The World’s Longest Underground Railway Tunnel

Seikan RR Tunnel info

[15th in a series of posts about a recent trip to Japan]

Catching the train out of Tazawa-ko, the town closest to the lake, we were approached by an eccentric older Japanese woman who told us the train was running a few minutes late. She had lived in Canada when younger but had returned to Japan and was teaching calligraphy. We took the Shinkansen to Morioka (which turned out to be a pretty big station) and had a leisurely nine minutes to catch another Shinkansen train to Shin-Aomori, where we changed trains to the limited express.

On the seat in front of us was an explanation about the length and depth of the Seikan Railway Tunnel, which we were about to enter. It’s the longest in the world, and actually travels underground below the level of the sea that splits the main Japanese island from Hokkaido. Reading that it was 33 miles long, and that we would travel almost 800 feet below sea level, I tried not to think about it. Especially in a country known for seismic issues. Apparently that’s not an uncommon problem, as the main point of the seat information was the time the train would enter and then leave the tunnel, for those prone to anxiety.

Entering the tunnel

Entering the tunnel

Electronic progress sign

Electronic progress sign

There’s actually a station down there, where tours can be arranged. Surprisingly, I felt less air pressure change than when taking BART beneath San Francisco Bay.

We walked off the train into a breezy day in Hakodate in southern Hokkaido, and walked a few short blocks to our hotel, La Vista Hakodate Bay. Hakodate was one of the three Japanese ports that first opened trade to the west, in the 19th century.

Next: In Search of the Ainu

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