Translated by Jelena Kitamura
Wakasa Railway - Feel The Local Charm Of Tottori!
Wakasa Railway is a short, local line that operates in Tottori, where you'll find plenty of entertainment and interesting relics of the past, welcoming every visitor to it. When visiting the area, take a ride on these trains!
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Did you know there are many local trains in Japan, which operate only in their respective areas? You might have already seen some of MATCHA’s articles covering similar stories on various railway lines in Japan, such as those about Kurobe Gorge’s Torokko Train, Oigawa Railway’s Thomas Trains, or Enoshima Railway.
This time, we bring you Wakasa Station of Tottori’s Wakasa Railway, to enchant you with some Showa nostalgia.
Introducing Wakasa Railway
If you haven’t heard of Wakasa Railway, don’t feel bad about it – that is probably because this local railway is only 19.2 kilometers long, and connects two stations in Tottori prefecture – Wakasa Station and Koge Station.
It was first opened in 1930, as one of the railway lines of Japan National Railways (today’s JR). However, in 1987, it became Tottori prefecture’s independent line and got its name changed to what we call it today - Wakasa Railway.
But, let us first tell you about Wakasa Railway’s most charming trait. No matter how you look at it, its greatest charm must be the somewhat nostalgic and heartwarming feel coming from it! It is of such great aesthetic and emotional value, that in 2008, this Wakasa Line, together with its 23 facilities, was included on Japan’s Tangible Cultural Property List.
Its magical station and the surrounding facilities bring Showa period nostalgia to Japanese hearts and attract the curiosity of visitors to Japan, who aren’t used to witnessing such sights in modern Japan.
However, with its connecting 9 different stations along the Wakasa Line, it is also an important means of transportation for the locals living in this area. It takes 430 yen, and around 30 minutes, to get from the Koge Station to Wakasa Station, and should you decide to ride the train all the way back and forth, it will make for a charming little one hour journey you're sure to remember.
What Makes Wakasa Railway and Station So Special?
Today, we decided to tell you more about the starting station of this line, Wakasa Station. A friendly and welcoming aura, together with a “Showa” vibe, is oozing right out of the wooden exterior of this lovely station. Perhaps that wooden charm is what led to its inclusion on the list of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Properties – what do you think?
If you look to the side of the station, you’ll find items designed to give joy to the youngest visitors to this station, so feel free to bring your whole family on a train riding adventure to answer everyone’s wishes.
You might feel something extraordinarily old (or should we say “historical”?), coming from the table in front of the station – take a closer look and you’ll discover that everything is written in the old kanji character form. Interesting, isn’t it?
This is what the inside of the station, or the waiting room, looks like. Compared with stations in the big cities such as Tokyo, you wouldn’t say there are many trains running past this station on daily basis, would you?
But, you could also say precisely that is what makes this kind of local stations so special! Don’t you feel the urge to forget about your busy day, and try to relax and take it easy at this petite station? You can even start a conversation with the locals while waiting for your train to arrive. Who knows? You might get to hear about the local gourmet food, little-known lovely spots, or other helpful information about the attractions you shouldn’t miss in this area.
If you’re interested in the history of this station and would like to see what kind of machines, stamps, and such, were used in the past, you can admire the ones displayed nearby. There are many ways to enjoy your time while waiting for the train, so make the best use of the time and the entertaining goods available at the station.
Now, let’s take a look at inside of the station. The admission fee for looking around, is 300 yen (free for children), so make sure to call upon the employee to buy your ticket. Of course, those who plan to ride the train only need to buy the train ticket, and can look around without paying an extra fee.
Wakasa Station’s Charming Platform
Behold! The lovely platform of Wakasa Station! There are plenty of things we should introduce, so let’s see them one by one.
First, take a look at this photograph – this handsome gentleman is the kakashi station master (*1). On the Wakasa Railway, you’ll be able to meet this quiet fellow at various other stations, too, where there aren’t any living station masters present. But, it surely isn’t a bad thing at all! These lovely station masters are here to watch over the passengers just as any other (living) station master would do!
* 1 Kakashi: a scarecrow doll made out of bamboo, straw, and such, to resemble a human figure, in order to protect the fields from the birds and animals damaging the crops.
During the period between 1944 and 1946, there was a steam locomotive running along the Wakasa Line. Now, should you apply for it beforehand, you can even experience what it’s like to operate the steam locomotive yourself!
This is a small, 15-meter diameter hand cranked railway turntable. The old steam locomotives could only go forward (in one direction), so the driver had to use this kind of equipment to make it go back, or to turn it around. Since the Wakasa Line was completed in 1930, this piece of equipment is also considered to be one of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Properties.
This gigantic building is the water tower. The most crucial “steam fuel” to get the steam locomotive going, was the water. Therefore, this water tower was one of the most important pieces of equipment necessary to run the train. As this tower was also constructed in 1930, it has long been a symbol of the lovely little Wakasa Station.
Nonetheless, for the fans of trains and machines, there are also diesel (engine) vehicles on display.
Now, take a closer look at these sleepers – why, there are plates attached to them! Actually, written on these plates are the names of the sleepers’ owners.
If we got you interested with this peculiar piece of information, wait until you hear this – you can become a proud owner of one of the Wakasa Railway’s sleeper if you pay 5000 yen!
Here Comes a Pink Snow Plow!
But there's more! At Wakasa Station, there seems to be a pink snow plow, as well. The reason for the existence of such a machine lies in an event related to the name of one of the old stations of Wakasa Railway Line.
Since the name of that station was Koiyamagata, and as one of the four stations whose name consisted of the word “koi” (meaning “love”), there were several events organized, during which many machines were dyed in a bright pink color. As one of the lucky “victims” of this delightful event, this snow plow has remained colorful to this day.
Take a Ride on the Waksa Trains in Tottori!
So, how did you like our introduction of the Wakasa Railway? Here you’ll not only experience a relaxed and easy-going atmosphere, so different from the city, but you’ll also get to see what it feels like to be welcomed and entertained by a charming local railway line.
Should you decide to pay it a visit in person, you are sure to be overwhelmed with the Showa-like ambiance, to which photograph lens just couldn’t do justice. So, if you ever pay a visit to Tottori prefecture, don’t hesitate to ride with the lovely Wakasa Railway.