Ban’etsu Tô-sen 磐越東線

2585 KIHA 111/112-107 leaving Miharu for Kôriyama. (2022)

Ban-etsu Tô-sen (Ban-etsu East Line) 磐越東線


Located in southern Tôhoku this line connects the Coast Route northwards (Hamadôri) with the Inland Route northwards (Nakadôri), at the same time linking the Tôhoku Honsen (the Main Line to the North-East, Japan’s principal railway line northwards, which runs along the Inland Route) and the Jôban coast line. The Ban-etsu Tô-sen is entirely within Fukushima Prefecture. Starting inland in the basin of Kôriyama with its large railway junction it crosses the Abukuma mountain range to reach the Pacific Coast at Iwaki (Iwaki carried the name of Taira until 1994). The line is not electrified and has a length of 85,6 km.

The name of the line derives from the characters 磐 (ban) and 越 (etsu), ban being the first character of the place name “Iwaki” (written 磐城). Iwaki is the general name for Fukushima’s coast line, the southern part of the Inland Route within Fukushima Prefecture (Nakadôri), and the southern part of Miyagi Prefecture.

etsu stands for the Japan Sea coast, here for Echigo (written 越後), i.e. the Prefecture of Niigata. Thus Ban-etsu indicates that the line links the Pacific Coast and the Japan Sea from Iwaki to Niigata. The full Ban-etsu Line actually consists of three sections: 1) The Ban-etsu Sai-sen (West Line), which starts at Kôriyama and runs up steeply into the mountains in the area around Mount Bandai and the City of Aizu Wakamatsu. 2) Carrying the same name Ban-etsu Sai-sen the line continues from Aizu Wakamatsu down into Niigata Prefecture and the City of Niitsu. 3) The line from Kôriyama to the east and the City of Iwaki. This line carries the distinct name of Ban-etsu Tô-sen (Ban-etsu East Line).

In 1995 the Ban-etsu Highway was inaugurated and almost all through traffic to and from the coast switched to highway bus services. Since then, the Ban-etsu Tô-sen is mainly used by some local inhabitants and school children. Building of the line commenced in 1914 from Kôriyama and 1915 from Iwaki (Taira) and was completed in 1917. 1968 saw the end of steam traffic, and in 1987 freight traffic from Iwaki to Ôgoe (54,3 km from Iwaki) ceased. The mountains surrounding the central part of the line provided huge limestone quarries, and cement trains thus continued to operate from Ôgoe to Kôriyama until 2000. Remains of former shunting yards can still be seen there today. Mention must still be made of the period October 12 to November 16, 2019, while heavy repairs to the line took place after enormous storm damage.

Services today (2022) are all stopping trains, 14 trains through the rural villages from Ono Niimachi to Kôriyama and 15 in the other direction. However, only 6 trains operate the wild eastern section through the mountains between Ono Niimachi and Iwaki, mainly in the morning and evening, with no services after the first morning trains until the early afternoon. One train in the morning and one in the evening runs the short distance from Iwaki to Ogawa-gô (10, 3 km).



0065 Kôriyama junction, the western end of the line. A three-car set waiting to work a Ban-etsu Tô-sen train to Iwaki. The train is composed of the two-car set KIHA 112-105 and KIHA 111-105, and on the right the single unit kiha110-101. (2011)

2574 Môgi station, taken from the rear of an Iwaki bound train. (2022)

0089 Nearing Miharu, taken out of KIHA 112-105. (2011)

0090 At Miharu station the two-car train KIHA 111- and 112-108 is waiting to continue to Kôriyama. (2011)

2599 Between Kanameta and Funehiki. Taken out of KIHA 111-105. (2022)

0098 Autumn on the way between Kanameta and Funehiki. (2011)

0114 Nearing Funehiki the imposing wedding hall comes into sight. (2011)

0119 Local farmers are regular customers on this line. In KIHA 112-105 at Funehiki. (2011)

2618 Between Funehiki and Iwaki Tokiwa looking westward, with a good view of the mountain range in western Fukushima. (2022)

2624 Between Iwaki Tokiwa and Ôgoe. (2022)

0128 Between Iwaki Tokiwa and Ôgoe, looking to the east the scars of the limestone quarries in the surrounding mountains can be seen. (2011)

4963 Running westward from Sugaya to Ôgoe again the damage to the mountains caused by the limestone quarries can be seen. (2015)

2640 At Sugaya KIHA 111-105 is reflected in the mirror. (2022)

0141 Rice fields in autumn, seen from the train between Sugaya and Kammata. (2011)

0144 Entering Kammata station, with two-car train KIHA 111- and 112-104 on its way to Kôriyama waiting. (2011)

0146 Kammata station. Three car train KIHA 112-105 - KIHA 111-105 - KIHA 110 101 on its way from Kôriyama to Iwaki. (2011)

4947 From the train between Ono Niimachi and Kammata. (2015)

2663 From the rear of the train between Kammata and Ono Niimachi, looking westward. (2022)

2669 Leaving Ono Niimachi station, with KIHA 111-105 in the mirror. Alongside, the yard that tells of the former freight trains. Ono Niimachi is 45, 5 km from Kôriyama. (2022)

2677 Between Ono Niimachi and Natsui in the cherry blossom season. (2022)

2686 At Natsui we are offered a magnificent sight of cherry blossom on April 17, 2022.

2708 Natsui station, with a crowd of photographers trying to catch trains and cherry blossom in one. (2022)

4918 After Natsui on its way down to Kawamae and Iwaki the train threads its way through the mountain pass. Here where open rice fields are rarer there is quite a bit of cattle raising activity. (2015)

2732 Kawamae station. Two-car train KIHA 111- and 112-102 leaves Kawamae for Natsui and Kôriyama. (2022)

2739 Along the mountain river down towards Eda. (2022)

0183 Eda halt, with KIHA 111- and 112-105 heading for Iwaki. (2011)

4890 Looking west between Eda and Ogawagô the train runs through sparsely populated mountain settlements. (2015)

2759 In the same perspective a picture taken in 2022, between Eda and Ogawagô.

2771 A local temple, seen from the rear of a train nearing Ogawagô. (2022)

2781 Ogawagô station. Here the train enters the plain around Iwaki and comes into more densely populated country. (2022)

2793 Akai, 4,8 km from Iwaki end stop. In the mirror is KIHA 112-105. (2022)

0193 Coming off the Ban-etsu Tô-sen the train joins the Jôban-sen main line, alongside which it reaches the end stop at Iwaki (named Taira until 1994). (2011)

4846 Two-car train KIHA 111- and 112-103 waiting its turn on a Ban-etsu Tô-sen service at Iwaki. (2015)

4847 KIHA 111-103 appeals to visitors to enjoy local traditions and typical rural dance performances in the villages along the Ban-etsu Tô-sen. (2015)

4848 KIHA 111-103 draws attention to the Fukushima Destination Campaign 1 April to 30 June 2015, calling for visitors to enjoy Fukushima Prefecture. (2015)