Railway Day: 3 fun facts about Japan’s railway
When you live in Japan, everyday is a celebration…literally! Just like how the world recognises every 4th of May (read: May the fourth) as Star Wars Day, every other day in Japan is celebrated—officially or unofficially—and dedicated to a certain object, theme, or event. For example, 22 February is Cat Day (猫の日), 11 August is an official public holiday for Mountain Day (山の日), and just recently Japan “celebrated” Tomato Day (トマトの日) on 10 October. Today, however, is a significant occasion for all of us here at JR Times: 14 October is Railway Day! In commemoration of Railway Day (鉄道の日 Tetsudo no Hi), here are three rail-ly fun facts that you should know about Japan’s railway.
Fun fact #1: Japan’s first passenger railroad opened 148 years ago today!
A photo taken in the 19th-century of the former Shimbashi Station, Tokyo. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Railway Day is celebrated to commemorate the inauguration of Japan’s first passenger railroad between Shimbashi in Tokyo and Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture on 14 October 1872, with both former Shimbashi Station (now Shiodome Freight Terminal) and Yokohama Station (横浜駅 Yokohama-eki) being two of the first railway stations built in Japan. The first Railway Day was celebrated on 14 October 1922, 50 years after the mark of this historic milestone.
In recent decades, Railway Day is celebrated to honour the development of Japan’s railway advancements and to deepen one’s appreciation for something that is part of everyday life in Japan. In Tokyo, the Railway Day Festival is an annual event where many railway companies unite to promote the different railway networks across the country, and to raise awareness for railway safety among children and adults alike. It’s a pity that this year’s Railway Day Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19, and railway fans and train enthusiasts would have to wait a little more for their annual dose of spectacular performances, games, food, and original train merchandise sold at the festival.
Fun fact #2: There are around 100 railway museums in Japan!
(Image credit: JR Times / Sue Lynn)
While this is no secret to train enthusiasts, did you know that there are around 100 railway museums in Japan? Each museum differs in scale, but shares the common goal of educating people on the deep history and pride of Japan’s various railway networks.
One of the largest railway museums that you can visit to pique your interest further is East Japan Railway Company’s (JR East) very own Railway Museum located in Omiya of Saitama Prefecture—just 30 minutes away from Tokyo City. Not only is it equipped with an impressive panoply of rolling stock, train dioramas, and informative exhibit rooms on railway history and technologies, the museum also offers exciting hands-on activities like mini shinkansen rides and train simulators that can keep both children and adults occupied for hours.
What’s a railway museum without an awesome gift shop to purchase some train memorabilia? (Image credit: JR Times / Sue Lynn)
If you’re not in Tokyo but happen to be in West or Central Japan, you can check out the Kyoto Railway Museum in Kyoto, as well as the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture respectively.
Fun fact 3: An annual ekiben contest called “Ekiben Grand Prix” takes place every autumn.
(Image credit: East Japan Railway Company)
An integral part of the railway experience is enjoying ekiben (駅弁 train station bento) on board. Available for purchase at every major shinkansen-operating station, ekiben makes for the perfect companion on a long-distance trip on the bullet train. Ekiben come in all shapes and sizes, featuring local ingredients and delicacies from whichever station you purchase them from. If you’re looking for a wider variety, the biggest ekiben shop called Ekibenya Matsuri (駅弁屋 祭) is located right inside Tokyo Station.
Ekiben Grand Prix 2020 is happening now until the end of November. Vote for your favourite ekiben today! (Image credit: East Japan Railway Company)
Every autumn since 2012, JR East holds the "Ekiben Grand Prix" to let the people decide on the best ekiben of the year. Contesting ekiben hail from every corner of East Japan, from the northernmost parts of Akita all the way to the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama, boasting local produce and delicacies as they vye for the coveted spots of the “Most Popular Ekiben”, “Most Attractive Ekiben”, as well as “Most Likely To Try Ekiben”.
Save the dates: THE JAPAN RAIL FAIR (20-22, 27-28 Nov 2020)
(Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CAFE)
JAPAN RAIL CAFE proudly presents The Japan Rail Fair—the first ever online rail travel fair—to your screens! Learn more about the different aspects of Japan’s railway in this fun-filled week—where there will be exciting activities as well as informative webinars, sharing sessions, and engaging workshops that celebrate the wonders of Japan rail travel. More details will be released in early November, so in the meantime mark your calendars and we’ll see you rail-ly soon!
Header image credit: hans-johnson / CC BY-ND 2.0