Tales from Japan: “One-man Trains”

Our group is on a local train bound for Nakatsugawa, on the JR chuo-line. It’s one of the many local lines running across Japan, following the ancient Nakasendo connecting the imperial capital, Kyoto, to the shogunate in Edo during the Edo Period.

Most travelers to Japan would have rode on its extensive rail network. It’s fast, efficient, and modern, as epitomized by the renowned bullet train, or shinkansen. Those trains literally ‘fly’ up and down the country at speeds exceeding 250km/h, and even after countless earthquakes and several derailments, they still record zero fatalities since operations began in the 1970s.

But we’re not on the shinkansen. Rather, we’re on a one-man train consisting of 2 rather non-descript rectangular metal boxes conjoined together in the middle. It’s one-man because it’s operated by one driver doubling as the train conductor. Unlike the shinkansen, these trains usually cover rural or less-populated areas or towns, have a less frequent schedule, and run shorter distances.

For someone commuting regularly on one of the world’s busiest metro networks, traveling on the one-man is a delight. It’s not as fast, but that’s part of the charm isn’t it?

Sit back.

Look out into the countryside.

The train, chooting along, cluck-cluck, cluck-cluck, cluck-cluck.

The romanticism of train travel. Returned.