The JR Utsunomiya Line is the name given to a section of the Tohoku Main Line that runs between Ueno Station in Tokyo and Kuroiso Station in Nasushiobara City, Tochigi Prefecture. Very few trains go all the way from Ueno to Kuroiso however, so for destinations beyond Utsunomiya a transfer may be necessary.
At JR Ueno Station, Utsunomiya Line services depart from platforms 5, 6, 13, 14, and 15. Because this is a JR line, all services are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Key Destinations from Ueno
A variety of Limited Express, Rapid, and Local services all run along the Utsunomiya Line between JR Ueno and Kuroiso stations. The following destinations are on this line:
Ueno > Oku > Akabane > Urawa > Saitama-Shintoshin > Omiya > Toro > Higashi-Omiya > Hasuda > Shiraoka > Shin-Shiraoka > Kuki > Higashi-Washinomiya > Kurihashi > Koga > Nogi > Mamada > Oyama > Koganei > Jichi Medical University > Ishibashi > Suzumenomiya > Utsunomiya > Okamoto > Hoshakuji > Ujiie > Kamasusaka > Kataoka > Yaita > Nozaki > Nishi-Nasuno > Nasushiobara > Kuroiso
The Utsunomiya Line and Takasaki Line share the same track between Ueno and Omiya, so Takasaki Line services can also be used to reach destinations on that part of the line. Information about the all key destinations on the JR Utsunomiya Line is given below with example fares and train times given from JR Ueno Station.
Oku Station is a 17 minute walk from Kyu-Furukawa Gardens. The gardens include a Western style house which was designed by British architect, Josiah Conder and built in 1917; a traditional Japanese garden; and a Western style rose garden.
Train fare: 160 yen
Train time: 5 minutes
Akabane Nature Observation Park is a 14 minute walk from Akabane Station. The park features natural wetlands and woodland with native species of trees and also has a barbecue site. Akabane Ichibangai is a shopping district just to the north of Akabane Station which has lots of cheap and cheerful dining venues and bars.
Transfer here to JR East’s Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Takasaki Line, and Saikyo Line. Akabane-Iwabuchi Station is a ten minute walk to the north and there you can transfer to the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line.
Train fare: 170 yen
Train time: 9 minutes
Transfer here to JR East’s Utsunomiya Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, and Shonan-Shinjuku Line.
Train fare: 390 yen
Train time: 18 minutes
The sports and music venue, Saitama Super Arena is an 8 minute walk from this station.
Train fare: 470 yen
Train time: 22 minutes
Omiya Station is convenient for the Japan Mint Museum, Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore, and the ancient Hikawa Shrine.
Omiya Station is an important transportation hub. Transfers can be made here to Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Saikyo Line, and Kawagoe Line. The following shinkansen services also run from Omiya Station: the Tohoku Shinkansen, the Yamagata Shinkansen, the Akita Shinkansen, the Joetsu Shinkansen, and the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Transfers can also be made here to the Tobu Urban Park Line, and Saitama New Urban Transit’s “New Shuttle” on the Ina Line.
Train fare: 470 yen
Train time: 25 minutes
Toro Station is convenient for Omiya Railway Museum and Omiya Bonsai Village.
Train fare: 500 yen
Train time: 31 minutes
Transfer here to the Tobu Isesaki Line.
Train fare: 840 yen
Train time: 49 minutes
Transfer here to the Tobu Nikko Line.
Train fare: 970 yen
Train time: 58 minutes
Transfer here to the Tohoku Shinkansen, and JR East’s Mito Line and Ryomo Line.
Train fare: 1,320 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Utsunomiya is the capital city of Tochigi Prefecture. The city is famous for its Chinese-style gyoza fried dumplings, and has a large number of gyoza specialty restaurants serving dumplings with many various fillings. Because of this, there is a large gyoza-shaped statue outside Utsunomiya Station, and a gyoza festival is held every year on the first weekend of November in Castle Ruins Park.
In addition to its dumplings, Utsunomiya also has a number of fascinating historical and cultural attractions.
- Oyaji is an ancient cave temple which is said to date from the year 810. The temple is unusual for being built into volcanic rock and has several rock carved statues. The most famous statue is the Oya Kannon, a statue of the thousand-armed goddess of Mercy, which is the oldest Buddhist stone statue in Japan. The temple also has a small museum with exhibits dating back to the Jomon period (1000–300 BCE). The shrine and museum are a 30 minute drive from the station. Take a number 6 Kanto Bus bound for Oya Tateiwa and get off at the Oya Kannon-mae stop. From there it is a 3 minute walk.
- Futaarayama Jinja is a large shrine complex with a history dating back 1,600 years. Although the shrine has burned down and been rebuilt many times over its long history, visitors pray here for protection against fire. The shrine is a 20 minute walk from the station.
- Utsunomiya Castle is a partially reconstructed castle in Utsunomiya Castle Ruins Park. The original castle was much bigger and dated back to 1063. The current partial reconstruction is free to view and a 20 minute walk from the station.
- Utsunomiya Museum of Art has a good selection of works by international artists such as Chagall, Kandinsky, Magritte, as well as paintings by celebrated Japanese artists such as Nakamura Tsune and Kuroda Seiki. The museum is a 25 minute bus ride or a 20 minute taxi ride from Utsunomiya Station.
- Matsugamine Catholic Church is a dramatic Romanesque building dating from 1932 which was designed by the Swiss architect Max Hinder. The church is notable from being built with local Oya valley stone. The church is a 23 minute walk from the station.
Transfer at Utsunomiya Station to the Tohoku Shinkansen and the JR Nikko Line.
Train fare: 1,940 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 36 minutes
Transfer here to the JR Karasuyama Line.
Train fare: 2,270 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 52 minutes
The area around Nasushiobara is known for its forested mountain scenery and many hot spring resorts. The Shiobara Onsen hot spring resort is a 36 minute taxi ride from Nasushiobara Station.
Transfer at Nasushiobara Station to the Tohoku Shinkansen.
Train fare: 2,590 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 25 minutes
Nasu Onsen hot spring resort is a 24 minute taxi ride from Kuroiso Station.
Transfer here to JR Tohoku Main Line services bound for Shirakawa, Koriyama, Fuskushima, and Sendai.
Train fare: 3,020 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 31 minutes
To plan your journey via the Utsunomiya Line use English language route finders like the Japan Transit Planner or Hyperdia. JR East has a PDF route map of their railway network in which the Utsunomiya Line is numbered 17.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.