2017 No.20

Railway Journey across Japan


Attendants for Train Travel

Photos: EchizenRailway Co., LTD, Kurihara Kageri, Takagi Hiroshi, East Japan Railway Company, Mashima Railway Pictures Co., Ltd., Yuri Kogen Railway Company, and Ryobi Holdings Co., Ltd.

It’s more than just the train itself that appeals to people and makes them want to get on again and again. The warmth and hospitality of the attendants greeting passengers on each train truly enhances the enjoyment of travel many times over.


Obako Attendants on the Magokoro Train Service

Attendants in traditional local attire provide support to passengers.

(Yuri Kogen Railway, Akita Prefecture)

Local railways provide warm hospitality to travellers and local residents alike. On the Yuri Kogen Railway in Akita Prefecture, female attendants known as Obako, who wear traditional local attire, ride the Magokoro (“sincerity”) train, which operates a return service once a day. The attendants do more than simply help passengers on and off the train. They also provide information on sights along the line and present passengers with handmade gifts as mementos of the trip. All of this helps to make a more than memorable occasion. The thoughtful and heartfelt service that can be found in local areas guarantees a fun and unforgettable journey.

Obako attendants greet passengers. Obako means “young woman” in local Akita dialect. Announcements mixed with Akita dialect leave an impression that’s different from Tokyo, providing a feeling of nostalgia.

When the train leaves the terminus, the women at a store inside Yashima Station and employees give everyone a grand send-off.

Tama the Second Stationmaster

The super stationmaster cat

(Kishi Station, Wakayama Electric Railway Kishigawa Line, Wakayama Prefecture)

The local Wakayama Electric Railway took over a line that was close to shutting down and worked together with local people to bring it back to life. A local family asked for their calico cat named Tama to take up residence in the station, and the cat was soon appointed stationmaster, which became the talk of the town. With the passing away of Tama in 2015, a new cat called Nitama has taken on the role of second stationmaster to greet passengers at Kishi Station. In Japan, cats are thought to bring good luck. Many tourists from both inside and outside Japan come to visit and ride the Tama Train adorned with pictures of Tama, who has become the symbol of the area.

The roof of Kishi Station is made using a traditional Japanese cypress bark-thatched style in the shape of a cat’s face.

Tama, “Honorable Eternal Stationmaster”

The cat affectionately known as Nitama is protected in Okayama where the parent company of Wakayama Electric Railway is based. After serving as stationmaster at Idakiso Station, Nitama took on the role of “Tama the Second Stationmaster” when the original Tama passed away. You are more than likely to find Nitama sleeping comfortably in the glass-walled stationmaster’s office.

The Ultimate in Sweets Created by Fruit Meisters

FruiTea Fukushima, “Traveling café”

(JR East Ban-etsu-West Line, Fukushima Prefecture)

Fukushima Prefecture is one of Japan’s foremost producers of fruit like peaches, strawberries, and cherries. At a long-established fruit company that has been in business for more than 90 years there, heartfelt sweets made by pastry chefs using fruit that has been carefully selected by fruit meisters are served on the train café, FruitTea Fukushima. There are two kinds of original sweets that include seasonal fruit when it is at its tastiest. The menu is full of ideas from the pastry chefs.

The sweets served on-board the train are part of a menu that cannot be found anywhere else. Each treat is handmade by skilled artisans. In addition, the on-board interior is so relaxing that you’d never have thought you were on a train.

Dinosaurs Convey the Attractive Features of the Region

Dr. Dinosaur greets passengers on the platform.

(Echizen Railway, Fukui Prefecture)

Fukui Prefecture is home to one of the world’s most renowned dinosaur fossil excavation sites. At Fukui Station, the gateway to the prefecture, visitors are greeted by dinosaurs at every turn. Dr. Dinosaur dressed in white sits on the “dinosaur bench” on the platform of Echizen Railway’s Fukui Station to greet passengers getting on and off the Dinosaur Express.

Dr. Dinosaur is a character from the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. He has the bones of a plant-eating dinosaur in his left hand and a book in his right.