Akô-sen 赤穂線

A 4-car train class 115 (headed by KUHA 115-1402) at Hinase, near the Inland Sea coast west of Banshû Akô. (2010)

The Akô-sen runs along the Inland Sea coast between Aioi (about 20 km west of the city of Himeji) and the city of Okayama. It is a local line, 57, 4 km long, single track, and trains join or leave the San'yô mainline at Higashi Okayama, 7, 3 km from Okayama.

On the eastern side, Akô-sen trains today form an integral part of the Kansai Urban Network system, with through running from Banshû Akô as far as Ôsaka, Kyôto, the western shore of Lake Biwa, or right down to Tsuruga via Maibara (on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa), Nagahama and Ômi Shiozu. These trains use suburban network rolling stock, which provide a frequent accelerated service. From Banshû Akô towards Okayama the line is rural, with basically one service per hour all the way, and several more from Osafune (between Imbe and Saidaiji). Some trains run through beyond Okayama to destinations as far as Fukuyama and Mihara on the San'yô Honsen, Bitchû Takahashi and Niimi on the Hakubi-sen, and Kojima at the entrance to the Setô Ôhashi crossing to Shikoku. The line has no regular freight services.

From the beginning, the Akô-sen has also served as a bypass line between Okayama and Aioi, as the San'yô Honsen between these two points runs through more difficult terrain further inland. As for the San'yô Shinkansen, this forms an almost straight line between Aioi and Okayama, but is mostly in tunnels. In the area of the town of Imbe (or Inbe), however, it can be seen from the Akô-sen, which it parallels for a certain distance. Imbe, incidentally, is a famous centre of Japanese traditional pottery and the home of numerous Bizen ware masters and artists.

Construction of the line began in 1938, but the first section to be opened was Aioi to Banshû Akô in 1951. Electrification (DC 1500 V) here was completed in 1961. The element "Banshû" in the name refers to the old province of Harima, the southwestern part of present-day Hyôgo prefecture; Harima could be alternatively spoken of as "Banshû".

In the west there used to be a light railway with 914 mm gauge track from Okayama as far as Saidaiji (the Saidaiji Tetsudô, 11, 4 km long), but this was given up on September 7, 1962, upon completion of the Akô-sen from Banshû Akô through to Higashi Okayama. The Akô-sen was fully electrified in 1969.

Entering the Akô-sen at Aioi. The double track to the right is the San'yô Honsen, above it we see the San'yô Shinkansen. (2019)

Before arriving at Sakoshi coming down from Aioi on the way to Banshû Akô the train crosses the Chikusagawa River. (2019)

On the section Banshû Akô - Aioi, served by Kansai region urban network trains from Kyôto and Ôsaka. Picture taken from a class 223 train running towards the tunnel between Banshû Akô and Aioi, shortly after Sakoshi stop. (2018)

Banshû Akô: On the right is a Kansai Urban Network suburban train class 223 from the Kyôto/Ôsaka area, on the left is a class 115 train for the onward journey to Okayama. (2010)

Leaving Banshû Akô on the way to Okayama. (2019)

From the train at Sôgo, slightly east of Hinase. (2018)

KUMOHA 115-1541 at Hinase. (2018)

View from the train at Hinase station. (2018)

From the train at Hinase, view towards the Inland Sea. (1977)

Typical scenery on the Akô-sen in the hills along the Inland Sea coast, here at Iri, west of Hinase. (2019)

View from the train of the town of Bizen Katakami, east of Imbe. (2010)

Imbe, famous for its Bizen-yaki pottery. A 3-car train (kuha115-1205, moha114-1153, kumoha115-1513) is leaving the station on its way to Okayama. (2019)

A 2-car train (kumoha213-10, kuha212-7) entering Imbe station. (2019)

In the Imbe region the Akô-sen runs more or less parallel to the San'yô Shinkansen. Here a Shinkansen train can be seen from the Akô-sen between Kagato and Imbe. (2018)

Class 213 (KUHA 212-103 + KUMOHA 213-9) train at Osafune, between Imbe and Saidaiji. (2018)

A two-car class 115 train (KUMOHA114-1118 + KUMOHA115-1551) at Osafune, between Imbe and Saidaiji. (2018)

Osafune, between Imbe and Saidaiji. Crossing a class 115 train, headed by KUMOHA 115-1513. (2010)

Typical rural village between Ôdomi and Oku, slightly east of Saidaiji. (2018)

Before arriving at Saidaiji on the way to Okayama the train crosses the Yoshiigawa River. (1977)

Railcar no. 7 of the former Saidaiji Tetsudô exhibited at Saidaiji station. (1978)