Japan’s railways continue to attract travelers with kanko ressha or extravagant sightseeing trains serving destinations around the country. While not specifically defined what kanko ressha is in terms of their design or function, such trains incorporate special touches that make the journey to one’s destination a very unique and special experience. Kyushu Railway Company has put particular emphasis on train design and currently operates various theme trains along seven different routes. Two of the most interesting are the Aso-Boy and the A-Train.
This train has adopted the concept of a “boy hero.” Car No. 3 has a library stocked with illustrated books, and features a circular vat filled with wooden balls titled, “wooden pool,” as part of its “Kuro-club” playground. A staff member is present to look after the children. The train is festooned with images of “Kuro” (“Blackie”), its mascot character, and cars Number 1 and 4 feature seats in arrays of three to provide an optimum scenic view. The all-white “Kuro-chan” seats for children on the window side of Car No. 3 are raised 25cm from the floor to give young passengers a better view of the passing scenery. Aso-Boy service is usually scheduled during vacation periods and on weekends, running one round-trip per day on the Hohi main line, connecting the stations of Kumamoto, Aso and Miyaji for a trip lasting from 80 to 90 minutes. The one-way fare from Kumamoto to Miyaji is 2,380 yen ($23) for adults and 1,190 yen ($11) for children.
Take the A-Train
Familiar to readers, perhaps, as Duke Ellington’s signature jazz tune, the A-Train (A ressha in Japanese) boasts a stand-up bar — named the A-Train Bar — serving a wide selection of soft drinks and cocktails. More than a family-oriented design, this train appeals mainly to adult passengers, with its retro décor, bar and background music, featuring (of course) the tune “Take the A-Train,” to provide an nostalgic and romantic atmosphere to travelers. The train’s arrival at Misumi station is designed to connect with an excursion boat at the terminal station, Matsushima. On weekends and during vacation periods the A-Train runs three round trips per day on the Amakusa-Misumi line between Kumamoto and Matsushima stations. The one-way fare for a 40-minute ride is 1,820 yen ($18).