Oigawa and Sumatakyo

Today I’m going to talk about a place that is perhaps not too well known, even among Japanese people. That place is the turquoise-color river of Oigawa and nearby small village of Sumatakyo, in Shizuoka Prefecture.

I chose this place because I wanted to go somewhere quiet and avoid crowds during the pandemic, and in that sense it delivered. We spent two nights and three days there, two of them regular weekdays, and the town of Sumatakyo was practically deserted. This also meant that most businesses were closed, so keep that in mind. But if quietness is what you’re looking for I highly recommend it.

The first highlight of the trip was the steam locomotive we took to get from Shin-Kanaya to Senzu. There are very few steam trains left in Japan (or anywhere else, really), and this was my first time taking one. Many Japanese people are train lovers, so this old-fashioned train is more of a tourist attraction than a means of transportation these days, but that didn’t make the trip any less pleasant. The one-hour ride offered nice views of the river, with its turquoise waters, and the surrounding mountains. Along the way, people waved at the train as if it were a Disneyland attraction. Even people who lived by tracks and see it daily waved at the passengers.

When we arrived at Senzu, we saw one of the other things Oigawa is famous for… Thomas the train. I think this is a more recent phenomenon, but there are a lot of actual trains modeled after Thomas characters that you can ride from the town of Senzu. Google “Oigawa” and you’ll see lots of pictures of Thomas. While it was amusing, I find Thomas somewhat creepy, so we didn’t feel the need to ride any of those. There were plenty of children there though, and it was definitely the most crowded place we saw all trip, with a few dozen people looking at Thomas and his friends.

Since I wasn’t too interested in Thomas and I had a bit of time, I grabbed a cafe latte at the vending machine at the station, except that it had no milk, and the coffee was not very strong, so all I was left was a watery brown liquid with a hint of coffee. Money well spent. We took a bus, “coffee” in hand, and after a 40-minute ride we arrived at the village of Sumatakyo.

Right after getting to our Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) the staff asked me if I was OK with Japanese food. I said that I did, but she insisted in making sure and went over all the things that they served and asked me if I was OK with each of them. I told her that I was totally fine with anything. Apparently there had been a foreigner there once who only ate rice and soy sauce. It must have been a traumatizing experience for the poor lady, as she was really happy when I indeed ate my dinner no problem and praised me for it as if I was a little child.

Sumatakyo itself was, like I said earlier, really quiet. There was just another couple in the ryokan we were at. This ryokan had a lovely outdoor hot spring that I enjoyed when it was raining. It was my first time to talk naked in the rain, and I have to say it was a very interesting experience.

The highlight of town is the Dream Suspension Bridge, a rope bridge that goes over the gorge and turquoise waters of Oigawa. As I’m somewhat acrophobic, I had a bit of trouble going over it, but I finally managed. It helped that there was no one rocking the bridge. Indeed, there was no one else at all, despite a sign a bit earlier that said “two hour waiting line from here”.

After crossing the bridge and a hike around the river, we went to the only open restaurant and had every item on the menu: soba, udon, shikasashi (raw deer meat), and a local food that’s half mochi, half potato.

On the way back home, after a slow couple of days, we took a bus that dropped us near Okuoikojo Station, and got to the station on foot via a walkway along the train tracks, dozens of meters above Oigawa river. Okuoikojo is a little station on a tiny peninsula, and the view is spectacular. There’s nothing much there, other than view, but it’s well worth it and a must if you’re in the area. From this isolated station we took the Minami Alps Aputo Line, the steepest line in Japan. The one hour ride offers some great views as well.

If you want to spend a couple of days away from the hustle and bustle of the city, surrounded by nature and gorgeous views, I highly recommend you look into finding a ryokan nearby Oigawa.

Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” sergio.dom.jpn@gmail.com “, by all means contact me about anything!


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