The Nagamare Kaikyo is a sightseeing train that runs along the scenic coastline of southern Hokkaido. This train’s route runs between Hakodate and Kikonai offering wonderful views of the Tsuruga Straits and Mount Hakodate along the way. Although this train first ran in the spring of 2016 it was voted Japan’s top railway tour train in the very same year.
The Nagamare Kaikyo is a renovated Kiha 40 series one-car train. Images painted on the train’s navy-blue exterior represent the silhouette of Mount Hakodate after sunset, the glittering lamps of fishing boats in the Tsugaru Straits, the lights of local towns, and the starry sky. The interior of the train is decorated with local cedarwood and hung with colorful marine-themed streamers. Seats are provided with headrests and tables so that passengers can enjoy dining in the car, and the large windows offer clear views over the mountains and the sea.
Nagamare means “leisurely” in the local dialect of Hokkaido’s Donan area, and kaikyo meaning “straits” is a reference to the local coastal scenery. This is certainly a leisurely touring and dining experience lasting from mid-afternoon to the early evening. The full tour takes 4 hours and 30 minutes to travel from Hakodate to Kikonai and back again. Along the way there are stops to enjoy ocean views and also to sample local gourmet treats which include a fresh seafood barbecue at Moheji Station. A variety of local food products are included in the cost of the ticket and drinks can be bought separately. Towards the end of the tour the lights in the train are turned down so that passengers can enjoy viewing the glittering lights of passing towns and of fishing boats upon the sea.
The Nagamare Kaikyo is operated by the South Hokkaido Railway Company, a semi-public railway company that operates the Donan Isaribi Line between Kikonai Station and Goryokaku Station. The train runs roughly twice a month between May and October and can be booked via Nippon Travel Agency. Tickets cost between 10,800 and 12,800 yen depending on the type of seat and whether the seat is on the side overlooking the mountains or the sea. Alternatively, to enjoy the same views without the gourmet dining experience, you can take a regular one-way “Nagamare-go” service between Hakodate and Kikonai. This does not require an advance booking, costs just 1,170 yen for a 70 minute journey and runs regular services all the year round.
Article by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.