Kurihara City in Miyagi Prefecture is a surprising town of unique nature, geology and fascinating history. Its local mine (now a fun history theme-park called Hosokura Minepark) was once the largest lead and zinc mines in Japan and the town surrounding it a lively hub of activity. The lifeline of this activity was the Kurihara Den’en Railway Line (or Kuriden Railway). After the closure of the Hosokura Mine in 1988, freight traffic along the railway decreased and sparked the beginning of a general decrease in passengers, finally resulting in the closure of the historic railway in 2007, just 10 years ago.
The history and atmosphere of the railway is still very much alive and kicking! Wakayanagi station, the third station along the line, is now the centre of the ‘Kuriden Museum’ where you can step back in time and experience a ride along the historic railway yourself.
Inside the museum you will find all kinds of information and historical artifacts, from station-master uniforms, a detailed miniature model of the entire track to a real train carriage and train-driver simulator experience! I recommend dropping in here first to immerse yourself in the history of the railway before walking across the road to the ‘attraction zone’ aka the former Wakayanagi Station!
Entering the station is really like stepping back in time – everything is just as it was, including the signage, ticket dispensers and old advertising for local restaurants and businesses (many of which are still in business decades later) painted on the wooden bench-seats in the waiting room.
Throughout the year, the station also offers the chance to ride on some of the vintage rail cars and diesel or electric locomotives (see below for schedule information).
Photo credit: Kurihara City Homepage
We were lucky enough to time our visit with the chance to ride on an old KD 95 Railcar! We took a short but relaxing round-trip about two or three stations along the line and back again. The vintage-style interior and scenic views of endless fields of green rice were fantastic. Some of our group took the time-slip experience to the next level by borrowing some of the old uniforms and driver’s hats for that perfect selfie!
The Kuriden Railway museum is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon on a weekend trip away in Miyagi Prefecture! There are plenty of activities for all ages to enjoy, especially those seeking a nostalgic trip down memory lane, away from the cities through the open fields of Japanese countryside.
**Time your visit with the nearby Izunuma-Uchinuma Lotus Festival for a perfect summer day trip!
KURIHARA ‘KURIDEN’ RAILWAY MUSEUM
MULTILINGUAL AUDIO GUIDEBOOK/PEN
Don’t speak Japanese? No problem! Kurihara City has you covered with their convenient Audio Guidebook/Pen system which provides useful information about all the best sites and attractions in town, in seven different languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, French, German and Spanish) !!
The Audio Guidebook and Pen will only set you back 500 yen for the day! They can be hired and returned to Kurikoma-Kogen station (the nearest station to Kurihara on the Tohoku Shinkansen).