For the last five years Hankyu Railway have been running a special weekend “Kyo-Train” for tourists on the regular route between Osaka and central Kyoto. The train is remarkable for the fact that its interior design mimics the typical machiya style of an old fashioned Kyoto townhouse.
Machiya are the traditional long wooden townhouses of Kyoto city, renowned for the fine craftsmanship and simple grace of their construction. Once common, sadly in recent years they have become increasingly rare as private developers knock them down and replace them with utilitarian concrete blocks and parking lots. There is a counter movement however, that appreciates the nostalgic appeal of machiya, and seeks to restore, renovate, and reinvent their image as attractive modern locations for shops, cafes and restaurants. By remodeling their “Kyo-Train” in the image of a machiya townhouse, Hankyu Railway too are seeking tap into this touristic appeal of old Kyoto.
The train has six carriages with 3 differing styles, and seats pattered with traditional designs taken from the Kyo karakami woodblock printed wallpaper that you can still see today in Kyoto’s temples, tea houses and villas. Cars 1 and 2 have vivid red seating, patterned with an orchid design. Cars 3 and 4 have semi-private seating, with wood paneling, brown cushions and tatami straw matting inset into the back rests. Cars 5 and 6 have green seating decorated with a hemp leaf pattern. Throughout the train, the floor is colored to resemble the earthern floor of a machiya, and the lighting is soft to evoke the quiet, calm interior of a traditional Japanese home. Other delicate touches abound, such as wooden lattice work in the entryways between carriages, and hanging washi paper scroll-style posters instead of the usual on-board advertisements. The overall look is one of elegant tranquility that Hankyu Railway have dubbed “Wa-Modern,” “wa” being a word that evokes traditional Japanese style.
For the benefit of international travelers, each carriage of the Kyo-Train has pamphlets and guide-maps in English, Chinese, and Korean, and on-board announcements are given in each language too.
Next time you are traveling from Osaka to Kyoto, why not take the Kyo-Train and experience first-hand how Japanese traditional style can be updated for the modern era? The Kyo-Train is easy to spot as its exterior is decorated with a distinctive fan pattern, and the fare is just the same as for regular trains. Here are the details:
The Kyo-Train only runs on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. There are four round trips each day between Umeda Station in Osaka, and Kawaramachi Station in central Kyoto. On the way the train stops at the following stations: Juso, Awaji, Katsura, and Karasuma. Passengers who wish to travel on to Arashiyama should transfer at Katsura Station. The fare between Umeda and Kawaramachi Stations is just 400 yen and no reservations are necessary.
From Umeda Station to Kawaramachi Station:
From Kawaramachi Station to Umeda Station
Article by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.