Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Historic rail exhibits, train riding experiences and miniature railways await visitors to Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park.
Birth of the railway park
Train line closures can be economically devastating for a community, so when it happened to Annaka, a small city of 60,000 people in Gunma Prefecture, it found a novel way to hold on to its connection to the railway. The result is Usitoge Tetsudo Bunka Mura (Usuitoge Railway Heritage Park).
Located on parts of the disused route and the sizeable train yards around the former railway station, the park is expansive and includes attractions designed for railway buffs and children as well as general visitors.
Highlights include the Railway Museum, which showcases models, documents and other historical materials related to the railway in the area, and the Exhibition Hall, which was once the railway’s inspection and repair garage. The hall houses trains and train parts that tell the story of rail transport in days gone by.
Outside are numerous historical electric, steam and diesel locomotives, each restored to their former glory. You can look around the inside of many of the train cars on weekends and public holidays.
Activities and experiences
There is a variety of railway-related experiences on offer including rides, a train simulator and even the chance to drive an electric locomotive on a 400-metre length of track (reservation required).
Poppo is a miniature steam locomotive that gives children and their parents rides around the grounds.
In the museum building there is a fully operable, miniature railway (on the HO rail transport modelling scale) that can be hired if you want to take control of operating your own railway world.
The Railway Culture Village is a sizable space containing a range of exhibits and attractions including many that are hands-on. The shop sells toys and historical memorabilia.
Take a Shinetsu Line train from Takasaki to Yokokawa (30-minute ride). The museum is a few minutes’ walk from the station. Alternatively, take a JR bus from the north exit of Karuizawa Station (30-minute ride).
Find out more
For details on Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park, visit its website (in Japanese only).