All About Japan

This is Actually an Ultramodern Train Station!

Trains Stations Yamagata Tohoku

The city of Yonezawa lies at the southern tip of Yamgata, bordering Fukushima Prefecture. On the outskirts of the town, high in the mountains, you’ll find Toge (“Mountain Pass”) Station. Toge is a stop on the Ou Main Line, which used to be a fairly important artery connecting the cities of Fukushima and Aomori.

Toge Station was built in 1899 at a point where the line goes through the Itayatoge Pass. Due to the steep slope the trains have to work their way up and down, the line originally employed a series of switchbacks. The controls for these were housed in the building that today serves as Toge Station in order to protect them from the region’s heavy snowfalls.

Eventually, the tracks and trains were upgraded to more modern versions that allowed them to travel in a straighter course when crossing the pass, and the switchbacks were done away with and cleared out. In their place, the railway operator set up the indoor platform that's still used today, as well as the main entrance (pictured above).

Since the Yamagata Shinkansen Line began service in the early 1990s, many travelers have opted to use it instead of the Ou Line when traveling through Japan’s mountainous north. Fewer people passing through Toge Station meant less incentive to modernize it, and the result is one of the most unique and rustic rail stops in the country.

Looking at these photos though, we’re not so sure there actually is one. Right now, our money’s on that sign actually being a trap set by hungry ghosts looking to lure a meal into their lair.

Well what do you know? It really is a station, with a track and everything! There are no attendants working at Toge Station, though we’re not sure if this is because they keep going insane from the isolation or because there just aren’t that many passengers to take care of. In any case, you don’t need a ticket to come in and look around, and the building has become a local attraction for amateur photographers.

Living in Japan’s major cities can spoil commuters, as trains come as often as every four minutes. That’s not really the case at Toge, where there are only six trains a day running in each direction.

If you missed the 8:35 northbound, we hope your smartphone has a full charge, because you’ve got about a five-hour wait for the next train.

Thankfully, if you get hungry, there's a small shack nearby that sells rice cakes, which are a local delicacy (proving that no matter where you go in Japan, there’s always some type of food the residents say they make better than anyone else). And don’t worry if you’re just passing through: the cooks also come out to offer them for sale whenever a train pulls into the station.

While it’s true that only a very few trains actually stop at Toge, other lines actually run through the building, too. Judging from the architecture, we would’ve expected a string of coal carts from a local mine, or maybe a ghost train filled with famous 19th-century adventurers and Final Fantasy VI characters.

Actually, though, something just a bit more cutting-edge regularly passes through Toge Station:

The Yamagata Shinkansen!

Honestly, in light of this information, we’d say buying some rice cakes is an absolute must if you stop by Toge. Eating mochi as you watch the bullet train pass through a dilapidated but still functional shed might just be the most Japanese experience we can imagine.

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