All Aboard! The Unique Trains of Japan

Photo: Simon Pielow on Flickr

All Aboard! The Unique Trains of Japan

Mark Morinishi

Did you know that out of the 50 busiest train stations in the world, 46 are in Japan? Japan’s train system is almost as unique and wondrous as Japan itself. The majority are standard trains, but with a society so big on rail travel there are also plenty of unique trains that can be enjoyed!

Let’s start with some of the fun themed trains, like at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea. When arriving from the JR line at Maihama Station you are immediately engulfed in the surge of people exiting to get into the theme park. However once you exit the JR station you now get to board a new raised train/tram that will take you to the entrance of either Disneyland or Disney Sea. And this is by no means a regular train- it is completely themed with whatever character is in fashion. Two times I went it was Mickey Mouse themed, and another time it was Duffy themed (Duffy is the cute Disneyland teddybear character found only in Japan).



Do you love cats? In 2007 the city of Kinokawa declared its station master and operating officer a furry feline named Tama, a calico cat. Of course the small city has seen loads of tourists come since then, and sells everything you can imagine with Tama on it to tourists. Now they even have a special train, the Tama Train, which is more so a moving cat themed playhouse than it is a train. Check out the video here.


Rain Rabbit on Flickr

Story time. On a trip to Tokyo from Nagoya I noticed a large number of people with cameras on the Shinkansen (bullet train) tracks. This is not too out of the normal as Nagoya is pretty international and tourists love to take pictures of the futuristic looking bullet train, however these camera wielding people were all Japanese. Before I knew it the crowd began to slowly mumble then erupt into a mixture of camera shutters and commands to not miss the sight that was pulling into the station. It was the Yellow Doctor! For a train that is only dedicated to testing and running diagnostics on the tracks it sure caused quite a commotion. However in late 2015 there was a special offer where train enthusiasts could shell out around $400.00 to be shown around the interior of the train, take a short ride and see the Nagoya Bullet Train depot; an area usually off limits to the public.


The Yellow Doctor

Taking the Shinkansen instead of flying is almost the preferred mode of travel when going from city to city domestically. Unless you are flying from North to the South or vice versa it may actually be quicker than flying. So what about the Emperor? Surely he flies right? I thought so too. Then I saw pictures of the Imperial train. This train is decked out in all black, and will carry the Imperial Seal on the front car. It will also display the Japanese flag along with any other country’s flag if the foreign dignitary is being entertained on board. Here are the train station attendants displaying the Japanese flags and uncovering the seal.


The Emperor of Japan's Personal Train. Photo by Simon Pielow on Flickr

I hope you found this list entertaining! Of course I had to leave tons out such as the sweets train in Kyushu where you enjoy eating sweats while cruising up and down the coastline, the toy themed train, the kotatsu train … Which one would you like to ride on?