Did you know East Japan Railway (JR East) has 16 special, seasonal, unique trains operating in Japan during the Spring and Summer? Did you know that 9 of them are found only in the Tohoku Region of northeastern Japan?
Riding the train doesn’t have to be tedious! These Joyful trains will remind you that the travel experience isn’t just about the destination, but how you get there! Lets take a ride through seven of these special trains!
The Pokemon Train! (JR East’s Pokemon with You)
JR East’s “Pokemon With You” Train runs from Ichinoseki in Iwate Prefecture, to Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture. Everything in the train is Pokemon-themed, even the toilets! One car is basically a large playground for all ages. While the kids go crazy during the beginning of the ride, the adults (kids at heart) had the chance to go crazy at the end of the ride! When we arrived in Kesennuma, we found a great local bakery called Shiraishi near the station selling all kinds of treats made with the local specialty ‘Hoya’ or Sea Pineapple.
The Hot Spring Train! (JR East’s Toreiyu Tsubasa)
The Toreiyu Tsubasa is Japan’s only bullet train that contains an onsen (hot spring) for your feet! You can treat your feet whilst sipping locally brewed sake and wine. This train can only be found in the Tohoku Region of northern Japan, operating between Fukushima City and Shinjo in Yamagata. It operates for a limited time between March to September, so ride it while you can! Shinjo is the birthplace of the author of popular Japanese manga, Yuyu Hakusho and is also famous for Liver Ramen.
The Galactic Train (JR East’s SL Ginga)
The Galactic Train or SL Ginga (Milkyway) is a classic steam locomotive, and the only one in Japan with its own built-in planterium! The design of the train was inspired by the Japanese classic novel “Night on the Galactic Railroad” written by Kenji Miyazawa. The SL Ginga begins in Miyazawa’s hometown in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan, and ends at Kamaishi City. Along the way, the train stops by Tono City, famous for its Kappa (a mythological Japanese folklore creature with a penchant for cucumbers).
The Fine Dining Train (JR East’s Tohoku Emotion)
The JR emotion is both fine dining restaurant and train! Since it travels between Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture and Kuji in Iwate Prefecture, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Sanriku coastline while enjoying unlimited meat, dessert, and alcohol! There is an open kitchen on board where you can watch your meal being made from tasty ingredients local to Tohoku. This is one train trip which is sure to satisfy!
The Dessert Train (JR East’s FruiTea Fukushima)
Maid Cafe on a train? In Tohoku, you can! The “FruiTea” line (pronounced Frui-Tee-ah, not Fruity) runs through the ‘fruit kingdom’ of Japan, Fukushima Prefecture. You are offered special cakes, random goods, a fancy toilet, an array of unlimited tea and coffee, all while enjoying the leather seating and beautiful views. The train runs to Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan’s Samurai City. Reservations in advance are needed, so stop by the View Plaza in select JR East Stations.
The Resort Train (JR East’s Resort Minori)
The Resort Minori travels between Shinjo in Yamagata, to Sendai City in Miyagi. It makes multiple stops at famous hot-spring resorts such as the historical Semi Onsen and picturesque Naruko Onsen. It has all the atmosphere and comforts of a bullet train but at a fraction of the cost! Meals and even performances are provided.
The Noble Lady (JR East’s Ban’etsu Monogatari)
The Banetsu Monogatari is a JNR Class C57 steam locomotive C57, nicknamed “The Noble Lady”. This train travels between Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture, to Niigata City in Niigata.
Enjoy the vast countryside as you make your way to Niigata. Out of all the trains I’ve ridden, this was the most popular!
Resort Shirakami and KiraKira Uetsu
The remaining two Joyful trains in Tohoku, are the Resort Shirakami and the KiraKira Uetsu. We will ride these trains in the near future, so stay tuned for more information!
The Resort Shirakami travels between Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture and Akita City in Akita Prefecture. During the ride you will be treated to the beautiful nature Shirakami Highlands and Akita’s coastline!
The KiraKira Uetsu travels Sakata in Yamagata Prefecture and Niigata City in Niigata. Like the Resort Shirakami, you’ll be treated to a great view of the coastline, only further south. The train passes by the Tsuruoka area of Yamagata, famed for its cuisine.
Visit our home page for more travel ideas and information in the Tohoku Region
East Japan Railway Company’s Official Joyful Train Site
Train Operation Schedule
JR East’s View Plaza Site (you’ll need to go here to make reservations for the Joyful trains)
Hyperdia (confused on what train to take? try using this site!)
Japanican (what I use to reserve hotel rooms)