Japan brought back the steam locomotive

22 Jun

Have you ever visited Japan? Even if you haven’t, maybe you’ve heard about Japan’s excellent, clean, safe, affordable, extremely punctual and high-tech public transportation system.

Especially in big cities such as Tokyo, there are train and subway stations and bus stops all over the city.

The trains, subways, and buses are on time to the minute. They’re very comfortable…upholstered seats, air-conditioning in the summer and heated in the winter.

The fare can be paid with the swipe of a convenient IC-card.

And, of course, the trains and subways are electric. It’s been that way for decades. Japan hasn’t used the steam locomotive (SL) for a long time.

But, for something fun to do this summer (especially for families with young boys) and also to show support to Fukushima, Japan Railways (JR) will offer the chance to ride on a steam locomotive train.

This is only temporary (for the summer of 2011) and also the trains will only run in the countryside area of 群馬県 (Gunma Prefecture), north of Tokyo.

Have you ever ridden on a steam locomotive? If you’re able to visit Gunma, Japan this summer, this is your chance.

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18 Responses to “Japan brought back the steam locomotive”

  1. pongrocks June 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    there is a steam locomotive that’s running through my hometown on special occasions like fathers day for instance. it runs on a railroad which was shut down 30 years or so. there are no steam locomotives that run on a permanent basis in germany, though. But there are some “traditional railroad clubs” or whatever they are called, that bought old steam locomotives, renovated them and run them on occasion. That sounds like a cool but expensive hobby, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 27, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

      There are plenty of 電車オタク (“railroad buffs”) in Japan…but I don’t think any of them have their own actual train!

      Like

  2. Mom June 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    I used to ride on steam locomotives, esp when gr’pa worked for the railroad. Do you remember that he worked there? When I was young, we would take the train to NYC. It was always fun to go to the big city. We also took a train across the US, to California, when we went to visit Australia. We were on the train for one whole week. It got really boring esp about the 3 or 4th day-we were so happy to finally get off by the end of the wk. from there we went to Hawaii and then flew to Australia.
    I loved the train!

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

      >Do you remember that he worked there?

      I know that he worked for the railroad but I was too young to actually remember it.
      I didn’t know he worked with steam trains, though.

      > We also took a train across the US

      I’ve also heard about your trip to Australia when you were a child…but I didn’t know you took a cross-country train journey.

      Like

  3. Musings June 27, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    I do believe Japan’s rail system is the best we’ve seen in the world, certainly better than Chicago. I wish we could do the steam locomotive but we won’t be in Japan until spring of next year.

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      Are you going to visit Japan next Spring? Have you ever visited here in the springtime before?

      Like

      • musings June 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

        Yes, we’re planning on it, unless my brother can’t get away and would like to do the trip in fall. Yes, we were in Japan in spring, 2010 and I blogged the entire time. That was crazy for me to do. It was too exhausting. We brought my mom and aunt with us and it was one of our BEST trips to Japan. We visited the top three gardens, saw several castles including Himeji before they closed it for renovation and stayed at Eiheiji Temple for the night. It’ll be hard to top that trip next year.

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      • tokyo5 June 30, 2011 at 1:15 am #

        >we were in Japan in spring, 2010 and I blogged the entire time.

        Oh yeah, I read your post.

        >It’ll be hard to top that trip next year.

        If you want some ideas for places to see in the Tokyo area, let me know.

        Like

  4. Bryn June 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    I’ve ridden this steam train in Niigata:

    http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/routemaps/slbanetsumonogatari.html

    It was interesting and my son loved it, but I really hated all the thick, black smoke puffing out. We sat near the engine and so couldn’t have the windows open because the smoke was so thick (it was summer, and of course no air con!).

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 24, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

      >I’ve ridden this steam train in Niigata:

      I guess they have them in rural areas around Japan.
      Now the closest one to Tokyo is the one in Gunma that I wrote this post about.

      >I really hated all the thick, black smoke puffing out.

      Wouldn’t be a “steam locomotive” without the smoke. 😉

      >it was summer, and of course no air con!

      Yeah, it was quite toasty, I’m sure. But it’s a “retro” train…and that’s how it used to be on trains. (I’m glad to live in the era of high-tech electric trains…with A/C! 🙂 )

      Like

  5. tsukareru June 23, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    Yes, in August. It’s for work. I’ll be there at least a year. Shizuoka wasn’t my choice, but it seems really perfect for me.

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 24, 2011 at 12:58 am #

      Have you been to Japan before?

      Like

  6. tsukareru June 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Isn’t there a SL route like this in the Oi River Valley in Shizuoka?
    http://www.oigawa-railway.co.jp/

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 23, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      I should’ve specified…there are no more permanently-running steam locomotives in the 関東地方 (Kanto (Tokyo) region).

      The train in the link you provided looks fun. How did you know about it? Have you ridden it?

      Like

      • tsukareru June 23, 2011 at 1:13 am #

        No, I haven’t ridden it yet.
        I’m moving to Shizuoka-shi soon, so I’ve been looking at fun things to do and see.

        Like

      • tokyo5 June 23, 2011 at 1:24 am #

        You’re moving to Japan? When? For how long?

        And why Shizuoka?

        Like

  7. Earnest Mercer June 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    Today’s super-nice train system is a far cry from the old RTO (Railway Transportation Organization) of the post-WWII Japan of my memory. Though rickety and very uncomfortable, the trains were nevertheless punctual and efficient–even then using the “pushers” still used today. I comment a bit on the RTO in my book about a young prostitute of the 1950s: “Skivvy Girl: The Love of a Post WWII Japanese Pleasure Girl”

    As “spiffy” as Japan is today, I still wax nostalgic over my earlier memories.

    Like

    • tokyo5 June 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

      >rickety and very uncomfortable

      I can’t imagine that in Japan!

      >the trains were nevertheless punctual and efficient

      That is how Japan is.

      Like

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