Release | nobu Kawashima
Drift ice watching from the window of “Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou” train
JR Hokkaido’s “Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou” is a special train operated from Abashiri Station to Shiretoko-Shari Station in JR Senmou Line. It appeared in 2017, as the substitute of Ryuhyo Norokko Gou which was operated until 2016 winter. You can enjoy the beautiful sceneries of the sea of Okhotsk with drift ice and white mountain lines in Shiretoko.
What is the difference between Ryuhyo Norokko Gou and Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou?
▲Above is Ryuhyo Norokko Gou running, with all-white mountains of Shiretoko Peninsula in the background. (Photo provided by JR Hokkaido)
Ryuhyo Norokko Gou retired in 2016 because of the locomotive became too old. However, the train was so much popular that lots of voices from locals to continue operating the sightseeing train raised.
It needs too much cost to bring a brand new car, so with cooperations of local governments and volunteer organizations, they prepared cars which changed the exterior and interior of normal local trains. This limited train is Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou.
▲There is the sea of drift ice at the back of railroad bridge. Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou runs with two cars: blue based train and white based train.
Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou can be used as a normal local train and also a limited sightseeing train. There are two cars in February 2017, and when Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou is operated, these two cars will be used mainly. (There are days connects normal train cars, too.)
▲Inside of Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou. The exterior looks almost the same as normal local trains, but there are special decorations in detail parts.
▲The seat cover is special design for this train.
▲Illustration of a clione is printed at the shoulder part. There is one seat with clione looking at a different direction. Can you find the seat?
▲There is information about drift ice and sightseeing spots along the rail line hanging from the ceiling.
In 2017, Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou operates two round trips for a day. The train for Shiretoko-Shari leaving from Abashiri stops at Kitahama Station for 10 minutes, where is known for the closest station to the Sea of Okhotsk, and the train for Abashiri from Shiretoko-Shari stops at Hamakoshimizu Station for 20 minutes as a shopping time.
I went on Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou for Shiretoko-Shari from Abashiri in mid-February, when the Sea of Okhotsk is filled with drift ice.
From Abashiri Station to the popular sightseeing spot Kitahama Station
▲I am getting on board!
Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou left Abashiri Station, and after passing few stations, it stopped at Kitahama Station, the station known as the closest station to the Sea of Okhotsk.
After passing the downtown of Abashiri, I saw a port on the left and buildings got less and less gradually. After passing Mokoto Station, the Sea of Okhotsk fully covered with drift ice got closer on the left!
▲The view looks like this when it's seen from the back of the train. On the right in this picture, it looks like a snow field but actually the sea all covered with drift ice.
When the train arrived at Kitahama Station, passengers got off the train, and the train became vacant. It is a sightseeing time during 10 minutes stop.
▲Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou stopping at Kitahama Station. Over the fence on the right is the Sea of Okhotsk. This is the station to get a close view of drift ice.
▲The view from the observation deck of Kitahama Station. Passengers were taking pictures of the platform, inside the building, and the observation deck.
From Kitahama Station to Shiretoko-Shari Station, the entrance of Shiretoko sightseeing
After the sightseeing time at Kitahama Station, I got on the train again and got to the last stop, Shiretoko-Shari Station. The train continued running, passing wildflower garden covered with snow and Lake Tofutsu where swans come flying in. The train gets away from the view of the Sea of Okhotsk for a while, but as the train got near Shiretoko-Shari Station, the sea covered with drift ice started to be in sight.
▲As the train got closer to Shiretoko-Shari Station, the Sea of Okhotsk covered with drift ice came into the sight again.
Mt. Shari with white snow started to get in the sight on the right, and it got bigger and bigger as the train got closer. The view on the both sides are amazing; I wanted to switch the seats from right to left.
▲Mt. Shari on the right of the train, its figure is amazingly beautiful!
Although irregularly, local volunteer guides get on Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou. They sell commemorative goods or give some explanations about the view from the train. Differing by day and train, so you should feel lucky if you happen to be on the train with volunteer guides.
▲On the day I went on board, a volunteer guide who used to be the guide of Ryuhyo Norokko Gou was on the train.
When buildings come into the sight, we are almost the last stop, Shiretoko-Shari Station.
▲Cross the river and get in the town. The figure of Mt. Shari got so close.
About one hour from Abashiri Station, the train reached to Shiretoko-Shari Station. The journey of Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou ends here.
▲White mountain lines were continuing to Shiretoko Peninsula. It was very beautiful that many passengers went to the tip of the platform to take pictures.
Although Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou got less “train journey” atmosphere comparing to Ryuhyo Norokko Gou, I felt it is a new train which people can enjoy both normal local train and sightseeing special train. Of course, the amazing view from the train did not change, and sightseeing at the station on the way and volunteer guides were very much enjoyable. Also, we do not have to buy any express or special tickets; everyone can get on by only purchasing normal tickets.
It was operated from January 28 to February 28 in 2017. Let’s hope it will be operated next year, too!
Related Website- Ryuhyo Monogatari Gou 2017 operating schedule (Japanese Only)
Text / Hokkaido Likers photo writer nobu Kawashima
Photo / Toru Tanaka, nobu Kawashima
Cover cooperation / JR Hokkaido Kushiro Branch
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