Yamada Line (JR East)

The Yamada Line (山田線, Yamada-sen) is a regional railway line in Japan operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East).[1][2] The railway line connects Morioka Station in Morioka City to Miyako Station in Miyako City, and is named after the town of Yamada in Iwate Prefecture, which the line used to serve. The railway line traverses through the Kitakami Mountains,[1] running parallel to National Route 106 for most of its length.

Yamada Line
JR East Kiha 110-128 at Kuzakai Station.jpg
A KiHa 110 series DMU car on the Yamada Line in March 2012
Native name山田線
StatusIn operation
OwnerJR logo (east).svg JR East
LocaleIwate Prefecture
TypeHeavy rail
Operator(s)JR East
Rolling stockKiHa 110 series DMU
Opened10 October 1923
Line length102.1 km (63.4 mi)
Number of tracksEntire line single tracked
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Operating speed85 km/h (53 mph)
Route map
JR Yamada Line linemap.svg
Old type Yamada Line diesel cars (right) and new type ones (left) at Miyako Station in 2002


19th to 20th centuryEdit

The Yamada Line was planned to connect Morioka with the Sanriku region, and was originally planned to run from Morioka to Rikuchu-Yamada, as stipulated in the Railway Construction Law of 1892.[1] An environmental survey was carried out, but because the proposed route of the Yamada Line was to cross through the Kitakami Mountains between Morioka and Miyako at an altitude of over 1,000m (751m above sea level), construction of the line initially failed to materialise.[1] It was not until 1920, when Hara Takashi, who had become the Prime Minister of Japan two years prior and had been a native of Iwate Prefecture, made the decision to build the line. The Yamada Line later opened in stages; the section from Morioka to Kami-Yonai opened on 10 October 1923, and the rest of the line to Rikuchu-Yamada opened by 1935.[1]

An extension of the Yamada Line south of Rikuchu-Yamada was planned to be constructed as part of the "Railway from Yamada to Kamaishi to Ofunato in Iwate Prefecture", as defined in Appendix No. 7 of the Revised Railway Construction Act.[2] The extension of the Yamada Line from Rikuchu-Yamada up to Kamaishi was opened by 1939,[2] prior to the outbreak of World War II.

After the opening of the Yamada Line, passenger trains travelling between Morioka and Miyako became so congested that it was often impossible to sit down and people had to stand up on the trains. Prior to the final extension of the Kamaishi Line in 1950 to Kamaishi, the Yamada Line was the only direct line between the coast and the inland areas of northern Iwate,[1] and upon the extension of the Yamada Line to Kamaishi by 1939,[2] freight traffic began using the Yamada Line throughout the day and night, as it formed the sole rail connection between Kamaishi and the Tohoku Main Line.

In November 1946, after the Pacific War, the Yamada Line was closed for a long time between Hiratsuto and Toyomane Stations due to wind and flood damage. As a replacement for the closed section of the Yamada Line, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers ordered the Kamaishi Line to be rebuilt and extended to Kamaishi.[2] Following the opening of the Kamaishi Line extension to Kamaishi, the principal route for inland freight transport from Kamaishi was shifted away from the Yamada Line to the Kamaishi Line, and the relative importance of the Yamada Line declined. Freight services on the Yamada Line would later cease altogether on 1 November 1986,[1] and ownership of the Yamada Line was transferred over to JR East following the privatisation of Japanese National Railways (JNR) on 1 April 1987, which integrated the line into the JR East network.[1]

21st centuryEdit

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 forced the closure of the entire Yamada Line. While the section of the Yamada Line between Morioka and Miyako reopened on 26 March 2011, the railway line between Miyako and Kamaishi, which parallels the Sanriku-Kaigan area of the Pacific coast, was extensively damaged or washed away altogether. Rail service on this section would not resume for eight years. In February 2012, JR East submitted a proposal to formally close the Yamada Line permanently between Miyako and Kamaishi, and the line's right-of-way converted into a bus rapid transit (BRT) route instead.[3] Ultimately, this decision was reversed in 2015 and the closed section of the line began to be rebuilt, with the aim of transferring the closed section to Sanriku Railway.[4][5]

Ōshida and Asagishi Stations were temporaily closed from January until 15 March 2013 due to low passenger numbers during the winter months.[6] The two stations would later be closed permanently, following the last day of services on 25 March 2016.[7]

On 23 March 2019, the section of the Yamada Line between Miyako and Kamaishi reopened, and was transferred to the Sanriku Railway, which integrated the section to become part of the Rias Line.[8]



JR East offers two different services on the Yamada Line:

  • Local - Trains stop at all stations along the line
  • Rapid Rias - Trains stop at selected stations along the line

Station listEdit

Rapid Rias trains stop at stations marked "●" and skip stations marked "|".

Station Japanese Distance (km) Rapid Rias Transfers Location
Morioka 盛岡 0.0 Morioka Iwate Prefecture
Kami-Morioka 上盛岡 2.8
Yamagishi 山岸 4.9
Kami-Yonai 上米内 9.9
Ōshida[Note 1] 大志田 19.2
Asagishi[Note 1] 浅岸 27.6
Kuzakai 区界 35.6 Miyako
Matsukusa 松草 43.6
Hiratsuto 平津戸 52.2
Kawauchi 川内 61.5
Hakoishi 箱石 65.7
Rikuchū-Kawai 陸中川井 73.5
Haratai 腹帯 82.6
Moichi 茂市 87.0 Iwaizumi Line (Closed on 1 April 2014)
Hikime 蟇目 91.5
Kebaraichi 花原市 94.2
Sentoku 千徳 98.8
Miyako 宮古 102.1 Sanriku Railway Rias Line


  1. ^ a b Closed on 25 March 2016.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Takayuki Haraguchi (24 November 2009). 歴史でめぐる鉄道全路線 国鉄・JR 21号 (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun Publishing. p. 18. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "RJNET-JP 鉄道ジャーナル". Railway Journal (in Japanese). Railway Journal. 21 (1): 111–112. January 1987. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  3. ^ 被災2路線、廃止しバス専用道提案へ JR東、岩手県に [JR East proposes to scrap two lines and convert to bus routes]. The Asahi Shimbun Digital (in Japanese). Japan: The Asahi Shimbun Company. 8 February 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  4. ^ http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/20150307-OYT1T50115.html?from=ytop_main5. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "Sanriku Railway approaches major turning point on railroad to recovery". The Japan Times Online. 6 April 2018.
  6. ^ 奥羽・山田線駅を冬季休止へ [Ou & Yamada Line stations to be closed during winter season]. Japan Railfan Magazine. Vol. 53 no. 622. Japan: Koyusha Co., Ltd. February 2013. p. 163.
  7. ^ 災害による鉄道運休、震災前の被災区間が全て解消…3月末 [Suspended rail lines - All lines closed before earthquake to be reopened by end of March]. Response (in Japanese). Japan: IID Inc. 1 April 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  8. ^ 東日本大震災 復興鉄路つながった 8年ぶり宮古-釜石、三陸鉄道に [Great East Japan Earthquake Railway have been rebuilt and connected after 8 years reconstruction between Miyako-Kamaishi, Sanriku Railway]. mainichi.jp (in Japanese). Japan: The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd. 23 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2019.