When it comes to transportation in Hokkaido’s port city of Hakodate, the city’s famous streetcar is the way to go and this year we celebrate its100th anniversary.
Hakodate Tram no. 732, painted in refreshing tones of light green and ivory with a green leaf illustration on the side.
When I boarded the train, I noticed something a little out of the ordinary: there were real plants hanging on the window frame!
There were even plants at the end of each seat row!
The refreshing smell inside the train car was so relaxing. What kind of plant could this be? Of course, it’s mint! The car is covered in mint – mint illustrations and real mint plants! Believe it or not, the ticket passengers take as they board are even mint-scented!
Who would have thought a train ticket could be so refreshing?! How would you even go about making train tickets smell of mint? Mr. Wajima of the Hakodate City Tram Department had the answer.
“It all comes from this…”
He showed me a small case scented with mint. He explained that the small scented case is placed in the ticket machine and leaves the tickets smelling of mint.
“We first tried using a spray, but it discolored all of the tickets and left them unreadable.” It wasn’t logical to continue using the spray if it rendered the ticket machines useless and made the scent of the tickets overpowering. After a bit of trial and error, they finally arrived at the current method of using the scented case to lightly scent the tickets without affecting the little pieces of paper much at all.
Thus, the Mint Train was born!
Approaching the street car’s 100th anniversary, the Hakodate City Tram Department wanted to introduce a car that was really special – something exciting to ride. Now there’s even a mint-inspired drink rapidly becoming popular throughout Hakodate: the Goryokaku Mojito.
A mojito is a rum-based cocktail that uses fresh mint leaves for flavor. The drink is popular all over the country, but the Goryokaku Mojito is a Hakodate specialty, as Hakodate is known for the cherry blossoms of its famous Goryokaku Park (Pentagon Park). It seems only fitting that the delicious drink be garnished with a pretty pink cherry blossom. .
With it’s light and refreshing taste, the mojito goes will with Hakodate’s famous squid, be it fried or grilled. You won’t have trouble finding shops that offer the Goryokaku Mojito in Hakodate with a helpful sign detailing all the restaurants and shops that offer it hanging below the fare board on the Mint Train.
The Mint Train will be running from now through then end of July, making six round-trip runs per day. Boarding it requires no reservation or special ticket – it runs just like the other Hakodate tramcars. You can board it same way you’d board any other tram: go to the station and hop on!
The schedule varies a little each day, but with 15 cars running each track daily, you have a…. one in 15 chance of finding the Mint Train!?!? Alright, so maybe you’ll need a little bit of luck to catch a ride on this particular train (and there are also some days and times when the train might be out of service due to inspection) but some would say that adds to the excitement of the experience. After all, not everyone is lucky enough to travel around Hakodate on such “fresh” transportation.
Information courtesy of the Hakodate City Tram Department
Hakodate City Tram Department Official Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/hakodatecitytram.100.anniversary
( Research, composition and photography by Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer – Nobu Kawashima )