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Rail fun in Ehime: 4 rail-related activities for railway lovers

Rail fun in Ehime: 4 rail-related activities for railway lovers

Ehime (愛媛) is a prefecture located in the Shikoku Region (四国), an island located southwest of Japan’s main island of Honshu (本州). It faces the Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海 Seto Naikai), and is easily accessible from popular cities like Hiroshima (広島), and is not far from popular destinations such as Kyoto (京都) or Osaka (大阪). 


From a museum dedicated to Sogo Shinji (十河信二), the man generally known as the “father of the shinkansen”, to a “retro-modern” sightseeing train to enjoy the beautiful sceneries, here's a look at some of the fun rail-related activities railway lovers can look forward to when visiting Ehime Prefecture!


1. The Railway History Park in Saijo

The Shikoku Railway Cultural Center (North and South Wings) respectively. (Image credit: Visit Ehime)


The Railway History Park (四国鉄道文化館 Shikoku-tetsudō-bunkakan) in Saijo (西条市 Saijō-shi) is located right next to Iyo-Saijo Station (伊予西条駅 Iyo-Saijō-eki). The park includes the Shikoku Railway Cultural Center (North and South Wings), the Shinji Sogo Memorial Museum, and the Tourist Information Center.


0 Series driver's seat. (Image credit: Visit Ehime)


Visitors to the Shikoku Railway Cultural Center can inspect retro trains, including a 0 series shinkansen and steam locomotive. Actual rides on the trains are offered as well, allowing chances to enjoy the feel of journeying on a train in the olden days.


(Image credit: Visit Ehime)


On display are the 0 Series Shinkansen train—the first generation Shinkansen built to run on the Tokaido Shinkansen (東海道新幹線) high-speed line which opened in 1964—a valuable piece of railway history. There is also the first DF50 diesel locomotive, C57 Class steam locomotive No.44, also known as Chunrai-go (春雷号) named after Sogo Shinji’s nickname, and KiHa 65 Class diesel locomotive No.34, an old JNR (Japanese National Railways) express train of the past.


(Image credit: Visit Ehime)


The railway dioramas depicting the area around Iyo-Saijo Station are a must-see when visiting Railway History Park. It also depicts other popular trains in Shikoku, such as the Anpanman Train (アンパンマン列車). In addition to the railway museum featuring 6 train cars and other artefacts on display, the Tourist Information Center also provides information about Saijo's many sightseeing spots, places of interest, and souvenirs.


Railway History Park (四国鉄道文化館)
Address: 798-1 Omachi, Saijo, Ehime 793-0030 
Nearest station: JR Iyo-Saijo Station (​​伊予西条駅)
Access: 1-minute walk from station
Opening hours: 9am–6pm (Last entry at 5:30pm, closed on Wednesdays. Closed on Thursdays if Wednesday is a holiday)
Admission fee: ¥300 (Adults), ¥100 (Elementary and middle school)
Tel: +81-897-47-3855


2. Botchan Ressha: A restored locomotive “as tiny as a matchbox”

With Matsuyama Castle in the background, the "Botchan Train" runs through the city, belching out steam.  (Image credit: Visit Ehime)


The Botchan Ressha (坊っちゃん列車 Botchan Train) is a diesel-powered replica of a steam locomotive installed in the city of Matsuyama (松山市 Matsuyama-shi) in Ehime Prefecture in 1888 as part of the original Iyo Railway (伊予鉄株式会社 Iyotetsu kabushiki gaisha), which was the first railway company in Shikoku. The original locomotive was loved by the locals for 67 years, and it came to be known as Botchan Ressha after the main character of a famous novel by Natsume Soseki (夏目漱石). 


The interior of the modern coaches, decorated with wood, exudes an atmosphere of the Meiji Period. (Image credit: Visit Ehime)


When the train arrives at Dogo Onsen Station, it's a good time to take photos! Take a picture of the "Botchan Train" and Dogo Onsen Station. (Image credit: Visit Ehime)


The original steam locomotives puffing black smoke have been remodelled, and drivers dress as they did 100 years ago transporting visitors back to an earlier era. The train runs from Matsuyama City centre to Dogo Onsen offering passengers a nostalgic ride and a view of the town from the train window.


Botchan Train (坊っちゃん列車)
Nearest station: Matsuyama City Station (松山市駅) or Dogo-Onsen Station (道後温泉駅)
Locomotive operating hours: 9:30am–5:33pm
Admission fee: ¥800 (Adults), ¥400 (Children)
Tel: +81-89-948-3222


3. Iyonada Monogatari

(Image credit: Visit Ehime)


The Iyonada Monogatari (伊予灘ものがたり) is a two-car sightseeing train that runs on the railroad along the Iyonada Sea, affectionately known as the Iyonada Line with Love (愛ある伊予灘線 Ai Aru Iyonada-sen). It makes two round trips a day between Matsuyama and Iyo-Ozu Station (伊予大洲駅 Iyo-Ōzu-eki) / Yawatahama Station (八幡浜駅 Yawatahama-eki). During the ride, you can enjoy stunning views of the Iyonada Sea and the Hijikawa River (肱川).


(Image credit: Visit Ehime)


Sitting on roomy seats in the train with the retro-modern interior creating a tranquil atmosphere, passengers can enjoy attractive scenery from the train window during all four seasons, as well as meals rich with fresh local ingredients. The hospitality of exclusive attendants and the genuine welcome from people along the line warm the hearts of passengers.

(Image credit: Shikoku Railway Company)


While the Iyonada Monogatari made its last run in late December 2021, the excursion train will be making a comeback with a renewal and a new car this Spring 2022! 


4. Minetopia Besshi: Travel back in time at this interactive amusement park

(Image credit: Visit Ehime)


Minetopia Besshi (マイントピア別子) is a theme park built out of the industrial remains of the Besshi copper mine on two sites: the Hadeba (端出場) Zone (opened in 1991) and the Tohnaru (東平) Zone (opened in 1994). The Mine Railway, Japan's first railway dedicated to mountain mining, has been restored for visitors to enjoy a tour around the facilities.


(Image credit: Visit Ehime)


Alongside the tour, visitors can experience gold panning, join an experimental tour of the mine to learn about its development over time, followed by a refreshing dip in the natural hot spring Tenku-no-Yu (天空の湯). At Besshi Onsen (別子温泉) Tenku no Yu, you can enjoy carbonated and oxygenated outdoor baths and two types of rock baths 


Play facilities for children from 0 to 12 years old (left). On the other side of the river, you can see the old Hantoshi Hydroelectric Power Station (registered tangible cultural property) (right). (Image credit: Visit Ehime)


Both children and adults will enjoy a fun day out here. The Tohnaru zone is popularly known as the “Machu Picchu of the Orient”, for its stone walls and brick structures standing high on the mountain top.


Minetopia Besshi (道の駅 マイントピア別子)
Address: 707-3 Tatsukawacho, Niihama, Ehime 792-0846
Nearest station: Niihama Station (​​新居浜駅)
Access: 20-minute bus ride from Niihamaeki-mae to Hadeba Bus Stop
Opening hours (Besshi Onsen Tenku-no-Yu): 10am–10pm (Last admission at 9pm)
Opening hours (Akagane Kids Park): 10am–6pm (Last admission at 4pm)
Opening hours (Mine Tour): 9am–6pm (Will vary based on season)
Admission fee (Besshi Onsen Tenku-no-Yu): ¥500 (Adults, over 16), ¥300 (6-15 years old), ¥200 (Under 3 years old)
Admission fee (Akagane Kids Park, for 2 hours): ¥300 (over 13 years old), ¥500 (0-12 years old)
Admission fee (Gold panning): ¥600 (Adults, over 13 years old), ¥500 (3-12 years old)
Tel: +81-897-43-1801


With Ehime Prefecture being more known for its mikan (みかん) and Imabari towels, there are plenty of rail-related activities that railway lovers should check out and include in their next trip to Japan!


This article is adapted from Ehime Prefectural Government.

Header image credit: Visit Ehime Japan & JR Times

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