Luxury Winter Train Trips in Kyoto by the Sea


Kyoto by the Sea

Northern Kyoto’s Sea of Japan coast is one of Kansai’s most beautiful regions; here you can experience rugged coastlines, shapely mountains, delicious specialty cuisine and famous views all within one short trip. In the winter, deep snowfalls blanket everything with a covering of snow, creating magical vistas at every turn. One of the best ways to see the sights is by taking a ride on the Kyoto Tango Railway, a scenic rail route which hugs the coast and offers passengers a chance to relax and enjoy fine high-end dining in the luxurious confines of the Kuro-matsu train, all while taking in the spectacular coastal views and winter scenes.

A Scenic Ride on Kyoto Tango Railways


The Tango Kuro-matsu Train is a unique sightseeing and restaurant train operated by Willer Trains, which runs along the Miyafuku Line between Fukuchiyama and Amanohashidate, and the Miyamai Line between Amanoshidate and Nishi-Maizuru. It follows a leisurely course along northern Kyoto’s lush green mountains and Sea of Japan coast, allowing ample time for passengers to enjoy a delicious meals made from local and seasonal ingredients, while admiring the area’s stunning scenery as it rolls by.


Kuro-matsu literally means ‘black pine’ (the pine tree is the symbol of Amanohashidate), and the stylish pine motif is visible both on the train’s striking gold-lined and jet-black exterior and among the carriage’s luxurious wooden fittings and classy interior décor. The train has a wonderfully nostalgic ambiance; it is the brainchild of Eiji Mitooka, an award-winning industrial designer – he is well-known in Japan for his distinctive train and train station designs, including the famous and super-luxurious Nanatsuboshi in Kyushu.

In their lunch course, the train route passes some famous scenic spots and as the train chugs down the coast, a splendid menu is served to guests on board, which in itself is a gastronomic tour of the region, featuring produce and ingredients from both the land and sea of northern Kyoto. The lunch menu varies once half a year and is put together by chefs from regional restaurants; a treat for both the tastebuds and the eyes, the exemplary food, luxurious train carriage and beautiful location make a trip on the Kuro-matsu a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Winter Culinary Experience on the Kuro-matsu Train

My train journey on the Kuro-matsu started at Amanohashidate Station on a chilly late January day; a few days earlier a heavy snowstorm had caked the region in a foot of powdery snow, creating a distinctly wintery vibe as snow lined the streets and locals cleared paths in front of their shops. After a short wait at the station, it was time to board the Kuro-matsu, a beautiful black-toned one-carriage train which looked particularly striking against the pristine winter-white surroundings.

While outside the air was bitingly cold, stepping inside the train we received a warm welcome from the friendly maitre d’, and the cosy interior and old-fashioned wooden stylings proved to be extremely inviting. On this particular day, the carriage was only half-full, and after a polite introduction to the crew we were soon gently shunting out of the station and into the snowy wonderland beyond.


In no time at all the lunch service began with a perusing of the drinks menu, which offered a range of enticing locally-brewed beers and sake, along with regional wine and other beverages – I opted for a bottle of Meister by Tango Kingdom, a lovely light but hoppy local craft beer. This was soon followed by the first dish of the day, a delicious appetizer of roasted duck with grilled green onions with a tangy yuzu dressing.




As the train passed through sleepy coastal fishing villages with glimpses of the ocean through the windows, a sashimi course was served; a fresh platter of three types of local Tango fish and local high-end restaurant Kissuien’s special soy sauce for dipping. In contrast to the frigid winter scenes outside, the selection of hot dishes up next warmed us up another level, and included succulent Kyotango Kogen pork belly stewed in local red wine, an unusual but tasty soy milk gratin packed with seafood, vegetables and yuba (dried beancurd, a Kyoto delicacy), and a delightful main course of grilled fish with grated daikon (Japanese radish).

At around the halfway point of the journey the train stopped at one of the most scenic points along the line, overlooking the rocky and snow-covered coastal bluff of Nagu Kaigan, as wild foamy white waves crashed in from the Sea of Japan, a quite spectacular viewpoint best seen from the comfort of the train.

After plenty of time for taking photos, the train then carried on down the line to reach the most famous point along the route, the Yuragawa Bridge. This local landmark stretches for 550m at the point where the river and sea meet, and it has appeared numerous times in social media and on TV; the train slowed down as we crossed the great expanse of water, allowing us more time for getting the perfect picture.


In keeping with the traditional form of a kaiseki (traditional Japanese haute cusine) course, the last savoury dish of the lunch menu is rice-based – in this case we enjoyed broiled Heshiko chazuke (rice in poured tea), a hearty end to the meal and a real belly-filler. But it wasn’t over yet, and as we neared the line’s terminus at the port city of Maizuru, we were treated to a sweet dessert of soy milk mousse with black sesame and adzuki beans, served alongside an amazake (sweet sake) sauce. The lunch menu changes twice a year, and ends with tea or coffee. All in all, a ride on the Kuro-matsu it is a fabulous way to not only see the region, but taste its fantastic cuisine.

More Routes and Experiences


As well as the premium lunch course, there are a few other courses available for passengers on the Kuro-matsu, taking in different parts of the region. The breakfast course is offered along the Miyafuku Line between Fukuchiyama Station and Amanohashidate, leaving the former just after 10am and arriving at the latter just before midday. The scenery in this area, the deep rural heart of Kyoto, is mostly mountainous, and the train passes through scenic hill and farm country before making a brief stop at Oe Station, an attractive monochrome structure associated with the famous oni (demons) which legend has it, inhabit the recesses of nearby Mt. Oe.

While enjoying the bucolic scenery as the train passes through, guests can indulge in the mouth-watering breakfast course which consists of healthy seasonal ingredients sourced from both the local seas and mountains, finished off with a small dessert and coffee.


The other option is the afternoon sweets course, available in spring and summer 2024; like the lunch course, this also runs from Amanohashidate to Nishi-Maizuru, departing at 4:05pm and arriving in Nishi-Maizuru at 5:25pm. Perfect for those with a sweet tooth!


The Kuro-matsu is not the only sightseeing train which operates on the Kyoto Tango Railway Lines; the Tango Aka-matsu cafe train is another stylish wooden-interior train which runs on Tuesday and Wednesday between Amanohashidate and Nishi-Maizuru – passengers can ride in comfort with a choice of bench, counter, sofa and table seats, and drinks and snacks are sold in the on-board cafe. For those without advanced bookings, the Tango Ao-matsu is a non-reservation sightseeing train which runs between Toyooka (in neighbouring Hyogo prefecture) and Nishi-Maizuru, with stops at Amanohashidate and Miyazu among others. It also features a chic wooden interior and comfortable seating, and passengers can hop on and off as they wish without an advanced reservation., so is a great option for those wanting to do some sightseeing on a whim.


◆Need To Know

The Kuro-matsu runs on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays and tickets are reservation only. The flagship lunch course costs 14,000 yen per person, and leaves Amanohashidate Station at 1:05pm, arriving at its final destination of Nishi-Maizuru Station at 2:50pm. Maizuru is a historic port city and has long been an important base for the Japanese navy; it has a number of interesting sights to see, and from there you can also catch direct trains to Kyoto on JR railways.

For the latest information, details on other courses (breakfast and late afternoon local sweets) and to make ticket reservations, see the official website.

Tango Railway

Tango Railway

The Kyoto Tango Railway, which operates in the Kyoto by the Sea area, is loved by the locals as a form of public transportation and is also popular as a sightseeing train. We highly recommend enjoying …