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The travelling café train: FruiTea Fukushima

The travelling café train: FruiTea Fukushima

No one does desserts quite like Japan. Known as sweets (スイーツ suītsu) in Japanese, desserts like cakes, pastries, puddings and tarts are a common sight wherever you go. Unsurprisingly, trains are not spared. I have previously introduced other Joyful Trains like the Resort Shirakami, Toreiyu Tsubasa and POKEMON with YOU Train, but the FruiTea Fukushima (フルーティアふくしま Furūtia Fukushima) falls under another category – the dining Joyful Trains.

 

The FruiTea (pronounced froo-tee-AH) Fukushima charms your sweet-tooth with its seasonal tarts and pastries—made freshly with only the current fruits in season. Like Yamagata, Fukushima produces much of Japan's fruits, including grapes, peaches, apples, and pears, with the most famous being peaches. With access to quality fruit, local pastry chefs unleash their creativity and produce delightful creations, some of which are served on the FruiTea Fukushima.

 

Various sets on the FruiTea Fukushima. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

It is no secret that I love high tea, and I love cakes and pastries. I am a firm believer of “There is always room for dessert!” Having ridden it four times so far, the FruiTea Fukushima has become one of my favourite Joyful Trains. Fruits Peaks, a local patisserie from Koriyama specializing in fruit tarts, produces seasonal tarts especially for the FruiTea Fukushima—you cannot get these from Fruits Peaks shops, only on board the train. From 2019, the menu was expanded, with Fruits Peaks providing the desserts for only the outbound journey, and Cocco Tree providing the desserts for the inbound journey.

 

The concept of for the FruiTea Fukushima is a "travelling café", on board which you can savour uniquely crafted desserts and beverages made from local Fukushima fruit, while gazing at the scenic countryside from the train windows, and enjoying the company of your friends/family. The menu changes up every month, letting travellers sample the best that the current season has to offer.

 

Peach yoghurt tart (left) and strawberry cream tart (right). (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

From spring to autumn, the FruiTea Fukushima runs on the JR Ban’etsu West Line from Koriyama to Kitakata, passing by Aizu-Wakamatsu. On the outbound train from Koriyama to Kitakata, the dessert set from Fruits Peaks comprises two types of fruit tarts made with seasonal fruit, with monthly menu changes. I have ridden this route many times, and all times the tarts were superb! From pear tarts in October, to peaches in September and strawberries in March, I liked them all so much that I went to the Fruits Peaks store in Koriyama to buy back some of their other flavours.

 

Dessert set from Kitakata to Koriyama by Cocco Tree. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

On the inbound train from Kitakata to Koriyama, the dessert is from Cocco Tree, a café and pudding specialist store from Kitakata. Diners will get a set comprising of one cream puff, one fruit jelly pudding and five cookies. When I rode this route in October, we were treated to a delicious Shine Muscat grape pudding, with a huge half of a Shine Muscat grape. The cream is really smooth and creamy; both the pudding and the cream puff were heavenly.  It was my first time having a jelly pudding, and it was delicious. Someday I hope to try their other flavours! The assortment of five cookies came in different flavours like almond, green tea, chocolate, and nuts.

 

English and Chinese dessert information. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

To cater to foreign visitors, dessert information is provided in English and Chinese for all tables, in addition to Japanese. If you are worried about allergies or dietary restrictions, you can ask the staff on board for ingredients list (Japanese only).

 

Bar counter car in the FruiTea Fukushima. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

Drinks that come with the set include a can of fruit juice (made with Fukushima-produced fruits), a cup of hot coffee, and free flow of iced tea, iced coffee and iced water. The free flow drinks can be found at the bar counter car, which also sells limited edition FruiTea Fukushima merchandise, as well as snacks (dried fruit, ice cream, etc.,) and drinks. There are also props for you to take photos with. If you need help, the lovely attendants are on standby to assist you with photo-taking.

(Note: As a COVID-19 precaution, drinks from the self-service area will now be brought to customers on an order basis instead.)

 

View of from train window of rice fields (left), and of Mount Bandai (centre). Goshikinuma (right). (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh (left, centre) and 福島県観光物産交流協会 (right))

 

This train is not just about the desserts. Running on the Ban'etsu West Line, you will see amazing scenery of Mount Bandai and the rice fields around Inawashiro. Around September, the rice fields turn a stunning shade of bright yellow, and is one of the sights I enjoy most on this ride. From JR Inawashiro Station (猪苗代駅), you can take a bus to Urabandai (裏磐梯), where there is a stunning collection of five ponds known as Goshikinuma (五色沼). The various mineral compositions make them appear like five different coloured ponds. Hiking is pleasant during summer and autumn, while in winter it becomes a ski resort.

 

Friendly volunteers bidding us farewell. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

Another unique thing in Japan is their spirit of omotenashi (おもてなし hospitality). This hospitality is not spared even on trains. At the platform before departing Koriyama, station staff donning fruit hats hold a banner saying “いってらっしゃい Have a nice trip” to bid riders farewell. If you have time before departure, you can even snag a photo with them.

 

Interior of the FruiTea Fukushima. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

Shades of red and black cover this train, and the interior resembles a trendy café with its white leather armchair sofa seats. The FruiTea Fukushima can seat up to 36 people, and tables are divided into box seats for four people, box seats for two people, and single seats. That's right, although most dining trains do not allow single travellers, the FruiTea Fukushima welcomes them, which is great news for solo travellers.

 

Exterior of the FruiTea Fukushima. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh)

 

You might think that with an afternoon tea concept the passengers would mostly be female, but on the contrary, there were many more guys during my latest trip in March. I spotted three groups of guys, a middle-aged couple, and another solo female rider like myself. This train is for anyone and everyone who loves desserts, trains and/or scenery. If you are visiting Fukushima, I highly recommend checking this out!

 

How to ride

As meals are part of the experience, the FruiTea Fukushima is considered a travel package, and CANNOT be ridden for free with the Japan Rail Pass, JR EAST PASS or any rail pass. It is only sold as a package comprising of:

  • Train fare
  • Reserved seat
  • Dessert set (two fruit tarts for Fruits Peaks, one cream puff + one fruit pudding + five cookies for Cocco Tree)
  • Drinks (one canned fruit juice and one hot coffee, and free flow iced tea/coffee/water)

 

The package costs around ¥4,800 from Koriyama to Aizu-Wakamatsu. There is a supplement of ¥200 for single travellers. You can make reservations at JR East View Travel Service Centers around eastern Japan. Major stations like Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, and Ueno Station have English-speaking staff to assist with your reservation.

 

Tickets for the FruiTea Fukushima. (Image credit: JR East / Carissa)

 

From spring to autumn, the FruiTea Fukushima runs between JR Kōriyama Station (郡山駅) and JR Kitakata Station (喜多方駅) on the JR Ban'etsu West Line (磐越西線). In winter, it runs between JR Kōriyama Station (郡山駅) and JR Sendai Station (仙台駅) on the JR Tōhoku Main Line (東北本線). Click here for more information on the FruiTea Fukushima in English, or here for Japanese.

 

A trip on the FruiTea Fukushima

 

Getting around

JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and usage area. (Image credit: JR East)

 

If you are visiting the Tohoku region to ride the FruiTea Fukushima and explore the Aizu region, check out the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), an affordable pass offering unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for any 5 days of your choice within a 14-day period. At only ¥19,350 when purchased overseas, it costs less than a round-trip between Tokyo and Koriyama (~¥23,000), and the 5 days do not have to be consecutive. 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, here. After exploring Aizu and Fukushima, you can also visit Sendai, Yamagata, Morioka and more.

 

Header image credit: JR East / Carissa Loh

 

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