trains

Japan’s Top 10 Scenic Train Trips–according to two “densha otaku” train guides

Greg Cope and Ken Mitchell have been riding Japan’s railways for over 30 years. “When I first started to travel around Japan,” recalls Greg, “I was struck by the fact that Japan not only has one of the most efficient railway systems in the world, but they have myriad types of railways, from new to old, conservative design to outlandish.

On one of Greg’s succeeding trips back to Japan, he asked his train aficionado friend Ken, who had seen a lot of Japan during a visit in 1967, to come along. “I devised an itinerary…incorporating a variety of different trains. The trip that I had nutted out from the timetable turned out well and I was hooked on Japan’s railway system,” says Ken.

Greg and Ken wanted to share their Japan rail experiences with others, so to achieve this goal they started Trainaway Tours out of Australia in 1998. These guys are living the train otaku dream, so when RocketNews24 started looking into Japan’s best, most scenic railways, we went straight to them for recommendations. From JR lines to small private rails, tourist trains to steam locomotives, let’s look at their picks for the top 10 train trips in Japan.

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Studio Ghibli animators’ West Japan Railway ad has us ready for summer! 【Video】

The hot summer months of July and August are almost upon us, and for families with young children, you know what that means…SUMMER VACATION! That’s right, like in many other parts of the world, families in Japan will be thinking about how and where to spend their summer holidays, including plans for travel. It seems quite fitting, then, that West Japan Railway Company, or JR West Japan as it’s commonly called, has recently announced the launch of the “JR West Japan SUMMER TRAIN!” campaign to showcase the appeal of traveling in western Japan by rail.

And it so happens that there’s something unique about this campaign that makes it hugely appealing to anime fans in particular — the commercial for the campaign features animation created by members of the Studio Ghibli team, and their beautiful artwork is immediately recognizable.

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Rest in peace, Tama – Japan’s stationmaster cat passes away at 16, company funeral to be held

It wasn’t long ago that we were wishing a happy birthday to Tama, the adorable feline that was given the title of Ultra Stationmaster by Wakayama Electric Railway. Having just turned 16 in April, Tama, who lived at Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture and delighted travelers on a daily basis, was incredibly young for a stationmaster.

16 is a fairly advanced age for a cat, though, and the sad news has just come that Stationmaster Tama has passed away.

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The top 10 funniest train happenings, as told by Japanese Twitter

What happens on the train stays on the train. Unless, of course, you decide to tweet about it.

Japanese Twitter users love to post about the crazy things they see going on during their time on the train, ranging from the slightly out of the ordinary to the downright bizarre. And now, for your reading pleasure, we have the top 10 funniest Japanese train tweets so you can see how the Japanese commute compares to your own.

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Neko rail! Wakayama’s Tama Train is covered in cats both inside and out

Japan has many celebricats, and Wakayama Prefecture’s fuzzy train station master Tama is one of them. Tama serves as a station master together with her apprentice Nitama at Kishi Station along Wakayama Dentetsu’s Kishigawa Line.

Not only does Ultra Station Master Tama have an idol-like presence in Wakayama, she also has her own themed cafe, and a train created in her name, the Tama-densha (Tama Train). More pictures of the cat train after the jump!

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Woman on commuter train thinks she’s getting a romantic kabe-don, seems guy would rather beat her

As clean, punctual, and safe as Japan’s trains may be, riding them during rush hour usually isn’t a particularly pleasant experience, when passengers are packed in at extremely close proximity to one another. In their search for anything to make the experience a little more tolerable, some people will latch onto any positive they can find, such as a mere hint of romance in a chance encounter with an attractive fellow commuter.

This week, one woman’s heart skipped a beat as she found herself the sudden, if unintentional, recipient of a kabe-don on her morning ride to work. But while she could easily tell the man bracing himself with one arm against the wall behind her was a handsome stranger, she didn’t know that his full description should also include “prone to fantasies of ridiculous violence.”

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Maryland governor seeks federal funding after riding Japan’s maglev train

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan took a trip to Yamanashi to try out Japan’s record-breaking Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) bullet train. Travelling with him were executives from the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail LLC (BWRR), who, after enjoying a 27-mile-long ride, headed back to Baltimore with the intention of bringing the technology stateside.

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Miniature maglev train set provides hours of high-speed, floating fun!

When you were a kid, you probably owned (or knew someone who owned) a model train set, or Scalextric-style slot car racing track. You probably also watched Back to The Future and lusted after Marty McFly’s hoverboard. But I bet you never thought that when you grew up, you’d be able to buy your very own hovering high-speed train set! And now you can, courtesy of toy company Takara Tomy!

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Shin-Koiwa Station is going all out to prevent human injury and death

Delays on a train are annoying but inevitable, since with such a massive transit system in Japan, not everything is going to work 100 percent of the time. No one wants to see the words “train delay” on the information screen at the station, but even more so, no one wants to see the reason for the delays attributed to “human accidents,” the catch-all term Japan uses when people are found on the tracks while the trains are running.

An unfortunately common station for such accidents is implementing a number of changes in order to curb the rise of these incidents. It’s not just barriers and fences, prevention can start with you! So join us after the jump to see what sort of changes are being made to Shin-Koiwa Station.

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Hero lady apparently saves guy from groping accusations by posing as girlfriend

Japan is pretty famous for its packed trains that invite occasional chikan (groping incidents). Luckily, in light of improving rights for women in Japan, the law of late tends to come down pretty hard on train gropers. Assuming a victim or a witness to such a crime speaks up about it, a perpetrator typically faces immediate arrest at the next train station and can probably expect to do some jail time.

While this system works pretty well for the most part, it’s not unheard of for some unlucky guys to face career and life-destroying consequences after being falsely accused of groping. One Japanese Twitter user, in fact, posted a series of Tweets detailing a close call he had himself, relating that he was almost certainly destined for the slammer if he hadn’t been saved by the alleged victim herself.

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Five of Japan’s most beautiful and unique hidden train stations

Traveling by train in Japan is a fun and scenic experience, and sometimes the journey can be even more enjoyable than the destination. Shinjuku Station in Tokyo might be famous as the busiest in the world, but once you get outside the capital you can find many unique and unpopulated stations in stunning settings. Read on to discover five of them.

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The Penguin Train: The one time passengers going to Tokyo will wish the train was more crowded

The opening of the Tokyo Sky Tree did a lot to revive the surrounding Sumida neighborhood of Tokyo. Not only does having the highest structure and observation platform in all of Japan put the district squarely in the spotlight, the Sky Tree is surrounded by a number of other attractions that draw visitors both foreign and domestic.

In addition to the Solamachi shopping and dining complex, you’ll also find a planetarium and aquarium at the base of the tower, making it a one-stop center for anyone interested in the sky, stars, or sea. And to celebrate the third anniversary of the Sky Tree’s opening, a group of travellers will be riding the train to Sumida with some very special company: a group of adorable penguins.

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Just how fast is Japan’s new maglev train? See for yourself【Video】

It may not be due to begin ferrying passengers between Tokyo and Osaka for another 10+ years yet, but Japan’s magnetic levitation (maglev) train is already zipping up and down a special section of test track in Yamanashi Prefecture, and it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Check out our video of this thing in motion – oh, and try not to blink because you really might miss it.

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Nine tips for surviving Japan’s hellishly crowded trains

If you have ever ridden a train during rush hour in Japan, you know it takes a certain amount of fortitude to survive it. If you are just visiting the country, sometimes you can avoid those super stuffed trains, buy if you live or spend an extended length of time in any big city in Japan you just can’t avoid taking a packed train. Whether it’s rush hour in the morning, rush hour at night, or the last few trains home, you will often find yourself in a position where you have to give up the luxury of personal space in exchange for a ride home.

It takes a certain amount of skill to stay upright as well as a bit of creative ingenuity to pass the time and avoid feeling claustrophobic in order to survive the crowded train. We’ve collated nine of the best tips to help you get through a hell-like train ride.

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Group of teenage Thai actors placed under house arrest for dancing on Japanese train 【Video】

Anyone who has ridden the trains in Japan has probably had a very different experience from riding them in their home country. The trains I ride here in Boston are loud, not the cleanest, and full of people talking and listening to music as if there’s not a hundred others around them. In Japan though, that doesn’t fly. Everyone is motionless, remains quiet, and mostly respectful of others.

One group of Thai teenage actors found that out the hard way. They filmed themselves doing the unspeakable act of dancing while on a train in Japan, and quickly found themselves on the receiving end of some harsh punishment: six months of house arrest and banned for six months from all forms of social networking sites.

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A simple change to train station platforms could save hundreds of lives

With cherry blossom season well underway, Japan is currently all about the hanami parties. These usually consist of sitting under the beautiful cherry blossoms and drinking with a bunch with friends or coworkers. With well-enforced policies against drunk driving, trains and subways are the optimal way of getting home after a day spent enjoying the pink flowers and fresh energies of spring. So it’s no surprise to see that a rise in alcohol consumption also increases the number of people falling onto the tracks.

JR West, the main railway company for the Kansai area, carried out a two-year study to find the best way to prevent these moments of imbalance, and the answer may be as simple as a 90-degree turn in a different direction.

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Morioka Station’s sweet message to recent high school graduates causes passersby to tear up

As people in different parts of the world change their calendars to April at this very moment, the class of recently graduated Japanese high school students are getting ready to embark on their next journeys in life. For many of them, this time marks a major turning point as they move away from home and head to even bigger cities for college or careers.

The recent graduates in at least one Japanese city can take comfort in knowing that their community will be waiting patiently for their return home at vacation. The staff at Morioka Station in Iwate Prefecture recently left a heartfelt message inside the station wishing their local high school graduates the best of luck as they set out in life, and it seems that more than one passerby has teared up at the sight of it. 

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“We Finns just like it simple”: Net users can’t get enough of Helsinki Metro map

Finland: land of the Moomins, Santa Claus Village, and exceedingly simple metro lines.  

A series of maps comparing the municipal subway layouts in major cities around the world has been tickling some net users who just can’t get enough of Helsinki’s metro design. Some are calling it proof that Finns like to keep things simple–and you’ve got to admit, when you see the image stacked up next to a map of Tokyo’s metro system, they may have a point!

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Fukui Station, the upcoming Shinkansen station, is also home to roaring dinosaurs!

The steady expansion of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train lines is a project welcomed by everyone from train fans to average citizens who just wants to get around the country as easily as possible. Last Friday saw the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, the line connecting Tokyo with the Hokuriku region. The newest train stations are located in Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures, but all the attention on-line is actually focused on Fukui Station!

Though the Shinkansen line won’t actually make it to Fukui Prefecture until 2025, people still love the station, which currently serves a variety of JR and Echizen lines, thanks to its Jurassic Park-like scenery. That’s right, Fukui Station is overrun by dinosaurs!

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Crazy station’s 290 steps from gate to platform make it the deepest and spookiest in Niigata

Japan is in the middle of a luxury train boom, but that doesn’t mean every station in the country is a palace of creature comforts. In the most rural areas, the station is often little more than an unstaffed slab of concrete poured next to the rails.

Things are just a bit more infrastructure-intensive at Tsutsuishi Station, however. That’s because while its above-ground facilities may not be much to look at, the platform is located at the bottom of a stairwell that descends 40 meters (131 feet) into the earth.

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