it possible to get here by train.

KTX trains from both lines stop here. It takes around forty minutes to get to Seoul or Yongsan Stations, twenty minutes to get to Daejeon or Seodaejeon Stations, fifty minutes to get to Dong-Daegu, and two hours and fifteen minutes to get to Busan. If you are going to the southeast, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Iksan, two and fifteen minutes to get to Gwangju, and two and a half hours to get to Mokpo. Trains along the Seoul-Busan line run frequently, but the Yongsan-Gwangju/Mokpo line only arrives about once every two hours.

Saemaeul and Mugungwha trains take five minutes to get to Cheonan, twenty-five minutes to get to Pyeongtaek, forty-five minutes to get to Suwon, and an hour and fifteen minutes to arrive in Yongsan. Going east, the Janghang line serves the towns of Yesan (thirty minutes), Hongseong (one hour), Daecheon (ninety minutes), Seocheon (two hours), and Gunsan (three hours).

Line 1 of the Seoul Metro continues east through Onyang-oncheon to end at Sinchang which serves SoonCheonHyang University. In the other direction, most trains go through central Seoul before ending at Cheongnyangni. The metro route follows the regular train route from Cheonan to Seoul Station, but with a lot more stops.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Of Interest: seafood market, Castle grounds, performing arts center, international center
Tourist Office: yes, inside the station
Lodging: multiple
Internet Access: in the basement of the performing arts center to the right of the station (free from 30 minutes)
Int'l ATM: in the post office in the station building

The tourists office is excellent and has lots of materials in English, including a seasonal tourist magazine. Get a map it is easy to get lost in some of the the small streets in the historic district.

Leaving the station area is easy, just walk straight from the station along the four lane boulevard. There is an international center five minutes walk from the station on the right hand side. It is open regular business hours from Monday to Friday. Another ten minutes walk will get you to a covered market that specializes in fish. This is the point that the small roads appear. You may have look at a map to find the entrance. The market is a good place to have lunch. It is very touristy so it is not cheap.

A five minutes walk through the market will take you to a side entrance of Castle Park. Kanzawa used to be basically an independent country and this was the capital. The park is the largest of its type that I have seen in Japan with remains of lots of buildings as well as lots of areas that have returned to nature. There was a rehearsal for some kind of musical while I was there which was pretty interesting. The area is very hilly; if you stand on top of one of the hills you can see almost everything. (This is another place where I would not bring any luggage.)

There is an arts and craft street across the road from the main entrance (or one of the main entrances). Right now the city is organizing a crafts festival, so this area should be pretty lively. The entrance to Kenrokuen Garden is close by also. This is one the "three most beautiful gardens" in Japan.

At this point, you are pretty far from the station. It is best to take one of the loop buses if you are going back. I think that there are four loop buses in Kanazwa. I think that there are three for locals that cost 100 yen, and one for tourists that is more expensive. Each bus is identified by a color.

Kanazawa was never fire bombed during WWII, so there are historic houses in various places in the city.

The city of Kanzawa has translated their website into English, including the information on transportation. The train section includes information on shinkansen and express trains from Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. Note that from Tokyo, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen west to Maibara or the Joetsu Shinkansen over the mountains to Echigo-yuzawa. Kanzawa is two hours from Maibara and two and a half hours from Echigo-yuzawa by express train. Other destinations reachable by regular express trains are Kyoto (two hours), Osaka (two and a half hours), and Nagoya (two and a half hours).

Local JR West trains go to Fukui (hour and a half), Toyama (forty-five minutes), and Nanao (ninety minutes). There is also a short line run by the Hokuriku Railroad that has multiple stops within the city of Kanazawa and a terminus in the city of Uchinada. The whole trip only takes seventeen minutes.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Of Interest: old Toyama, local history and folk museums, Itachi River
Lodging: multiple
Tourist Office: closed while the train station is renovated?
Int'l ATM: the main post office is just south of the station

Toyama has been an important industrial area for several hundred years. In old Toyama, visitors can see how medicines were made during Edo period. The area also contains Toyama Castle Park which is home to the local history museum and a folk museum which concentrates on the tea ceremony. (The buildings themselves are mostly not original. They are reconstructions dating from the 1950's.)

The Itachi River runs through this area as well. It takes a ten to fifteen minute walk to get to the edge of the interesting stuff which all takes a lot of walking itself. If you are not staying in Toyama overnight, put your bags in a locker at the station. You can also take the tramway to Old Toyama.

Toyama has a lot of commuter rail. Toyama City has several tramway lines, one of which serves the station, and a light rail line which passes the north entrance. The tramway company also operates a local train line that heads north to end in the northern part of Toyama Prefecture in Unazuki Onsen in Kurobe.

JR West runs local trains along the coast to Naoetsu and into to the mountains to Inotani, Toyama. (Inotani is the meeting point of JR West and JR Central lines.) Regular express trains take three and a half hours to get to Nagoya. These trains pass through Kanazawa, which gets the most frequent service from Toyama. Local trains take forty-five minutes, express trains half and hour. There are also occasional express trains to Osaka and Aomori.