The Hanasaki line has seen busier days. The local train that connects the cities of Kushiro and Nemuro in Hokkaido fights to live another year after crowdfunding saved the operation of the easternmost railway line in Japan.

Agnes Tandler, for JAPAN Forward


“The train? Well, we never use it, we have a car“, says the 84-year-old ramen shop owner as she gently nudges three shrimps into a precise line on top of a bowl of salty ramen noodles. There is a poster of the Hanasaki railway line right next to her in the tiny shop at Cape Ochiishi in Eastern Hokkaido. It shows the tiny red train passing over the green plain that drops off into the Pacific Ocean.

The Hanasaki line runs just some 200 meters away from the ramen shop through the tiny hamlet of Ochiishi. More Ezo deer than cars seem to make use of the road. As the railway line continues towards Kushiro it runs precariously close to the coast.

(L) Ochiishi Station (R) The Hanasaki train travels through fog near Cape Ochiishi. | © JAPAN Forward

Weather and wind set the rules here. Moments ago, sunshine and blue skies gave way to thick fog that turned the windswept place into a blasted heath where Macbeth might have met the three witches.

There is no other passenger waiting at Ochiishi station. The station is unmanned, and the waiting room chairs feature colorful cushions embroidered with the station name. The cosy cushions might well be needed, as the wait can be long. The train only passes every two to four hours – nine times per day.

The Hanasaki (blooming flower) train operated by JR Hokkaido connects the port towns of Kushiro and Nemuro in Eastern Hokkaido. This year, the 134.4 kilometer long line celebrates its 100th birthday.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.