Be it a collection of antique scale model trains; enjoying the long rides and the scenery; or just simply admiring the engineering behind trains, Japan is a must to visit for people who adore trains. Here are the reasons why:
1. It is the country’s major means of transportation
Going around Japan will not be complete without experiencing the train rides. Not only it is the most convenient, but it also the most affordable means of transportation while you are in the country. Busses are available but only caters to limited routes within the cities. Taxis, on the other hand, can bring you to places conveniently but at a very high cost.
The country boasts its comprehensive and effective train system which consists of numerous subways especially in Tokyo; the JR lines crisscrossing from one city to another; and the Shinkasen or the Bullet Trains that has a speed of a lightning.
2. Train routes and schedules can be accessed online
One thing that I love here in Japan is that train schedules and routes can be accessed online through Jorudan and Hyperdia. Both of these websites can provide you with time schedule, type of train, length of travel, and fare cost. You just need to provide the stations where you are coming from and going to as well as the time you want to leave or arrive then viola! These sites will give you itinerary options to choose from taking consideration to the time you need to walk from one platform to another or changing from one train to a different line. And the best of it all… they have English versions so no need to fret if you do not know Japanese.
3. Japanese trains are punctual
Trains in Japan are known for its punctuality worldwide. The time schedule that you can find in Jorudan or Hyperdia are exactly the same as the time when you are waiting for your train. Nowadays, trains have monitor displays inside which provide information such as the stations where it will be stopping and how many minutes will it take to reach a certain destination. They also display information about train delays and accidents.
4. Scale models are available everywhere
For those who love collecting scale models of trains for keepsake or as gifts, Japanese trains as toys or memorabilia are now easy to find especially in major department stores or toy shops; souvenir corners; and major train stations. Other products like spoons, chopsticks, notebooks, and key chains are also available with train designs on them.
5. The train museums are awesome!
There are more than ten train museums in Japan which are a must-see if you are a train enthusiast. If you are in Tokyo, there are two museums which you can visit: the Railway Museum in Omiya and the other one is the Tokyo Metro Subway Museum in Kasai Station.
The Railway Museum is just less than an hour away from Tokyo Central Station via Kehin Tohoku line to Omiya Station, Saitama or less than 30 minutes from Ueno Station via Utsunomiya Line. From there its just a station away via a special line called New Shuttle. The museum highlights both history and development of train systems in Japan starting from steam engines to Shinkansens. I was amazed by the number of trains exhibited in the main gallery because it gave me a feeling of ancient times. Other facilities include the museum shops; library; food corners; train driving classroom; viewing deck; model trains; and a Science corner where kids and adults can have a hands-on experiments on train engineering and physics.
The Tokyo Metro Subway Museum, on the other hand, is just across Kasai Station. It tells the story about the beginnings of the Tokyo Subway system giving emphasis on the construction of the tracks and underground engineering. There is also a train simulators which the children can enjoy. The museum is small but very insightful.