JR Shikoku are to launch a new “Monogatari” excursion train this April which will run on the Dosan Line between Kochi Station and Kubokawa Station in the southern prefecture of Kochi. Starting in April this train will operate one round trip per day on weekends and holidays, but from July of this year it will also operate on Fridays. The train will slow down at scenic spots on route, such as the Niyodogawa Bridge, and it will also make a stop at Awa Station in Susaki, so that passengers can enjoy the view from there of the Pacific Ocean.
This is the third of JR Shikoku’s Monogatari tourist trains. “Monogatari” is a rather romantic word that means “story” or “tale” in Japanese and each of these three colorful trains is designed to celebrate the special romance of a particular region in Shikoku.
JR Shikoku’s first tourist train is the Iyonada Monogatari which was launched in July 2014. The Iyonada Monogatari is a weekend and holiday train that runs along the seacoast between Matsuyama and Yawatahama taking in sightseeing attractions such as the castle town of Ozu and the hot spring resort of Dogo Onsen. This is a two-car train colored red and gold with luxurious interior seating and large windows overlooking the scenic countryside. On board meals include afternoon tea services and delicious seafood lunch boxes. This train was named after the Iyonada Sea that divides Shikoku from Kyushu.
The second tourist train is the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari which was launched in April 2017. This train runs through the deep interior countryside of Kagawa and Tokushima prefectures taking in views of the Sanuki Plains, the Oboke and Koboke Gorges, and the sparkling Yoshino River. This is a three-car train colored green, blue, and red and like the previous train it has luxurious interior furnishings. Local sake and snacks are served on the train along with gourmet lunch boxes using the finest ingredients obtained from Shikoku’s mountains, rivers, and sea. “Mannaka Sennen” means “Central Millennium” because this train runs through central Shikoku and its route takes in ancient historical sites such as Zentsuji Temple and Kotohira-gu Shrine.
The full name of the third Monogatari train is “Shikoku Tosa Toki-no-Yoake-no-Monogatari”. Tosa is the old name of the province in Shikoku that is now Kochi Prefecture, and the train celebrates both this region’s history and its aspirations for the future. The designers of this train took their main inspiration from the samurai from Tosa Province who played a major role during the Bakumatsu period, a time of great change in 19th century Japan. In particular Tosa was the birthplace of Sakamoto Ryoma who was a very important figure in a revolutionary period that saw Japan transformed from a feudal society to a modern state. This stirring history is reflected in the name “Toki-no-Yoake” which could be translated as “Dawn of an Era”
The train is a two-car train which has seating for around 50 people and each car has its own name. The first car is called “Kurofune” which means “Black Ship” and this is a reference to the historical steamships from America that ended Japan’s isolation in 1853. The second car is called “Sorafune” which means “Sky Ship” and this rather fantastical name is meant to symbolize a dream for the future. The interior of both cars is meant to evoke the romance of the late 19th century when Japan was rapidly modernizing. As you can see from the images below these car interiors have a charming old-fashioned elegance.
This train will run one round-trip on its days of service. The lunchtime service will depart from Kochi at 12.04 and arrive at Kubokawa at 14.40. The return service will depart from Kubokawa at 15.10 and arrive at Kochi at 17.56. Gourmet lunch boxes can be booked in advance for either service. All seats have power outlets and free Wi-Fi will be available throughout the train. There is also space for a wheelchair in Car 2.
Shikoku Tosa Toki-no-Yoake-no-Monogatari will make its debut on April 18th 2020. An English language pamphlet about the Iyonada Monogatari can be downloaded from the Shikoku Railway Trip website. For more information on the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari visit its dedicated webpage. The new Toki-no-Yoake-no-Monogatari also has its own webpage.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos courtesy of JR Shikoku. All rights reserved.