Miyazaki: Museum Brings Takachiho Railway History to Life

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A diorama and photos are displayed at the Takachiho Railway history museum in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Dec. 22.

TAKACHIHO, Miyazaki — A museum has opened recently in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, featuring the history of the Takachiho Railway, which was decommissioned after being hit by a devastating typhoon in 2005.

The railway originally ran for about 50 kilometers, connecting Nobeoka city and Takachiho town in the prefecture on the Takachiho Line of the Japanese National Railways (JNR). Operations began in 1935 between Nobeoka and Hyuga-Okamoto and extended to Takachiho in 1972.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A Takachiho Railway train at Takachiho Station in 2002

The railway line wound its way through the mountains and was popular for its scenic views, such as the Takachiho Iron Bridge, which spans the Iwato River at a height of about 105 meters.

After the JNR was privatized, operation of the Takachiho Line was taken over by a semi-public company in 1989. However, in September 2005 it was hit hard by Typhoon No. 14, which washed away portions of the tracks and some bridges. Although local residents had hoped for the resumption of services, the entirety of the unprofitable line was decommissioned on Dec. 28, 2008.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Remnants of a bridge on the Takachiho Railway line are seen in a river after a typhoon in 2005.

Tracks and other railway assets were handed over, free of charge, to the municipalities hosting the line.

Conversion to tourist railway

Fifteen years after the line was decommissioned, the Takachiho Amaterasu Railway now uses the remaining tracks to operate sightseeing carts. Initially, volunteers in the town had hoped to revive the line and established an operating company in 2006. After the decision to decommission the line was officially made in 2008, it was given a new lease of life under a new operator, Takachiho Amaterasu Railway Co., that is exploring ways to use it for tourism purposes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sightseeing cart runs on the Takachiho Iron Bridge on Dec. 15.

As part of such efforts, the Takachiho Railway history museum opened on Dec. 24 and a warehouse inside Takachiho Station was converted into an exhibition space. Sightseeing carts now go to and from the station.

“We want to make this museum a place where many tourists can learn about the Takachiho Railway,” an official of the company said.

The museum itself is about 90 square meters and features a 10-square-meter diorama of the Takachiho Railway. Katsumi Fujinami, a 63-year-old company employee from Kawaminami in the prefecture, created the diorama using wood, polystyrene plastic, gypsum and other materials to elaborately replicate the mountains, rugged rock surfaces, trees, rivers, roads and bridges seen along the line.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bridges, roads and rivers are recreated in detail.

The diorama has electrified railway tracks that can run miniature trains. On the diorama, there are also figures of people waiting for a train at the station and Miyazaki Kotsu buses running along the mountain roads.

At the museum, photographs are also displayed to show different time periods. Trains from the old Takachiho Railway era are in a garage adjacent to the museum, allowing people to visit and take photos inside the trains.

“We will be happy if visitors enjoy the sightseeing carts and learn about the history of the decommissioned Takachiho Railway at the museum,” said Hiroyoshi Saito, the managing director of Takachiho Amaterasu Railway.

Admission to the museum is ¥1,000 for adults and ¥600 for elementary and junior high school students.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Amaterasu Railway

Takachiho Amaterasu Railway Co. offers a trolley tour that travels between Takachiho Station and Takachiho Iron Bridge. It first started the initiative with a hand-pushed wooden trolley, but, after a series of improvements, it now operates a 60-passenger sightseeing cart 10 times a day. The 5.1-kilometer round trip takes 30 minutes and, as in the days of the old Takachiho Railway, visitors can enjoy the view from the 105-meter-high Takachiho Iron Bridge at the halfway point.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sightseeing cart is seen in April 2023.

The tour is popular with tourists from in and out of the prefecture as well as those from Taiwan and other places overseas. As of late November, the number of passengers for fiscal 2023 exceeded 80,000, breaking the record of about 73,500 in the previous fiscal year.

The fare is ¥1,800 for high school students and adults, ¥1,100 for elementary and junior high school students and ¥600 for preschool children aged 1 and older.