I enjoy anime which teach me something. For example, fairly recently there have been several cooking anime. I loved learning about traditional Japanese cuisine in Sushi and Beyond or foods from all around the world in Shokugeki no Souma. Nevertheless as a future civil engineer I appreciate architectural trivia the most.
For me the most memorable detail from the “cute girls climbing mountains” anime, Yama no Susume, wasn’t any of the natural wonders they visited, but the Doai underground station where the girls get off the train when climbing Mount Tanigawa. Unlike most viewers I already knew of the station having seen it in a yet another anime I’ll also be drawing information from today. Tetsuko no Tabi is about a train enthusiast and a hard-to-impress mangaka traveling around Japan visiting interesting railway stations and making a manga about it. One day I might write about some of the other amazing stations they visit, but today I want to tell you about the Doai station.
In reality it looks even more like a wartime bunker or something, but it’s an underground train station!
I said wartime bunker… the station was built between the wars. On September 1, 1931 it was set up as a signal box with the opening to traffic of Jouetsu Line. Five years later (December 19, 1936) it became a railway station. When in 1967 the Joetsu Line became double-tracked (and Shin-Shimizu Tunnel opened, housing the second track), this underground level was opened. So actually, the most interesting part was built later.
The interesting part and the one it’s famous for, of course, are the stairs. As we can learn from Tetsuko no Tabi, the ascent, if you are coming from Tokyo direction (northbound), takes over ten minutes of climbing 462 steps. That makes 70.7 meters of altitude difference. This station’s nickname モグラ駅 [モグラえき, moguraeki, mole station] is well-earned.
(If you are coming from Niigata direction (southbound), the platform is above the northbound one and you can just walk to the ground-level platform with ease.)
Another interesting fact is that this station is unmanned, even though it’s pretty large. Maybe deep would be a better word. Not that the person working there would have much to do – only about 20 people come through here per day, mostly backpackers.