Translated by Greg
See Trains From Around the World at Hara Model Railway Museum
Written by Jumpei Kawashima
The Hara Model Railway Museum houses an impressive collection of model trains from around the world, and the trains look authentically real as they travel around the indoor diorama.
The Minato Mirai area in the port city of Yokohama is popular with Japanese and foreign tourists alike. While taking in the beautiful ocean view, you can go for a walk, do a little shopping and enjoy various activities.
But did you know that there's a uniquely interesting museum here as well? Today we'll introduce you to the Hara Model Railway Museum, where you can see model trains from almost every country in the world.
It All Began With the Curator's Own Personal Model Railway Collection
The Hara Model Railway Museum showcases curator Hara-san's own personal collection of model trains, which reportedly exceeds 6,000 in total number. Hara has devoted his lifetime of 97 years to not only traveling the globe in search of various types of model trains, but also to making them by hand. Currently, the museum houses about 1,000 railway cars from his collection.
A Large Diorama Re-creates an Authentic Cityscape Right Down To the Smallest of Details
Inside the museum, one whole area is devoted to a large railway diorama, "Ichiban Tetsumo Park". Here model trains smoothly and lightly wind their way through a miniature town with realistic-looking streets and buildings, whisking imaginary passengers on to their next destination.
Within the diorama, a time and place in a certain part of the world is portrayed, and in a back alley a suspicious-looking character appears to be up to something! Right up to the finest details, creative ideas are used with the miniature people, buildings, and cars as well as trains and railways, so that the museum visitor never gets tired of looking at this cityscape scene.
Just like their real counterparts, iron is used in making the model train's wheels and the railways. So when the iron wheels run along the iron rails, the familiar click-clack sounds can be heard, giving the visitor a sense of nostalgia.
With the effective use of lighting, the span of one complete day can be experienced in this diorama. At roughly 30 second intervals, the street scene changes from dusk to night and then to daybreak. With the addition of special sound effects, everything is so lifelike, it gives you the feeling of actually being there in the town. Take in the realism of this diorama with your own eyes and ears!
A Total of More Than 1000 Train Cars!
In the display area, model trains of various sizes and from many countries are proudly showcased. In total, more than 1000! But perhaps more surprising is that this number accounts for only a small portion of the curator's personal collection.
In the museum's collection there are also precious and rare model trains limited to only a handful in the world. The collection has a wide variety of model trains that come in various shapes and sizes.
Beside every display there's a QR Code setup, that allows you to read the display's accompanying explanation by downloading a special application. For visitors to Japan, this service is conveniently available in 8 different languages (English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Korean, Thai, German, French and Spanish). At the front counter (entrance), you can rent a tablet that reads the QR Code, so feel free to give it a try.
See How Railway Cars in Japan Have Changed Through the Years
Railways and trains that were previously used in Japan are also on display: for example the SL, which was a popular train during the Meiji Era, and also other trains which operated on local lines. Nowadays there are few opportunities to see these trains or their models, so this display will certainly arouse your interest.
In another corner of the museum, set against the backdrop of Yokohama's Minato Mirai, there's a re-creation of how JR Sakuragichō station has changed over the years. You get a panoramic view of Minato Mirai, a testament to Yokohama's growth and development as a port city.
Here also, lights are used to transform the cityscape from the daytime to an impressively realistic evening. Amidst Minato Mirai's stunning night view, passing trains lend an air of elegance and refinement to the area.
Inside the museum, there's also a flat screen monitor where you can see a photo gallery of railway pictures taken by the curator, Nobutaro Hara, while he was traveling the globe. These pictures offer a fascinating glimpse into Mr. Hara's life; in particular, his unending curiosity for railways and trains. The photo gallery is also in English so why not vicariously experience his world travels?
You absolutely have to make a visit to this special museum and look at the enormous model train collection!