12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

青海川

RocketNews 24 (by Preston Phro):

Being an island nation, there is no shortages of beaches in Japan–though if you live in Tokyo, there are times when the only thing resembling the ocean to be seen is a sea of people. After a weekday morning commute spent sloshing around in a packed train car, it’s easy to find yourself wishing for a more relaxed environment like the beach. And with summer in full swing, there are plenty of beaches we’d rather be lounging on than just about anything.

But it’s a busy world and who has time to sit on the beach and just relax? Well, we sure don’t! But for those of us always on the go, there are a few train stations that at least will give you a view of the ocean on your way to whatever business you may have. Think of it like a vacation that lasts as long as the train stops!

Here are 12 of Japan’s stations on the sea–beautiful, serene, and just outside your train window!

Kitahama Station

Located on the Sea of Okhotsk in north-east Hokkaido, this is perhaps one of the coldest train stations Japan, though you couldn’t tell it from the first two photos below. However, it turns out that a train ride to Kitahama Station will provide you not only with a beautiful view of the ocean, but also of drift ice! In fact, Kitahama Station is apparently the only train station in Japan that regularly offers a glimpse of that fantastic frozen, floating phenomenon.

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北浜駅(雪)

Todoroki Station

Heading to the mainland, this station in Aomori Prefecture is close to the Sea of Japan–extremely close! During stormy weather, waves actually wash over the track and up to the station. While we’re not sure if that’s the most practical location, it does make for beautiful photo opportunities. In fact, the station was featured in JR advertising in 2002, driving train- and station-loving fans out to Aomori. We can’t blame them–a dip in the sea sounds great right now!

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驫木駅 (2)

Nebukawa Station

Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, this is the only station on the Tokaido Main Line between Tokyo and Kobe that is unmanned, though it is apparently a popular destination during New Years. It also provides a stunning view of open waters.

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根府川

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Shimonada Station

Another unmanned stop, Shimonada Station is located in Ehime Prefecture on the Shikoku Yosan Line. Having been featured in numerous posters and other JR advertisements, the station has become popular among train lovers and photographers across the country as a location for breathtaking landscape photos. It even has its own Facebook page!

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下灘駅 (3)

下灘駅 (2)

Baishinji Station

Another station in Ehime PrefectureBaishinji Station is not famous just for its location–though it certainly is beautiful. The station captured the popular imagination in 1991 thanks to the TV drama Tokyo Love Story, about three Ehime friends who eventually reunite in Tokyo. As you may have guessed from the photo below, Rika, one of the main characters of the show, ties a “bye-bye handkerchief” to the railing in a climactic scene. Fans of the show and travelers have kept up the tradition for over two decades!

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梅津寺駅

Yoroi Station

This Hyogo Prefecture station isn’t much to look at itself–it could easily be mistaken for a run-down bathroom in an interstate rest area–but the view from the platform certainly makes up for it. Not only is the station unmanned, there aren’t even any automated ticket machines! Despite its desolate appearance, the station has become a bit of an attraction for train lovers following its appearance in some TV shows. It has also appeared in JR advertisements, where it was written that “you can feel the sea breeze blowing off the ocean right under your eyes just standing on the platform.”

▼The station itself

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▼The view from the platform.

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Oobatake Station

One of the more rural areas of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture is also home to Oobatake Station, which sits right along the sea. An hour train ride from the Shinkansen station in Hiroshima, this station is an excellent sightseeing destination–though that’s about all you’ll have time for! In this part of the country, you can usually find only local trains.

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Oumikawa Station

Apparently this Niigata Prefecture station is the closest to actual open waters in Japan, though judging from other entries on this list, the competition for that honor is fierce. In fact, the train line runs right along the coast for several miles, making not just this station but the entire route a beautiful destination for sight-seers. And, like many other stops on this list, the station is unmanned. We’re starting to wonder how JR gets people to pay for tickets…

Yukawa Station

Located in Wakayama Prefecture, Yukawa Station provides a magnificent view not only of the sea but also of the prefecture’s mountains. And if you’re a fan of the beach, the station is just a stone’s throw away from the Yukawa Kaisui Yokujo (Yukawa Swimming Area). Best of all, this station is also unmanned, so there won’t be any attendants to scold you for tracking sand and water all over the platform!

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湯川駅 (2)

Umashibaura Station

Situated on Tokyo Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture, this station is probably not where you’d want to wait out a storm with large waves. It is, however, an excellent destination for sight-seeing. In addition to the view of the bay, rail riders are afforded an excellent view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge, Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge, and fireworks launched from Yamashita Park in the summer.

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海芝浦駅 (2)

Kamakurakoko Mae Station

As you may have guessed from the name of this station, it’s located in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture near Kamakura High School. Kamakura City, in addition to its beautiful temples, shrines, and German sausages, is a popular destination for its gorgeous beaches. The station offers a beautiful view of the ocean and as well as Enoshima, Miura Peninsula, and even Mt. Fuji on clear days. That said, we’re sure it’s a horrible way to start the school day–imaging having a gorgeous beach dangled in front of you only for it to be ripped away and replaced with an hour spent conjugating English verbs!

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鎌倉高校前駅 (2)

Tagi Station

This beach-front train stop is located in Shimane Prefecture, the second least populated prefecture in Japan. Despite the lack of people around to use it, Tagi Station and the area between it and its neighbor down the line Oda Station are famous as sight-seeing destinations and have appeared in numerous magazines. Apparently there is also a sakura (cherry) tree next to the platform, providing a unique photo opportunity when the tree blossoms in the spring.

Tagi Station

How the Shinkansen bullet train made Tokyo into the monster it is today

Shinkansen bullet trains at a depot in Fukuoka in 1975.

 

The Guardian:

 

At 10am on 1 October 1964, with less than a week and a half to go before the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the two inaugural Hikari Super Express Shinkansen, or “bullet trains,” arrived at their destinations, Tokyo and Osaka. They were precisely on time. Hundreds of people had waited overnight in each terminal to witness this historic event, which, like the Olympics, heralded not just Japan’s recovery from the destruction of the second world war, but the beginning of what would be Japan’s stratospheric rise as an economic superpower. The journey between Japan’s two biggest cities by train had previously taken close to seven hours. The Shinkansen had made the trip in four.

The world’s first high-speed commercial train line, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Wednesday, was built along the Tokaido, one of the five routes that connected the Japanese hinterland to Edo, the city that in the mid-1800s became Tokyo. Though train lines crisscrossed the country, they were inadequate to postwar Japan’s newborn ambitions. The term “shinkansen” literally means “new trunk line”: symbolically, it lay at the very centre of the huge reconstruction effort. All previous railways were designed to serve regions. The purpose of the Tokaido Shinkansen, true to its name, was to bring people to the capital.

 

A couple say goodbye as he leaves on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo.

A couple say goodbye as he leaves on the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo.

After the war Tokyo was in ruins, but its rebuilding progressed without any master plan. As industries gravitated to the city, young people flocked to Tokyo to work; and as they started families they were encouraged to buy homes. The only land they could afford, however, was outside the already densely populated city. Property prices skyrocketed in the 1970s, and even more during the “bubble era” of the 1980s, forcing newer families even further from the city centre. Tokyo swelled to elephantine proportions. The Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, composed of four prefectures, became the world’s pre-eminent megalopolis – some 35 million people by 2010, or 27% of Japan’s total population. It isn’t unusual for commuters to spend two hours getting to work every day on trains that exceed 150% of capacity.

This “rush hour hell” has been made famous worldwide by images of station employees stuffing stragglers into packed train cars – potent symbols of the superhuman forbearance of the Japanese worker, but also the dogged efficiency of Japan’s railways. All foreign visitors to Japan invariably ride the trains and come away with the same impression: Japan’s public transportation is the cleanest, most courteous in the world, run by uniformed, be-gloved men and women who still epitomise a hallowed Japanese work ethic that most companies struggle to maintain in an economy that has remained sluggish for two decades.

 

Prince Hiro on board a Shinkansen bullet train  in 1968.

Crown prince Naruhito on board a Shinkansen bullet train in 1968.

But the most vital aspect of this efficiency is that trains run on time, all the time. This is not just a point of pride. It is a necessity, given the huge number of people that have to be moved. Transfers are timed to the split second, and the slightest delay has the butterfly effect of delaying connections. The Shinkansen is no exception, as exemplified by the “angels”: teams of pink-attired women who descend on a train as soon as it arrives at its terminal and in five minutes leave it spotless for the return trip.

The first Shinkansen skirted the Pacific coast through the huge industrial corridor that links the capital with Osaka. This is a nearly unbroken stretch of urbanisation: it has few parallels on the planet. By the early 1950s the conventional train that ran on this route was crammed. Taking a hint from the private Odakyu Electric Railway, which launched a train that could reach speeds of 145km/hr, Japan National Railways (JNR) decided to develop an even faster train, and in April 1959 construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen commenced with an initial budget of ¥200bn (£1.1bn), though the eventual cost would be double that.

The high-speed network now reaches all the way west to the island of Kyushu and north to Akita, at the northern tip of the main island, Honshu. Next March, the Hokuriku Shinkansen will be extended to Kanazawa near the Japan Sea; there are plans to build a new line connecting Honshu to the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Each line is under the authority of one of four JR (Japan Railways) companies that formed when JNR was privatised in 1987. But the central government has overseen the construction of all new Shinkansen lines, usually covering 35% of the cost (JR companies pay 50% and local governments 15%). That means the construction ministry makes the relevant decisions about where lines go, or which cities get stations.

 

 

In an interview in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper last week, Takashi Hara, a political scholar and expert on Japanese railroads, said the policy of extending the Shinkansen was promulgated by Kakuei Tanaka, Japan’s prime minister from 1972 to 1974. “The purpose was to connect regional areas to Tokyo,” Hara said. “And that led to the current situation of a national Shinkansen network, which completely changed the face of Japan. Travel times were shortened and vibration was alleviated, making it possible for more convenient business and pleasure trips, but I have to say that the project just made all the [connecting] cities part of Tokyo.”

And where the Shinkansen’s long tentacles go, other services shrivel. Local governments in Japan rely heavily on the central government for funds and public works – it’s how the central government keeps them in line. Politicians actively court high-speed railways since they believe they attract money, jobs and tourists. In the early 1990s, a new Shinkansen was built to connect Tokyo to Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The train ran along a similar route as the Shinetsu Honsen, one of the most romanticised railroads in Japan, beloved of train buffs the world over for its amazing scenery – but also considered redundant by operators JR East because, as with almost all rural train lines in Japan, it lost money. There were only two profitable stations on the line – Nagano and the resort community of Karuizawa – and both would be served by the new Shinkansen. A large portion of the Shinetsu Honsen closed down; local residents who relied on it had to use cars or buses.

Meanwhile, the bullet train has sucked the country’s workforce into Tokyo, rendering an increasingly huge part of the country little more than a bedroom community for the capital. One reason for this is a quirk of Japan’s famously paternalistic corporations: namely, employers pay their workers’ commuting costs. Tax authorities don’t consider it income if it’s less than ¥100,000 a month – so Shinkansen commutes of up to two hours don’t sound so bad. New housing subdivisions filled with Tokyo salarymen subsequently sprang up along the Nagano Shinkansen route and established Shinkansen lines, bringing more people from further away into the capital.

 

A Marunouchi Shinkansen bullet train passes through central Tokyo.
A Shinkansen bullet train passes through central Tokyo.

The Shinkansen’s focus on Tokyo, and the subsequent emphasis on profitability over service, has also accelerated flight from the countryside. It’s often easier to get from a regional capital to Tokyo than to the nearest neighbouring city. Except for sections of the Tohoku Shinkansen, which serves northeastern Japan, local train lines don’t always accommodate Shinkansen rolling stock, so there are often no direct transfer points between local lines and Shinkansen lines. The Tokaido Shinkansen alone now operates 323 trains a day, taking 140 million fares a year, dwarfing local lines. This has had a crucial effect on the physical shape of the city. As a result of this funnelling, Tokyo is becoming even denser and more vertical – not just upward, but downward. With more Shinkansen passengers coming into the capital, JR East has to dig ever deeper under Tokyo Station to create more platforms.

Deepest of all is the new Tokyo terminal for the latest incarnation of the bullet train – the maglev, or Chuo (“central”) Shinkansen, which is supposed to connect Tokyo to Nagoya by 2027 and is being built 40m underground. The maglev is the next technological stage in the evolution of high-speed rail travel. It is meant to be a morale booster for Japan’s railway industry, which no longer boasts the fastest trains or the biggest ridership in the world, distinctions that now belong to Japan’s huge neighbour to the west.

 

A passenger in traditional dress on board a Japanese hikari shinkansen bullet train in 1965.

A passenger in traditional dress on board a Japanese Hikari Shinkansen bullet train in 1965. 

 

It is being built by JR Tokai, the company that runs the original super-profitable Tokaido Shinkansen, though experts assume the central government will eventually have to contribute money due to snowballing costs. The Chuo Shinkansen will cut the time it takes to get to Nagoya to 40 minutes, theoretically putting the central Japanese capital within commuting distance of Tokyo – in much the same way that the proposed HS2 will make Birmingham a bedroom community of London. “The Chuo Shinkansen will make Nagoya feel like a suburb of Tokyo,” said Hara.

If you have any doubt about that, consider that the maglev – short for “magnetic-levitation”, and known in Japanese as “linear motor car” – has to move in as straight and as level a line as possible in order to reach the speeds that will make it the fastest train on Earth. But since Japan’s topography is mostly mountainous, 86% of the journey will be underground. (The technology probably makes more sense on a flat, open terrain, and JR Tokai is trying to sell it abroad.) In other words, the maglev will essentially be a very long subway ride. Certainly few tourists will find it appealing.

Plans are to extend the maglev to Osaka by 2045, by which time potential ridership will have declined by a third, due to Japan’s shrinking population and more efficient air travel due to new regional airports. The Shinkansen is expensive; with the rise of low-cost carriers, any train trip that takes more than two hours from Tokyo is less cost-effective than flying. The development of the Shinkansen can’t be separated from geography. China’s faster, vaster high-speed rail service isn’t all focused on Beijing, because the country itself is huge; in Japan, however, until recently the Shinkansen was the best way to get to Tokyo from almost anywhere. Like the first Shinkansen, the maglev is a national project, even if the central government hasn’t spent any money on it (yet), but national priorities aren’t as clear as they were in the 1950s. Tokyo can’t get any bigger. Other areas of Japan are barely hanging on. Japan’s high-speed rail system may end up being the victim of its own success.

“BIBO”: Hong Kong street art restaurant by Substance

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Hong Kong restaurant “BIBO” has recently been unveiled, boasting an interior designed by creative agency Substance and furnished with a jaw-dropping curation of street art. KAWS’ Companion sits alongside pieces by Shephard FaireyBanksyInvaderDamien HirstMr. BrainwashDaniel Arsham and JR, in a space that resembles a Parisian diner-cum-art gallery.

In order to tie in the French cuisine on offer with contemporary street art, a new history for the building was created – the abandoned regional headquarters of the fictional “Compagnie Générale Française de Tramways” (CGFT). Things like furniture, train timetables and unused ticket rolls are included as part of the design, inviting the new inhabitants, squatters and artists who gather in the vacated building to share food and ideas. Subway ventilation systems are hinted at through brass pipes while complex light fixtures appear as train signal lights. Abandoned construction sites are referenced through the bars, which are crafted from layers of unevenly stacked marble, with individual dining tables created from misaligned stone slabs.

Take a look inside the space above and be sure to pay the diner a visit should you ever be on Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road.

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Link

Japan Railways (JR) unveils amazing luxury train

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Last spring, Japan Railways, operator of Japan’s fabled bullet trains, unveiled its design for a new Shinkansen that will whisk travelers to northeastern Japan as they relax at the onboard foot baths. Then came the announcement of an overnight train servicing Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima with amenities rivaling those of a fancy hotel.

Now, it’s east Japan’s turn, as JR East has released new images of its upcoming luxury sleeper train for the region, plus its passenger suites that look genuinely large enough to live in.

JR originally shared its plans for the train last year, when famed train and auto designer Kiyoyuki Okuyama, who also goes by the name Ken, came onboard the project. Okuyama, who also headed the design of the footbath-equipped Shinkansen mentioned above, has pegged the design theme as “a train where passengers can enjoy the flow of time and space.”

What this seems to translate to, in concrete terms, is carriages that make use of extremely large windows to provide occupants with the widest possible view of the outside landscape. At either end of the 10-car train is an observation area with sofas and natural light streaming in from all directions.

 

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Of course, nothing ruins your tranquil contemplation of the beauty of nature like the sound of your stomach growling, so of course there’s a dining car.

 

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▼ Enjoy a tranquil dinner under the stars while still hurtling towards your destination.

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There’s also a lounge, if you’re looking for something lighter than a full meal.

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The remaining six cars are used for guest rooms. Five of these contain three suites each, all of which include private bathroom and shower, and look to be a far cry from a packed Tokyo commuter train in terms of comfort.

 

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The jewel in this rail-riding crown, though, is the centra car which houses the deluxe suites.

 

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This split-level room includes two beds, a living room seating area, and even a bathtub. Honestly, if this was an apartment in Tokyo, you’d have no problem at all finding someone willing to sign the lease. The lack of a fixed address would make receiving mail tricky, though.

 

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This isn’t even all the sleeper has to offer, as the deluxe suite car will also contain a separate, single-level guest room, although no images of it have been released yet.

JR East’s new pride and joy is expected to go into service in spring of 2017, so plan your trips (or apartment hunting) accordingly.

Sources: JinMy Navi NewsJR East

 

Check out this link:

Japan Railways (JR) unveils amazing luxury train

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Race against the clock: Shinkansen staff have just 7 minutes to get bullet train ready to ride

Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet train in the West, was the world’s first high-speed train running at 200km per hour, and today the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s most used high-speed rail line. Impressively, even with over 120,000 trains running on the line each year, the average delay time is a mere 36 seconds!

Part of the reason the bullet train system can run as smoothly as it does is thanks to the ‘hospitality group’ working behind the scenes of the sleek, futuristic facades of these famous trains. These cleaning crews are charged with covering every inch of a train’s interior when it arrives at its final stop and preparing it for the next wave of customers–and they have just seven minutes to do it.

JR East’s rail service company is known as TESSEI, and it is responsible for the cleaning of the bullet trains when they have come to a stop at Tokyo Station. There are around 820 staff members including full-time staff and part-timers known as ‘partners’. The average employee age is 52, and around 50 percent of them are women, so people often talk affectionately of the TESSEI ‘obaa-sans’ or ‘grannies’.

Bullet trains shuttle in and out of the platforms at Tokyo station 210 times each day. TESSEI staff are divided into teams composed of 22 people, and with 11 teams of cleaners taking turns on the platform, which translates into each TESSEI employee cleaning around 20 trains per day.

Despite not being particularly glamorous work, the group has received a lot of media attention over the years, and have been called Japan’s ‘strongest team’ by the Nikkei Business magazine.

Trains spend only 12 minutes at the station in Tokyo. That includes two minutes for passengers to disembark and two more for the next to get on, leaving only seven minutes for cleaning.

One person is in charge of one car with around 100 seats, and the whole car must be made spotlessly clean during those crucial seven minutes. It’s the same for the toilet cleaning staff – no matter how dirty it is, they have to have it sparkling again within the time limit. And lest we forget, the shinkansen aren’t like inner-city trains — passengers often travel for hours at a time, getting settled for the long ride, eating meals, snacking, reading newspapers, and generally making a bit of a mess.

The strict seven-minute deadline means that the work is broken down into smaller blocks that have to be completed in record time: 1.5 minutes spent picking up trash, 30 seconds rotating the seats (some can be swivelled around so that larger groups can face one another), four minutes sweeping and cleaning, and a one-minute check.

Those crucial seven minutes

0:00~1:30 First check the luggage racks on both sides, then look down the gaps between the seats for any forgotten items. As the seats are being turned to face the direction of travel, run down to the door at the other end sweeping out dropped trash into the aisle along the way.

1:30~4:30 On the way back up the aisle, pull down and check the blinds, and at the same time pull out the seat-back trays and wipe everything down, and change the seat covers if they’re dirty.

4:30~6:30 There’s now only two minutes left. Take a broom and sweep up all the trash brought out into the aisle in one go.

Everything above is expected to be completed in about six minutes. The official time limit is seven minutes, but it’s often crowded and takes longer for passengers to disembark, so they rarely have the luxury of using the full seven. This almost superhuman feat is known in Japanese as the ’7-minute shinkansen theatre’.

Link

Glee’s Harry Shum, Jr. launches tech website

 

USA Today: 

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Actor Harry Shum, Jr., best known for his role on Fox‘s Glee, is such a tech geek that Monday he launched a new website, Tenth & Fourth.

Shum, who told USA TODAY readers recently on Talking Tech that he was obsessed with tech, dove in even further this week, with a site that features app and gear reviews.The site is “basically an extension of myself in introducing cool things I find into the universe,” Shum told USA TODAY Monday.

The site features Shum and others talking about cool apps, 3-D printers, instant cameras and fashion. Shum says he hopes to post once a week and perhaps start attending tech conferences as well to cover for the site.

Check out this link:

Glee’s Harry Shum, Jr. launches tech website

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Link

Japan Railways looking for love in all the weird places again with the Love Love Bench

 

Last month, the East Japan Railway Company (JR East) installed a single pair of heart-shaped hand straps on one of its lines in hopes of sparking romance among their passengers. However, with Valentine’s Day behind us it seems they aren’t through playing matchmaker.

This time JR Shikoku is strapping on some cupid wings by installing ”Love Love Benches” in two of their stations. The seat of the bench slopes inwards so that no matter how two people sit on it they will quickly be brought together thanks the marvel of gravity.

Love Love Benches can currently be found in Ekawasaki Station in Shimontoshi, Kochi Prefecture and in Tsubojiri Station in Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture. You might understandably wonder why JR Shikoku chose to install these new benches in Ekawasaki, which has a population of 1,590, and Tsubojiri Station which sees an average of two passengers a day.

Worry not! There’s a convoluted reason for all of this. Ekawasaki is the nearest station to Nishitosamura where the highest temperature in Japan was recorded last year (41.0℃ on 12 August). So clearly JR Shikoku figured that it’s the place in Japan most conducive to get people hot and heavy.

On the other hand, Tsubojiri Station is a station located on a hairpin turn deep in a part of the mountains of Kochi inaccessible by car. Because of the switchback, trains must pass by at an extremely slow speed which JR Shikoku feels make a perfect setting for a romantic getaway where a couple may enjoy each other’s company.

So if you’re looking for a way to facilitate some romance with that special guy or gal, why not take a trek out to Shikoku and enjoy a Love Love Bench? Meanwhile, I’m going to try and find out how my mom managed to get on the board of directors of JR Group.

Source: JR Shikoku via Netlab (Japanese)

Check out this link:

 

Japan Railways looking for love in all the weird places again with the Love Love Bench