Iwaizumi-sen 岩泉線

0265 Ready for the last evening service diesel car kiha 110-134 is waiting at Moichi junction. (2010)

Iwaizumi-sen  岩泉線

This was a non-electrified line within Iwate Prefecture, 38, 4 km long and for a long time carrying very few passengers, in 2009 only an average of 46 per day. After part of a mountainside broke off and buried the track on 31 July, 2010, with diesel car kiha 110-133 crashing into the debris, traffic on the Iwaizumi-sen ended. Little could I imagine that the line would close less than a month after I had visited it on July 9, 2010.

The collision on 31 July 2010 with the huge heap of rubble that covered the line occurred directly at the exit of one of the tunnels above Iwate Ôkawa in the morning at about 7:35, three of the passengers (of a total of 7 passengers and 2 staff) being lightly injured. Clearing the rubble and securing the location to prevent further landslides took several months, so a salvage train could not reach the derailed kiha 110-133 until 18 November 2010 – this salvage train being the last train ever to run on the Iwaizumi-sen.

The Iwaizumi-sen branched off from the Yamada-sen deep in the mountains at Moichi, 15, 1 km up the valley from Miyako. From Moichi it ran northwards into the lonely valley of the Kariya River, reaching the summit in Oshikado Tunnel (2987 m long). From there the line descended steeply into the valley of the Omoto River and continued there for a while as far as Iwaizumi terminus. A continuation to the coast at Omoto (today served by the Sanriku Tetsudô) was never built.

Construction of the Iwaizumi-sen began in 1942 from Moichi to Iwate Wainai with the purpose of transporting fireproof clay for the production of firebrick (ceramic material used in lining furnaces, kilns or fireplaces). Iwate Wainai to Oshikado opened for freight in 1944, with fireclay being brought by ropeway to Oshikado station.

After the war, Oshikado Tunnel was opened to traffic in 1947 and passenger transport began to the north side of the tunnel. JNR continued the construction of the line, and in 1957 Asanai was reached, 31 km from Moichi. However, the community of Iwaizumi pleaded for the continuation of the line into its centre, construction of this section beginning in 1968. The Iwaizumi-sen was finally completed to Iwaizumi on 6 February 1972 (no freight was handled from Asanai to Iwaizumi terminus).

Soon, unfortunately, there was a sharp fall in passenger and tourist traffic, but as the road from Moichi was extremely narrow no regular bus substitution service could be installed. Rail services were gradually reduced, with no more trains running during daytime as from 1992. Iwaizumi-sen traffic was increasingly included in bus routes through the Iwate mountains, in spite of the difficult road conditions. As shown in one of pictures, only one morning and two evening trains remained in 2010.

The landslide at km 23, 965 on July 31, 2010, brought the end of services. Oshikado Tunnel was transformed into a road tunnel and opened on 13 December 2020. The track between Nakasato and Iwate Wainai is now a rail park with the possibility of enjoying a ride on a four-person rail bike.

The official closure date of the line is 1 April 2014.


0992 Moichi 茂市 Junction, with kiha 110-134 ready to depart for Iwaizumi with the first of the two evening services. (2010)

0002 The connecting train from Morioka (kiha 111- and 112-115) enters Moichi Junction. (2010)

0012 The station master at Moichi waves the green flag for kiha 110-134 to depart for Iwaizumi. (2010)

0015 Departure from Moichi. (2010)

0018 On the way to Iwate Kariya 岩手刈屋. (2010)

0020 Iwate Kariya. (2010)

0025 The old station building at Iwate Kariya. (2010)

0029 The old man had lost his ticket but somehow the train driver managed to give him help. (2010)

0031 The old man goes home. (2010)

0033 Passing Kôshôin Temple 高昌院 soon after leaving Iwate Kariya. (2010)

0035 Between Iwate Kariya and Nakasato. (2010)

0036 Nakasato 中里 halt. (2010)

0041 Between Nakasato and Iwate Wainai 岩手和井内. (2010)

0042 Between Nakasato and Iwate Wainai. (2010)

0045 Iwate Wainai. (2010)

0047 At Iwate Wainai halt. (2010)

0048-003 On the way to Oshikado. (2010)

0052 Between Iwate Wainai and Oshikado 押角. (2010)

0053 Between Iwate Wainai and Oshikado. (2010)

0058 Between Iwate Wainai and Oshikado. (2010)

0065 The mysterious Oshikado halt. Just before the incline the remains of a branch to the right can be seen, into which one of the trains used to set back to let another train pass. (2010)

0069 Climbing up to OshikadoTunnel. (2010)

0071 Oshikado Tunnel. (2010)

0073 Descending towards Iwate Ôkawa 岩手大川. Woodcutters along the line hold up their arm and a yellow flag to notify that they are aware of the passing train. (2010)

0076 On the steep descent towards Iwate Ôkawa the train passes through numerous tunnels. (2010)

0084 Coming out of one of these tunnels kiha 110-133 ran into a huge pile of rock and rubble that had crashed onto the line in the night. (2010)

0087 Nearing Iwate Ôkawa. (2010

0091 Iwate Ôkawa. (2010)

0094 After Iwate Ôkawa. (2010)

0102 Note the wood blocks stabilising the rails. The rails themselves look unpolished, indicating that the line is hardly used. Between Iwate Ôkawa and Asanai. (2010)

0107 Asanai 浅内, which was once the end of freight traffic. (2010)

0112 Leaving Asanai. (2010)

0113 Between Asanai and Nishôishi. (2010)

0116 Between Asanai and Nishôishi. (2010)

0119 Nishôishi 二升石 halt. (2010)

0125 Between Nishôishi and Iwaizumi. (2010)

0127 Between Nishôishi and Iwaizumi. (2010)

0131 Between Nishôishi and Iwaizumi. (2010)

0134 Iwaizumi, end of the line. (2010)

0183 Diesel car kiha 110-134 at Iwaizumi end stop. (2010)

0179 Iwaizumi end stop, showing the timetable for the 3 daily services. (2010)

0142 kiha 110-134 at Iwaizumi. (2010)

0193 kiha 110-134 at Iwaizumi, ready to leave back to Moichi. (2010)

0197 Inside kiha 110-134, waiting for departure from Iwaizumi. (2010)

0209 Returning to Moichi, arrival at Asanai halt. (2010)

0221 It is getting dark as the train approaches Iwate Ôkawa. (2010)

0224 Up where disaster was soon to strike, to Oshikado Tunnel. (2010)

0228 The ascent towards Oshikado Tunnel. (2010)

0241 Descending from OshikadoTunnel towards Iwate Wainai. Soon after, darkness fell and photography became difficult. (2010)

0260 Back at Moichi, kiha 110-134 prepares for the second evening service to Iwaizumi. Looking southwards. (2010)

0275 Looking northwards, kiha 110-128 enters with the connecting service from Morioka. kiha 110-134 is waiting on the right for the return to Iwaizumi. (2010)

5141 Moichi, looking northwards, in 2019. The Iwaizumi-sen platform has gone, and with fewer trains on the Yamada-sen the station area looks rather desolate.

5147 Moichi, where once the Iwaizumi-sen branched off. (2019)