SL Gunma Minakami /
SL Gunma Yokokawa
Historic steam engines
A scenic trip through the Gunma countryside
Traveling through Gunma in a wide variety of locomotives
Pulled by a variety of powerful locomotives, these passenger cars offer a pleasantly nostalgic ambience.
Enjoy the magnificent nature of Gunma Prefecture with the background roar of the locomotive.
The magnificent nature of Gunma Prefecture
"SL Retro Gunma Minakami", "SL Gunma Minakami", "SL Retro Gunma Yokokawa" and "SL Gunma Yokokawa" all run through Gunma's nature.
Please enjoy the magnificent scenery seen from the train window.
Renovation of the classic interiors of old passenger cars
In April 2020, the old passenger car interiors were refurbished, bringing back the classic wood-grain ambience of the era when they were manufactured. A new lounge car has also been added.
- Debut year
- D51: Built in 1940, debuted in 1988
C61: Built in 1949, debuted in 2011
- Service area
- Jōetsu Line: Takasaki Station to Minakami Station
Shin'etsu Main Line: Takasaki Station to Yokokawa Station
Here are some recommended spots along the SL Gunma Minakami/SL Gunma Yokokawa route.
Starting with Minakami Onsen and Tanigawa Onsen, numerous onsens dot the landscape near each station on the route along the Tone River headwaters, Minakami Onsen Village being a prime example.
- A 5-minute walk from Minakami Station on the JR Jōetsu Line
Craftsman Village Takuminosato
Scattered about the 350-hectare farming region are workshops for processing of agricultural products, ceramics, straw bamboo crafts and the like, each readily offering tourists a first-hand experience of the local agrarian culture.
- About 15 minutes by taxi from Gokan Station on the JR Jōetsu Line,
about 15 minutes by taxi from Jōmō-Kōgen Station on the JR Jōetsu Shinkansen
Fukiware Falls, which is also called “The Niagara of the East,” is one of Japan’s national natural monuments; the trails around the falls there have three observation decks for enjoying different views of the landscape.
- Take a 40-minute ride on the Kan-etsu Bus from Numata Station on the JR Jōetsu Line, get off at the Fukiware Falls stop, then walk for about 10 minutes (closed in winter).
It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains and a popular spot for mountain sports such as skiing and rock climbing. The view of tree groves woven into the steep cliff landscape is truly spectacular.
- Take a 25-minute ride on the Kan-etsu Bus from Minakami Station on the JR Jōetsu Line, and get off at the “Mount Tanigawa Ropeway Station” stop. Take the ropeway from Tanigawadake (Mount Tanigawa) Ropeway, Doaiguchi Station.
Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park
You can enjoy many railway heritage sites along the route, including the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park, which has an open-air locomotive exhibition, trolley train service, and a train driving attraction.
- Adjacent to Yokokawa Station on the JR Shin'etsu Main Line
Megane-bashi (Usui 3rd Bridge)
It is an arched brick bridge over the Usui River. It was used when the railway between Yokokawa and Karuizawa had an Abt rack system (late 1800s).
- About 10 minutes by car from Yokokawa Station on the JR Shin'etsu Main Line.
There is a bus service between Yokokawa Station and Karuizawa that provides access to famous places in the Usuitouge (seasonal service only).
Located on the banks of the Usui River, this Onsen was a popular spot for travelers along the Nakasendo, one of the main national highways during the Edo period. It is famous for Isobe senbei (rice crackers) and as the birthplace of the onsen symbol used in Japanese maps.
- Get off at Isobe Station on the JR Shin'etsu Main Line.
This walking tour follows the remains of the New Line of Shin'etsu Main Line Yokokawa-Karuizawa section of Shin'etsu Main Line, which was closed when the Nagano Shinkansen Line opened on September 30, 1997. Visitors can have the special experience of walking through tunnels and bridges that are normally inaccessible.
- Varies depending on the meeting place.
River Terrace in Numata
This is the River Terrace in Numata, widely known from its presentation in texbooks at school in Japan. The five-story keep of Numata Castle was built on the river terrace (about 70 meters high). The Nagurumi Castle Ruins are located here. It is also a paragliding spot.
The stunning beauty of Suwakyo Gorge, one of Minakami Onsen’s famous scenic spots, changes color with the seasons, from fresh verdure to autumn foliage and snowy landscapes. Enjoy the views from the train window.
Also famous for the “bungee bridge”, many thrillseekers enjoy bungee-jumping from atop the Suwakyo Gorge Bridge to the riverbed 42 meters below. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of this spectacle from the train window as you pass by.
SL Turntable Plaza
When the SL arrives at Minakami station, visitors can enjoy the unique spectacle of a steam locomotive rotating on a railway turntable. SL "D51 745" is on display in the plaza.
- A 5-minute walk from Minakami Station on the JR Jōetsu Line
At Doai Station, the inbound platform and outbound platform are quite far from each other, and the outbound platform is about 70 meters below ground. Due to the exceptionally long tunnels (the tunnel to the above ground ticket gate is 486 steps) it is known as “Japan’s Number One Mole Station.”
Both D51 498 and C61 20 run on the main line and are extremely rare examples of legacy locomotives that have been preserved in functional condition.
We will introduce not only these two types of steam locomotive but also the passenger cars that the SLs tow.
Classic steam locomotive Degoichi
A freight-pulling powerhouse, 1,115 cars of D51-class (Degoichi) steam locomotives were produced between 1936 and 1950. D51 498, the 498th D51-class locomotive, was manufactured on November 24, 1940 at the Takatori Works of the former Ministry of Railways (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture), and employed in Okayama, Osaka, Fukushima, Niigata, and other prefectures, for 32 years until 1972. After being retired, it was placed on display in front of Jōetsu Line Gokan Station, but in 1988 it was restored and resumed operation as a legacy locomotive.
Passenger train locomotive Shirokuichi
33 passenger train locomotive Shirokuichi C61-class steam locomotives were manufactured from 1948 to 1949 to meet the rapid post-war increase in demand for passenger traffic. C61 20, the 20th C61-class locomotive, was built on August 1, 1949 at Mihara Works of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Mihara City, Hiroshima Prefecture), and was in service in Aomori, Iwate, Miyazaki, and other prefectures, for 24 years until 1973. After being retired in 1974, it was placed on display at Kezoji Park in Isesaki City until its restoration in 2011.
Introduction to passenger cars
Old-type passenger car
This is a general term for passenger cars built before the Series 10 passenger cars. The passenger cars of Takasaki Branch Office were manufactured between 1938 and 1955. In April 2020, in conjunction with the Gunma Destination Campaign, the interiors of the old passenger car interiors were refurbished, bringing back the classic wood-grain ambience of the era when they were manufactured, and a new lounge car was added.
Series 12 passenger car
Passenger cars with express-type seating were built to accommodate the post-1970 increase in passenger traffic. The passenger cars of Takasaki Branch Office were manufactured in 1978. The striking blue of the train body leaves a lasting impression. They were the first passenger cars equipped with air conditioning, heating, and automatic doors, and became a model for later Japan National Railways (JNR) passenger cars.
"SL Retro Gunma Minakami", "SL Gunma Minakami", "SL Retro Gunma Yokokawa" and "SL Gunma Yokokawa "
Full of events not only on the train but also at each station!
Here are some ways to enjoy it.
1. Bottle opener experience
[Old-type passenger cars only]
Bottled beverages can be opened with the bottle opener installed on the table under the window (not available in all passenger cars).
[Old-type passenger cars only]
Showcasing Gunma Prefecture, the motifs on the window blinds are based on textile patterns such as Kiryu brocade and Isesaki Meisen, and interwoven with designs such as flowers, trees, birds, mountains, and famous places of Gunma Prefecture. We invite you to compare and appreciate the three varieties of window blinds that coordinate with the three seat colors (deep crimson, ultramarine, and green).
There are also goods custom-made in the same design as the deep crimson window blinds.
・NewDays Takasaki 24 (inside the conventional train line ticket gates at Takasaki Station)
・Meihinkan (inside the ticket gates at Takasaki Station)
- *Sold by: JR East Cross Station Co., Ltd.
The “SL Rokuichi Monogatari Bento and Jyoshu D51 Bento” are ekiben (station boxed lunches) inspired by the two iconic SLs of Gunma.
Takasaki Station: Ekiben-ya Joshu 2nd and 3rd stores
- *Limited quantity and sales date.
Sales company: JR EAST Cross Station Co., Ltd.
How to purchase tickets
When boarding, a reserved seat ticket is required in addition to the basic fare ticket.
(If you use a JR East Rail Pass such as JR EAST PASS, you can make a seat reservation without paying an additional fee. Please make a reservation for a reserved seat (free of charge) at the sales location.)
*There may be changes to the locomotive and passenger cars in operation.
Seat reservations can be made at JR-EAST Train Reservation, JR Ticket Office (Midori-no-Madoguchi) at key JR stations, and seat Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines from 10:00 a.m. (*) one month prior to the date of use. (*Reserved seat ticket vending machines open at 10:10 a.m.)