Sights to see at Usui Pass
1. Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park
Usui Checkpoint Ruins
3. Old Maruyama Substation
4. Lake Usui
5. Usui Third Bridge (Megane-bashi Bridge)
6. Toge-no-yu
7. “Toge-no-Kamameshi” at Oginoya

The Usui Pass runs through Gunma and Nagano prefectures. It was once a prominent route in connecting the Kanto and Shinshu regions, although now shinkansen lines and highways allow for easy accessibility between the two areas.

On the pass, you can still find buildings and facilities from back in the day when it flourished as the main transportation route of the area.

To see those sights, follow Apt Street on the Usui Pass. Take a walk on the street to see the beautiful, retro architecture and the beautiful nature surrounding them.

About the Usui Pass

During the Edo period (1603 – 1867), the Usui Pass was a significant route for traveling in Japan.

It was considered one of paths on Nakasendo, which was one of the “Edo Five Routes 五街道 (gokaido)”, that connected Edo (Tokyo) with five different provinces throughout Japan. 

Entering the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the railroad system flourished in Japan. A railroad line was built on the Usui Pass, and in 1893, the Usui Line was built, connecting Yokokawa Station in Gunma and Karuizawa Station in Nagano.

The railroad of the Usui Line was created using the first rack railway system (referred to as the “Apt System” in Japan) in the country. This system is perfect for steep, hilly roads, like on Usui Pass.

In 1997, the Usui Line was discontinued when the shinkansen bullet train line opened through Nagano.

Hiking on Apt Street


Apt Street

Apt Street is a 6-kilometer long hiking course that connects the former Yokokawa and Kumanotaira Stations. On the course are tons of historical and nature spots to enjoy.

Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park


Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park

The Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park locates at the start of Apt Street.

It is a railroad theme park, where you can learn about the history of the Usui Line through miniature models of it and exhibitions of documents and more. There is even a display of a real train car of the Usui Line!

Hop on the train-operating simulator, where you can experience what it’s like to drive a train. The activities and exhibits are fun for visitors of all ages.

If you really want to try driving an electric train, you can take a one-day course and take a driving test. If you pass, you can experience driving a real electric train

However, the one-day training course is only available to a limited number of people and is extremely popular. To reserve an appointment, make sure to frequently check the official website.

Usui Checkpoint Ruins


Usui Checkpoint

The Usui Checkpoint was created in 1623 by the Edo government. It was a prominent checkpoint on the Nakasendo Route, and was heavily guarded as it was considered the entrance into the Kanto region.

Entering the Meiji Period, the Usui Checkpoint became no longer in use. In 1955, the checkpoint was registered as a cultural heritage by the prefecture of Gunma.

The checkpoint museum was made in 1960, and there, visitors can learn about the historical significance of the Usui Checkpoint.

The museum was closed down in March 2018 due to deterioration. From April, the museum was re-opened in a municipal facility nearby the Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park.

Old Maruyama Substation


Old Maruyama Substation

The Old Maruyama Substation was an electrical substation that played an important role on the Usui Pass Railway Line. It was built in 1912 when the railway underwent an electric transformation.

In 1994, it was designated as an important national cultural property, and underwent restoration. Today, the substation is not open to the public, but you can view it from the outside.

Lake Usui


Lake Usui

Lake Usui is a man-made lake that uses the waters from the Usui River and Nakao River. The lake is surrounded by nature, and is beautiful throughout all of the seasons.

This the perfect place for a break during your hike.

Usui Third Bridge (Megane-bashi Bridge)


Megane-bashi Bridge

The Usui Third Bridge, more commonly known as Megane-bashi Bridge, was completed in 1892. It is made of bricks, and measures 31 meters tall and 91 meters long.

It is the largest arched brick bridge in Japan, and is designated as an important cultural property.

The bridge was used as a part of the Usui Pass Railway between 1892 and 1963. Today, the bridge is a part of the Apt Street hiking course.


Megane-bashi Bridge from below

At the end of the bridge, there is a path that leads downwards. From there, you can see the bridge from below.




Toge-no-yu is a hot springs facility at the foot of Usui Pass. It rests in between the Old Maruyama Substation and Lake Usui. It opened in 2001, and has one western style bath and one Japanese style bath, private family baths and more. Take a nice, warm bath after your Usui Pass hike!

“Toge-no-Kamameshi” at Oginoya


Photo credit: ググッとぐんま写真館

When visiting Usui Pass, the Toge-no-Kamameshi dish is a must-have. This rice bowl dish has been served since 1958, and is a popular eki-ben, or station bento box.

The dish consists of bamboo shoots, burdock root, chestnut and more ingredients cooked together with rice.

You can purchase the rice bowl bento at the Oginoya shop in front of Yokokawa Station, inside the station, and more place throughout the area.


Here are the events held at Usui Pass throughout the year.

Usui Pass Firefly Festival (Jul.)

At the beginning of July, the Usui Pass Firefly Festival is held. The festival is held at the Usui-toge-no-mori Park just by the Toge-no-yu hot springs. Fireflies flock the area and light up the summer night.

On the day of the event, there are street vendors where you can buy traditional Japanese festival foods.


Nearest station: Yokokawa Station (JR Shinetsu Line)

From Tokyo Station

Joetsu or Hokuriku Shinkansen / for Niigata or Kanazawa
→【Takasaki Sta.】
JR Shinetsu Main Line / for Yokokawa
→【Yokokawa Sta.】

From Maebashi Station

JR Ryomo Line / for Takasaki
→【Takasaki Sta.】
JR Shinetsu Main Line / for Yokokawa
→【Yokokawa Sta.】


Matsuida-cho, Annaka, Gunma Prefecture
Open all day
Open year-round