Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Akita Nairiku line 1

The Akita Nairiku Line runs through the central part of Akita from Takanosu station on the Ou line south to Kakunodate on the Tazawa / Akita Shinkansen line. The line is margin... so margin that neither the Japanese nor English Wikipedia sites have a map on their home page.... It's also marginal because it's is one of the rural lines that constantly runs at a loss. It runs through some of the most depopulating areas of Japan. Ani, one of the settlements towards the middle of the line had an increase of abandoned houses from 6% to 13% between 1996-2005. I don't have the current statistics, which possibly have doubled again,  but the statistics have also probably been subsumed into the overall statistics of Kita Akita city  which was formed with the merger of Takanosu, Aikawa, Moriyoshi and Ani towns several years ago.  There are fewer and fewer patrons to make the line viable.  It was abandoned as a JR line at the time JR was broken up in the 1980s and taken on as subsidised transport by local govt. as a way to ensure that some public transport remained. The fact that it isn't included in the JR passes or the seishun tickets, as well as the fact there's little in the way of tourist infrastructure means that it gets little patronage from sightseers.  The price for the 2 hour trip that goes the length of the line is 1,670 yen, well worth the added expense.

For more detail on the situation in rural Akita, this article by John Mock makes a very sobering read. http://www.japanfocus.org/-John-Mock/4095

And yet, the Nairiku line is beautiful. I went up there many years ago in April, which is not the best time to see snow country in Japan - bleak and brown - and I didn't realise how much of the line is absolutely stunning.

Bento 1 (spinach, chrysanthemum leaves, daikon pickles and egg rolls)

Ogata, Hiro's mother's hometown

The Ani River

The stations of the Nairiku Sen

Snow near Ani Maeda

Maeda Minami

Maeda Minami

Maeda Minami

Maeda Minami

Maeda Minami Station

Towards Kobuchi

GPS calls this Gomihori, towards Kobuchi

Despite being in the deep mountains, there are few tunnels.
The tunnels that are on this line are very short.
Near Ani ai

Ani Ai station

Waiting for the train coming the opposite direction at Ani Station.
It was a 6 minute stop here.

Heavy duty snow clearing machinery for heavy duty snow.

Ani Arase


Andrew Wright said...

I first discovered your blog a few years ago when looking for information about the Akita Nairiku Line. I recall you being unimpressed, but I nonetheless caught it and indeed enjoyed the scenery and the experience. Inspired this. I feel a strong need to catch as many of these local lines as I can before they inevitably succumb to changing demographics. Your photos are stunning and I'd love to catch it in winter too. I highly recommend the Nagaragawa Railway to Gujo-Hachiman and Hokuno as another great example.

Cecilia said...

You are absolutely correct; it's a mea culpa from me. Loved your post on Gujo Hachiman, and the poem is very moving. The area up the isolation and decay is palpable. I'd really recommend a skim through the John Mock article.
It so forlornly melancholic at the same time being breathtaking beautiful.
I understand not wanting to live there... shovelling that kind of snow for 4 months of the year... and yet it's so sad to see.

Andrew Wright said...

I did have a read of Mock's article. Very interesting. Have you read any of Spike Japan? Such a pity he doesn't publish any more, but his tales of demographics and rusting Japan are well worth reading. His story on Kiyosato is a good one (missing from the site navigation, so I've highlighted it) along with Requiem for a Railway.

Cecilia said...

Thanks for the link. I have a vague recollection of seeing the Yubari post before, but I am not sure why I hadn't made a proper mental note of it. Sentimentalism over comes me reading them.
Sometimes I get the feeling in Akita that good education is not encouraged at an upper level. If people are educated and go to Tokyo, or even Sendai to study, they don't come back. The local govt. uses taxes to educate kids who will in many cases never themselves be taxpayers in the area. Some may come back to retire, and then again they become an economic drain rather than benefit.
Free market and freedom of moment doesn't look kindly upon rural Japan with a plummeting population.

Andrew Wright said...

Quite familiar with rural city reluctance to encourage further education. I think it's true of many regions of the world. It's a pity because there are many cities in Japan, of which Akita should be one, which could work well as university towns. A lot of regional Japan seems to have facilities and services that rural Australia would envy, especially if there were enough locals to support them. With such fine transport links Japan could be far more decentralised. Tokyo to Nagoya is shorter than my daily commute across Sydney. But of course such transport is expensive and as you have shown the slower route can be very slow.

Then again, are you sure it's not that really annoyingly noisy monument to Taro Shoji that is driving the young folk away from Akita?

Cecilia said...

I don't know the Taro Shoji monument!
Something new to check out.