|Centrip Editorial Board
Railway mountain bikes! Check out Gattan Go, a unique outdoor activity in Takayama.
When you hear the word, Hida Takayama, I bet the first thing you come up with in your mind is an old historical town or a local farmer’s market. Speaking of things to do, there is a very popular outdoor activity among Japanese people! That is "Gattan Go Rail Bike!": On an abandoned railway, you will ride a special mountain bike and go through tunnels and the mountainside where you normally cannot go bike riding.
I covered the story on Gattan Go! with my friend from the Chubu region. Gattan Go! is unique and popular among Japanese people and travelers. What is so great about it? Could this be fun even for foreign travelers? I, as a Taiwanese woman, will let you know all about what I experienced at Gattan Go!
What is Gattan Go! Rail Bike?
Abandoned Railway Line + Special Bike = Gattan Go!
This abandoned railway was once called "Kamioka Railway" and used mainly for transporting minerals extracted from the Kamioka Mine. Since most areas of the railway line consist of tunnels and iron bridges, people called it the "Subway of Okuhida."
However, starting in 2004, railway operations began to diminish as the trucks started taking over and transporting minerals for the railway. The operation of Kamioka railway as a freight train was suspended at the end of the same year. The locals didn't want it to be abandoned because it carries so much history to the town, so they began to use the Gattan Go! railway as the local attraction for visitors.
Try Gattan GO! Enjoy Speed X Beautiful Scenery X History
Gattan Go! has two courses: the Canyon Course and the Town Course.
【Town Course Features】
This course offers a round trip of about six kilometers, uphill on the way, and downhill on the way back. You can ride at your own pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The town course is recommended for children and seniors. Also, if you are going to try Gattan Go! for the first time or are not confident with your physical strength, this course is your best bet!
【Canyon Course Features】
The Canyon Course gives you a thrilling experience! You will ride your bike through the mountainside and the big bridges. This course will be perfect for the experienced Gattan Go! rider or a group of adults!
This time, I tried the Canyon Course and I loved it, it was a thoroughly thrilling experience.
From signing in to starting your ride
This is where we start. First, sign in at reception. ( I will let you know how to get here at the end of this article. Don't worry! Most of the staff here speaks English!
This red bike is what we are going to ride. Two bicycles are fitted with irons and up to three people can ride. The front wheels are fixed, so you will drive with only back wheels on the rail.
Before riding your bike, you have to put on a helmet and safety belt. The crew will explain how to wear them in advance. This time, there were some travelers from Hong Kong, so the crew was giving instructions both in Japanese and English.
There is also an instruction sign board written in English and Chinese. It says: Please go to the bathroom before the ride. Or once you start driving, do not stop or get off the bicycle during your ride, etc.
You will have a railway map, so you can see the entire route beforehand. Make sure to check the spot where you want to take pictures or film!
After the instruction, it's time to ride! Your electric bicycle is ready, and the crew will check if your seatbelt is securely fastened. You need to put your luggage in the backseat of your bike. Just take your camera or smart phone with you.
Wait in line and for instructions from the crew.
Now it's our turn! Off we go!
As soon as I started pedaling, I thought "Wow, this is so easy!"
Every bicycle has an electric assistant function, so you can even go uphill without breaking a sweat!
During our journey, you will come across the remains of the old platform. Kamioka railway is abandoned, but its history still lives on.
Even though we visited Takayama at the end of July, the midsummer in Japan, I didn't feel it was very hot because we were going through the mountains. There is a beautiful Japanese word,""""Komore-bi（木漏れ日）,"""" which means the light coming through the leaves of trees. When I was riding through the Canyon Course, I saw a lot of ""Komore-bi,” and that was when I truly understood why the word """"Komore-bi"""" was born in the Japanese language.
After you go through the forest, you will see a red bridge along the river.
While driving your bicycle, you will hear the sound, "Gata, Gata." That is the sound you hear on the train. It was so refreshing and exciting to drive on the railway by bike!
Suddenly, there was a tunnel right in front of us. Can we really go through this tunnel?
It's dark and looks creepy..
Wow! I feel like I'm exploring the underground world. The water drop from the ceiling of the tunnel makes you realize you are REALLY riding through the tunnel.
After driving about 3.3 kilometers, you will be the rest area. This is the halfway point.
While the crew is checking the bicycles, the riders can rest inside the tunnel. You can even walk around the tunnel to see what it’s like, so please try it if you are interested.
Our bicycle is ready and we will be heading back to where we started.
On the way back, the first photo spot you will come across after the tunnel is a big red bridge! This is a real instagrammable spot!
The next recommended photo spot is this blue translucent river! You can see some fishermen here. The picture on the right was taken from the sky. Railway runs between mountains and rivers. You won't see this beautiful place while riding a bike if you don't come to Gattan Go! So, come and try it.
You will be back at the starting point after going through the forest. This is the end of our journey.
After you finish bike riding, don't forget to place an ink stamp on the your card you received at the reception as a memory of your trip.
According to my Japanese friend who came with me, it is a special experience even for Japanese people to ride a bike on the railway in the mountains.
The crew told us that currently there are 4 % of foreign visitors. Most of them are from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Some tour package even includes Gattan Go! in the itinerary.
Are you a foreign traveler? Don't worry! You will definately enjoy Gattan Go!
The Town Course
Here is some information on another course, the Town Course.
The Town Course is located away from the Canyon Course. (Informaiton on how to get to the Town Course will be provided at the end of this article.). This old train station is the place to take off!
This is the starting point of the Town Course.
Enjoy a choice of two courses to fit your preference! In the Town Course, you will ride through the town, see the charming atmosphere and even wave to the locals.
Compared to the Canyon Course, the Town Course is not difficult and has less regulations, so it is good for beginners. Also, you can choose bicycles for two or three riders, or for four or five, there are bicycles with a side-car, too.
In the Canyon Course, children under six are not allowed, but in the Town Course, children are welcome as long as they're over one year old , and pets can come too!
There is also a red bridge ready for picture taking in the Town Course.
Which would you choose? The Canyon Course or the Town Course?
Those two courses have different features. Our editorials will give you some tips when making a choice.
Choose the course depending on the number of people, age, and heights
・If there are less than three people in your group and everyone is taller than 140cm, and more than six years old→Canyon Course
・If there are more than three people in your group and you are with children under six or pets.→Town Course
Choose the course depending on what you would like to see.
・Want to see beautiful scenery, rivers, nature, autumn leaves→Canyon Course
・Want to see the towns scenery, the local people's lives, or cherry blossoms, or autumn leaves→Town Course
Choose the course depending on how exciting it is.
・Love higher places, exciting things→Canyon Course
・Love having a great time with family→Town Course
How to make reservations for Gattan Go!?
At certain times of the year, Gattan Go! is really hard to book because it is overflowing, so booking online in advance is recommended. Also, Gattan Go! Is closed from November 25th to April 7th. Please check the official website beforehand.
How to book onlineClick here to book the Canyon Course
Click here to book the Town Course
Go to the link and tap a red button at the bottom of the page to check the current availability.
Check the type of bike, the number of people, and the date.
Choose "I agree." and click the red button.
Enter basic information such as name and email address and click "send."
Here is how you can get here from Takayama Station, or from Hida Furukawa station if you are coming directly from the Nagoya area by train.
From Takayama station
【Use bus and taxi】
Nouhi bus service offers a great package combining bus and taxi fare, and the ticket for Gattan Go! We will give you more details at the end of this article.
It only takes three minutes on foot from JR Takayama station(on the left in the picture) to Nouhi bus center.(on the right in the picture)
When you arrive at the ticket counter, tell the receptionist that you would like to go to "KAMIOKA EIGYOSHO."
Get on the bus at the bus stop No 2. Timetable for the bus is on your right.(Letters in red is for weekends and national holidays. Letter in black is for weekdays.). Check the timetable: ""To KAMIOKA” and keep in mind, there is only one bus which goes to Kamioka.
Not many buses run on this route, so check the timetable in advance. If you are not sure which bus to take, ask the receptionist.
After arriving at the KAMIOKA EIGYOSHO, ask the clerk at the EIGYOSHO to call a taxi and give them the location of Gattan Go! on the map.
From Hida Furukara station
【Use bus and taxi】
First, take JR Takayama line to go to Hida Furukawa station from Nagoya station. Just for your information, Hida Furukawa station is famous for being used as a filming location of a popular movie,"Kimi no Nawa" and it is also a great photo spot.
Walk to the "Hida bus toursit information center" right next to the train station and buy the ticket for the bus.
After purchasing the ticket for Sugisaki, Kamioka, go to the bus stop named "KAMIOKA EIGYOSHO." There are not many buses on this route, so make sure to check the timetable in advance. (Letters in red are for the bus which runs only during holidays)
Located at the right side of the picture is the bus stop (which is across from the tourist information center). Take the bus there.
When you arrive at KAMIOKA EIGYOSHO,ask the staff at the EIGYOSHO to call a taxi. Tell the location of Gattan Go! on the map.
Introducing a great deal package!
There is a package including the bus and a taxi fare, and the ticket for Gattan Go! You can use the bus ticket either from Takayama station or Furukawa station!
On this site, Nohi bus service offers a special package at Gattan Go! section. Choose and book according to your preferences.
This time, our editorials went to see and experience Gattan Go! It was really special, and you can see beautiful nature and Japanese history through this activity.
There are not many chances in life that you go riding on a railway to the place where you can't normally go. Also, it feels so good to ride through the course surrounded by beautiful nature. I recommend this for couples, families, and friends to make great memories!