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Shinshu special: Launch of digital station stamp app “EKITAG”

Shinshu special: Launch of digital station stamp app “EKITAG”

Do you love collecting station stamps (駅スタンプ eki-sutanpu) while travelling by train around Japan? Collecting stamps in different locations on a course is known as a stamp rally (スタンプラリー sutanpu-rarī), and it is an activity that is loved by many people while travelling around Japan by rail. The stamps come in various shapes and sizes, and can be found at train stations or even on special trains, and they serve as mementoes for collectors after their train journeys.

 

A typical stamp corner. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

JR East has its fair share of railway enthusiasts who love collecting stamps, which can be found at many train stations in Eastern Japan, as well as for special trains such as Joyful Trains. The designs are beautifully intricate and unique, and people love collecting them as they travel around different parts of the region and relish their moments riding the trains.

 

Station stamp counters for Shinano-Ōmachi Station (left) and Hakuba Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

And guess what? There is a huge surprise for all train stamp-collecting enthusiasts: JR East has launched a new app named “EKITAG” (エキタグ) where digital versions of train stamps can be collected. Users of the app can not only collect the digital stamps, but they can also insert them into photos and make commemorative photos that they can share on their own social media platforms.

 

What’s more, there are new digital stamps that are specially dedicated to train stations located in the Shinetsu Region (信越地方 Shin’etsu-chihō), which is made up of prefectures Nagano (長野県 Nagano-ken) and Niigata (新潟県 Niigata-ken). Want to know more about the app, and the kind of digital stamps you can collect around Shinetsu? Read on!

 

EKITAG app

The EKITAG app was launched to allow users to collect digital station stamps as they travel on and explore local lines in prefectures Nagano and Yamanashi. As users discover how fun it is to travel on local trains around the region and explore lesser-known areas, they can take photos of the places they found and tag the digital station stamps on their photos, after which they can share them on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

 

34 new digital station stamps made their debut on 3 July 2023, and they can be found along seven train routes in Nagano and Yamanashi. You can download them all from the app when you reach their respective train stations too. Want to know which train stations you can find them all? Read on!

*Note: some of the train lines intersect at the same train stations, so the station names may appear more than once.

 

① Chūō Main Line

 

The Chūō Main Line on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

The first train line on the list is the Chūō Main Line (中央本線 Chūō-honsen), which stretches from the Tokyo Metropolitan Area all the way to Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. The selected train stations on this major train line are in the section that includes part of Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県) and Nagano Prefecture (長野県), and there are eight of them altogether:

 

Station stamps for Kami-Suwa Station (left) and Shimo-Suwa Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Kobuchizawa Station (小淵沢駅 Kobuchizawa-eki)
② Fujimi Station (富士見駅 Fujimi-eki)
③ Chino Station (茅野駅 Chino-eki)
④ Kami-Suwa Station (上諏訪駅 Kami-Suwa-eki)
⑤ Shimo-Suwa Station (下諏訪駅 Shimo-Suwa-eki)
⑥ Okaya Station (岡谷駅 Okaya-eki)
⑦ Tatsuno Station (辰野駅 Tatsuno-eki)
⑧ Shiojiri Station (塩尻駅 Shiojiri-eki)

 

② Koumi Line

The Koumi Line on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

The second train line is the Koumi Line (小海線 Koumi-sen), which stretches from Komoro Station in Nagano Prefecture to Kobuchizawa Station in Yamanashi Prefecture. Here is a fun fact regarding the train line: it is a JR line with the highest elevations in Japan, and it offers stunning views of the Yatsugatake Plains and mountain ranges of Nagano and Yamanashi. The station stamps are in eight stations on the line:

 

Station stamps for Nobeyama Station (left) and Koumi Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Kobuchizawa Station (小淵沢駅 Kobuchizawa-eki)
② Kiyosato Station (清里駅 Kiyosato-eki)
③ Nobeyama Station (野辺山駅 Nobeyama-eki)
④ Koumi Station (小海駅 Koumi-eki)
⑤ Nakagomi Station (中込駅 Nakagomi-eki)
⑥ Iwamurada Station (岩村田駅 Iwamurada-eki)
⑦ Sakudaira Station (佐久平駅 Sakudaira-eki)
⑧ Komoro Station (小諸駅 Komori-eki)

 

Ride the Joyful Train while exploring the Koumi Line. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Better yet, if you plan on travelling on the Koumi Line to collect all the train stamps from the selected train stations, why not take the opportunity to ride the HIGH RAIL 1375 as well? The Joyful Train runs on the same line as well, and you can experience the joys of riding the train, which includes the planetarium onboard the train and, if you are taking the special “Hoshizora” evening train, taking part in a stargazing tour at Nobeyama Station! (Note: the stargazing tour may be cancelled, or stars may not be visible, due to bad weather.)

 

③ Ōito Line

The Ōito Line on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

The Ōito Line (大糸線 Ōito-sen) is another train line that encompasses Nagano Prefecture, and it offers splendid views of the prefecture’s scenic countryside. The train line spans from Matsumoto Station (松本駅 Matsumoto-eki) to Minami-Otari Station (南小谷駅 Minami-Otari-eki) under JR East, before reaching the terminal at Itoigawa Station (糸魚川 Itoigawa-eki) under JR West. There are six stations on the line with the new train station stamps altogether:

 

Station stamps for Toyoshina Station (left) and Hotaka Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Matsumoto Station (松本駅 Matsumoto-eki)
② Toyoshina Station (豊科駅 Toyoshina-eki)
③ Hotaka Station (穂高駅 Hotaka-eki)
④ Shinano-Ōmachi Station (信濃大町駅 Shinano-Ōmachi-eki)
⑤ Hakuba Station (白馬駅 Hakuba-eki)
⑥ Minami-Otari Station (南小谷駅 Minami-Otari-eki)

 

④ Shinonoi Line

The Shinonoi Line on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

Another train line that passes through Nagano Prefecture is the Shinonoi Line (篠ノ井線 Shinonoi-sen). Along with the Ōito Line, it also passes through Matsumoto Station, and passengers can also appreciate the quieter side of the prefecture. Here are the five train stations with the new train stamps:

 

Station stamps for Obasute Station (left) and Hijiri-Kōgen Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Murai Station (村井駅 Murai-eki)
② Matsumoto Station (松本駅 Matsumoto-eki)
③ Akashina Station (明科駅 Akashina-eki)
④ Hijiri-Kōgen Station (聖高原駅 Hijiri-Kōgen-eki)
⑤ Obasute Station (姨捨駅 Obasute-eki)

 

Resort View Furusato. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Do you know what else you can find along the Shinonoi Line? The Resort View Furusato, another Joyful Train, offers splendid views of Nagano’s beautiful countryside. As the train travels along part of the Shinonoi Line as well as the Ōito Line, passengers can enjoy amazing views of the Zenkoji Plains at Obasute Station, and the Nishina Three Lakes and explore Hotaka Shrine when it makes a brief stop at Hotaka Station.

 

⑤ Iiyama Line

The Iiyama Line on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

Can’t get enough of scenic train routes? Then check out the Iiyama Line (飯山線 Iiyama-sen), yet another train line that encompasses Nagano Prefecture and offers splendid views of the prefecture’s idyllic countryside. There are four train stations that have the train stamps for you to explore:

 

Station stamps for Kaesa Station (left) and Morimiyanohara Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Kaesa Station (替佐駅 Kaesa-eki)
② Iiyama Station (飯山駅 Iiyama-eki)
③ Togarinozawa-Onsen Station (戸狩野沢温泉駅 Togarinozawa-Onsen-eki)
④ Morimiyanohara Station (森宮野原駅 Morimiyanohara-eki)

 

The Oykot in winter. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Surprise, surprise: a Joyful Train runs along the Iiyama Line, and that is the Oykot! The retro train offers passengers a nostalgic railway experience, with its interiors fitted with wooden furnishing and designed with warm colours to make everyone feel like they are back home in the countryside.

 

There are also some surprises that await passengers on the Oykot, including a brief stop at Iiyama Station where they can witness a karakuri (絡繰りmechanical) clock in motion at every hour, the landmark that showcases the highest recorded snowfall in Japan at Morimiyanohara Station, and even a folk dance by elderly ladies onboard the train.

 

⑥ Shinetsu Main Line

The Shinetsu Main Line on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

The Shinetsu Main Line (信越本線 Shin’etsu-honsen) is a railway line that passes through three prefectures in Eastern Japan: Gunma (群馬県), Nagano, and Niigata (新潟県). A fun fact about the train line: its name Shinetsu comes from the old names of Nagano and Niigata: “shin” from Shinano (濃) and “etsu” from Echigo (後). There are three train stations on this line where you can get the train stamps:

 

Station stamps for Kawanakajima Station (left) and Nagano Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Shinonoi Station (篠ノ井駅 Shinonoi-eki)
② Kawanakajima Station (川中島駅 Kawanakajima-eki)
③ Nagano Station (長野駅 Nagano-eki)

 

⑦ Hokuriku Shinkansen

The Hokuriku Shinkansen on the map. (Image credit: Google Maps)

 

Finally, we have the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線), the main shinkansen route that spans from Tōkyō Station (東京駅 Tōkyō-eki) to Kanazawa Station (金沢駅 Kanazawa-eki) in Ishikawa Prefecture (石川駅). Formerly known as Nagano Shinkansen, the shinkansen route enables people to travel from Tokyo to Nagano in approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, making railway travel a breeze. There are five train stations with the station stamps:

 

 Station stamps for Iiyama Station (left) and Ueda Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

① Karuizawa Station (軽井沢駅 Karuizawa-eki)
② Sakudaira Station (佐久平駅 Sakudaira-eki)
③ Ueda Station (上田駅 Ueda-eki)
④ Nagano Station (長野駅 Nagano-eki)
⑤ Iiyama Station (飯山駅 Iiyama-eki)

 

The E7 Series on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. (Image credit: JR East)

 

And of course, what better way to get around Eastern Japan than by the Hokuriku Shinkansen! The shinkansen route enables people to travel around the region easily, from Tokyo through Gunma, Nagano, Toyama (富山県), and Ishikawa (石川県). The line is also going to be extended all the way to Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka, making travelling to the western region of Japan a cinch!

 

How to take part in the stamp rally

To take part in the EKITAG digital stamp rally, simply refer to the following steps:

  1. Go to the Apple Store (for iOS devices) or Google Play Store (for Android devices)
  2. Search for “エキタグ | デジタル 駅スタンプアプリ” and proceed to download.
  3. After downloading and installing the app, go to the main menu and click on “タッチする” at the bottom of the screen. Ensure that your NFC capability is switched on.


The EKITAG stickers at the stamp counters at Ueda Station (left) and Shinonoi Station (right). (Image credit: JR East Nagano Branch)

 

  1. Once you have arrived at the selected train stations, look for the EKITAG sticker at the stamp counter and scan it with the app on your device, and the digital stamp is yours!

(Note: Your device’s NFC function must be turned on to scan the QR code on the sticker. The EKITAG app may also not be available for download from the Google Play Store or App Store depending on your device’s location settings.)

 

Closing

Train stamps are a popular collectible among railway enthusiasts, but of course, anyone who enjoys travelling by rail around Japan is more than welcome to join in the fun and check out all the different train stamps in Eastern Japan. Each has its own intricate and uniquely designed stamp, and you will even feel a sense of satisfaction once you have collected that stamp after reaching the train station, be it in physical or digital form.

 

Why don’t you check out all the different train stamps with the EKITAG app the next time you travel to Japan? On top of collecting the stamps, you can even further explore the places you never considered visiting, and discover how railway travel enables you to learn more about amazing regional destinations!

 

JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)

The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)

 

If you are thinking of travelling around the Shinetsu Region to collect all the digital station stamps, then you want to check out the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area), an affordable pass offering unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains and Joyful Trains) in the valid area for 5 consecutive days. At only ¥27,000, it makes for a great companion for all your railway travel needs.

 

The pass can be used at the automatic ticket gates, and you can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains, and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, on the JR-EAST Train Reservation.

 

The JR-EAST Train Reservation. (Image credit: JR East)

 

Header image credit: JR East Nagano Branch

 

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