鉄道は、たくさんの人たちをつないでくれる「道」だと思います。 This is a blog about railways in Japan and around the world by an enthusiast.
The pleasure of joyful train “Rokumon”, Shinano Railways 鉄道ファンの楽園・しなの鉄道の「ろくもん」に長男と乗る
I rode Rokumon from Nagano station with my son. Before riding, we take traditional style soba standing at station platform, assuming that meals which are served in Rokumon might be good quality but small amount. Later, we realized this decision was totally wrong.
Platform 7 of Nagano station was in a relaxed atmosphere. Rokumon was already there more than 30 minutes before departure time, and some travelers mainly affluent elderly couples gathered little by little. Wealth goes to the elderly, that is the general rule of seniority society of this country, I suppose. Similarly, most users of more luxurious “Shikishima” and “Mizukaze” are elderly. Although younger energetic managers may increase, I assume most of them are too busy to work and no time to take Rokumon, considering Japanese workaholic business culture.
Before doors open around 15 minutes before departure time 13:35, the female conductor did an interesting performance to play a trumpet shell in front of the train. After that, passengers are guided into Rokumon. The customer style may be some typical Japanese style relying on fixed manual and require more relax or humor if expecting too much, but overall, it was very nice.
We used a 2-persons individual room separated by Japanese traditional syoji screen made by wood and paper. Car number 3 has 10 rooms and only 20 passengers’ capacity, obviously much more relaxed than 60-70 seats of express normal coach or even 40-50 of green cars. Similar example can be found in “Saphir Odoriko” Green cars or some others in Japan.
It was too comfortable, Rokumon departed at 13:35 but we almost forget that we are in the running train. Gorgeous Japanese style cuisines were shortly delivered to us. They use meats, vegetables and mushrooms produced in Nagano prefecture. Having this lunch, my son was very happy to talk to me without staring his smartphone as usual. I belatedly thought that this is a good restaurant car. It is equipped with a small kitchen, although they do not cook main dishes, drinks and soups are at least prepared there. And we do not forget about wines and sakes, although I do not take any of them personally. Many other passengers enjoyed drinks and some are sold as souvenirs.
Rokumon crossed broad Sai River and Chukuma River bridge. Chikuma River represents Nagano prefecture and is the longest river in Japan flowing into Shinano river. About only 350 kilometers’ length but Japan is an island country.
Rokumon proceeds slower than normal trains, but it is rather a good thing to rail lovers like us, because we can enjoy longer time at a same fee, though it will sound ridiculous for “busy” practical rail users. It stops for 10 or 20 minutes at major stations like Ueda or Komoro. We can enjoy shopping or even short walking tour there. I bought fresh and cheap seasonal apples at Komoro which are now cropped in Nagano prefecture. We both considered that even 2 hours and 10 minutes’ schedule of Rokumon, less than 40 kmph average speed from Nagano to Karuizawa was too fast.
By the way, Rokumon are 3 cars and other local trains of Shinano Railways are normally 2 or 3 (maximum 6 in rush hours), but Ueda, Komoro and other stations of Shinano Railways retain the facility of old Shinetsu main line. Platform length is usually 12 cars (240 meters) which was suitable to Limited Express “Asama” between Ueno Tokyo and Nagano before 1997 Nagano (Currently Hokuriku) Shinkansen.
It was sad that watching at landscape of Mount Asama volcano, Rokumon journey ended in Karuizawa, and we dreamed that former Usui Pass line between Karuizawa and Yokokawa will revive someday and Rokumon may go direct to Takasaki. We arrived at Karuizawa station at 15:45 on time. They kindly provided us a free drink service at the nice bar of Karuizawa station. After relaxed shortly, we took a full Shinkansen to Tokyo of Sunday evening going back to reality. My son was a little tired and slept, and I felt middle “Seat B” of Shinkansen was too narrow after taking luxurious Rokumon.