Due to their very nature, most train stations in Japan are merely functional. Buildings designed to simply get you somewhere, rather than destinations in themselves. And when it originally opened in 1936, Doai, in Gunma Prefecture, was also a regular, run-of-the-mill station. But after the addition of a northbound line in 1967, all that changed. A change brought about by the extra track being 70 metres underground, making it the deepest in Japan.
Initial impressions, however, are of a nicely stark, but not especially interesting structure.
Once the journey downward begins, however, things alter considerably, with a warren-like maze of tunnels setting you on your way.
A glance behind also indicates exactly how many steps those going up will have to contend with on their way back to the surface.
But before starting the descent proper, there’s a spot where Doai’s wonderful bleakness arguably reaches its peak.
Then it’s straight down, for quite some distance; the bottom barely visible from the top.
To be fair though, the bench on the left does offer at least some respite to those making the long climb up to step 486. But that’s it as far as any kind of help goes — there are no lifts or escalators.
And with trains not exactly regular — somewhere in the region of every 3 hours or so — timing is of the utmost importance. Get it wrong and the only option is the decidedly dubious pleasure of whiling away the hours in Doai’s laudable attempt at designing the world’s dreariest waiting room.
Very impressive. Reminds me of the picture I saw of (I believe) Pyon Yan’s subway system. Which could also double as a nuclear shelter.
Not sure this station could
It’s a very impressive place for sure. Needless to say its very interesting to explore as well.
Considering it’s relatively remote location, and the depth, it could work as a shelter I guess. But by the time many people had travelled there, it’d probably be way too late…
At least in Pyongyang they have escalators to get 110 meters below street level. And more blackouts than any other city in the world 😉
At both sides of the Seikan Tunnel between Honshu and Hokkaido were also stations that were even deeper below the ground. At the Tappi-Kaitei Station they operated an underground cable car to connect the platforms to the Seikan Tunnel Museum. But since the Hokkaido Shinkansen opened, both stations are closed.
But nevertheless very impressive this station. And as usual, great photo’s!
Cheers for the video link. Along with the size of the escalator, the shadows and light on the ceiling are wonderful.
I’d heard it wasn’t the deepest at one time, but now sadly the deepest in operation. Good to know where the others were.
Thanks. Very easy to photograph. The station basically does the job for you!
Very cool! But no elevator?!! 😮
No, nothing at all. You either make it out on your own steam, or you make it your new home!
Awesome, love the mood you captured in b/w.
Thank you. It’s a wonderful place to explore and photograph. Definitely like no other station I’ve visited.
What a great set of photographs. I’m suprised it is not a fully paid up haikyo already. Though with the listed average of 22 passengers a day it can’t have been too long a wait for personless shot.
You’ll be pleased to know I learned something about one of my favourite Japanese films today after seeing your photographs. The theme to “Up On Poppy Hill” is by Kyo Sakamoto. I discovered this via the circuitous and sad link that he was killed in the JAL 123 air disaster in 1985, which is the subject of a book and film called “Climbers High” both of which begin at the foot of that 486 step flight of stairs. That station was the closest to the crash site. And I was looking up information on that station because of your photographs. There must be a word for that.
Just to add a correction that it’s not the closest station – just where the book and film start.
It’s amazing what unexpected connections are made sometimes, isn’t it? It was only when confirming the depth and trying to find out when it was built that I also found out those extra details. Info that only adds to the station’s uniqueness.
Funnily enough, despite only 22 passengers a day, there were a surprising number of people pottering about. None to actually catch the train mind you, but instead just to walk to the bottom and then back up again.
My mate and I, however, had timed it to head north. Arriving there with just enough time to explore and make it down to the platform for the train. And with more people than expected, I was worried I wouldn’t get the people-free shots I wanted. Thankfully managed in the end, but there was more waiting, and a few more quickly snatched photos, than I ever expected.
What can I say? Wow
Quite a place, isn’t it? I was looking forward to visiting, and needless to say it didn’t disappoint.
Fascinating! Do people run those stairs for exercise? In Los Angeles, California, there are areas and neighborhoods with many steps (the Santa Monica steps one of the more well-known ones) that people come to just to run up and down for exercise.
Some people may do, but it’s in a pretty remote spot, so it’s not all that likely.
When we were there, quite a few people were there to simply visit. Well, perhaps a dozen or so in total. But none of them were locals. Only my friend and I were there to catch the train, and when it pulled in, no-one got off.
Amazing… I dread missing a train in this station!
I know… We gave ourselves plenty of time to explore the station and catch the train, but needless to say we were on the platform quite a bit before we needed to be!
love the geometry of the second picture to the last. arch of the tunnel, the stairs, the tiles…how does it look in colour?
the final picture screams institutional, dystopia and pure creepy. i guess that’s what b/w photos do? create a sinister atmosphere?
Whether colour or black and white, that waiting room is just as grim. Possibly even more so as the seat colours should be quite cheery, but they are the exact opposite. I deliberated whether to use colour or not, but in the end I found it a bit distracting. Plus the light and dark spots are more pronounced in monochrome.
The chin-up bar is nice (if it isn’t one, what the heck is it for?), but what they really need are a row of stationary bicycles for newcomers at the top and bottom of the stairs to get people into shape for the long climbs. 😉
That’s as good an explanation as I can come up with, although it’d be an odd choice in a train station…
Definitely. There were a few people there just to walk down and back up again. A fair few of them were really struggling back up the steps too!