The Kurotetsu (黒鉄) railway is a single track of alarmingly narrow-gauge track (0.762m) that crawls along the edge of the Kurobe Gorge, occasionally crossing from one side to the other over some attractive and scarily precipitate gaps.
We took the railway the full distance from Unazuki (宇奈月) to Keyakidaira (欅平)—and back again, because there’s no other way out. On the outward journey, we chose the open carriages to get a good view. And it was indeed a fabulous view—however, at around 10am in November at ½ km above sea level, it’s cold. Even in a warm November, it was cold, and the thick cloud covering the sky didn’t help matters at all.
By the time we reached Keyakidaira, however, the sky had cleared, allowing the sun to illuminate the floor of the valley. We, however, were still stuck in the shad by the large mountains above us.
There is actually very little at Keyakidaira. A pretty valley with a river, and the whimsically named Monkey Jump (猿飛峡)—so called because it is reputedly narrow enough for monkeys to jump across. In fact, we saw no monkeys, and were prevented from getting a close look at it by a sump in the covered walkway that had filled with water. It wasn’t an especially impressive sight, if truth be told—certainly not when compared to the fantastic scenery above and around us.
The bad smell that we had encountered earlier at the hotel was repeated at Keyakidaira—no doubt related to the virulent turquoise colour of the water throughout the valley.
We travelled in covered, heated coaches on the return journey, which was much more pleasant than the outward leg as, in addition to the absence of the incipient hypothermia that had accompanied us earlier, the sun was now shining, putting a lie to the weather forecast yet again—not that I was complaining!
Our return journey to Osaka was something of a mirror of our travels up to that point. Kurotetsu back to Unazuki; Dentetsu from there to Uozu (魚津)—a slight change that saved us a few hundred yen by taking us off the overpriced private railway and onto the JR line a little sooner—and JR from there onwards.
We filled the ¾ hour wait for the Thunderbird at Toyama station with a spree of consumerism: two boxes of sushi to eat on the train as our late lunch, accompanied by a couple of cans of beer and a chou-crème; N—— bought various types of sweets as gifts for her friends and colleagues; we got a box of masu-no-sushi again, this time to give to N——’s parents back in Osaka that evening.
We then took the train, and eventually arrived back at JR Osaka station after a comfortable but long journey, after which we had to fight the commuters to get home on the crowded local lines.