Trains & Train Museums

Popular public transport in Japan

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

While traveling in Japan, I used to ride a variety of train types, from high-speed shinkansen and city trains to local ones and even old-fashioned trains with fans for cooling. The train is the most convenient and popular public transport.

History

The first railway was opened in Japan in 1872. The 29km railway line connected Shimbashi (Tokyo) and Yokohama sations. In 1881, the first railway company, Nippon Tetsudo, was founded. Tokyo Station was opened in 1914, the Yamanote Line in 1925, and the first shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka was launched in 1964. Steam locomotives were still in use until 1975 when they were finally decommissioned.

Steam locomotive
Steam locomotive

Museums

1. SCMAGLEV Park in Nagoya

The Railway Museum of the Central Railways of Japan (JR Central) opened in 2011. The museum exhibits a number of real trains, including historical, experimental shinkansen and the latest magnetic levitation (maglev) trains. The museum has a collection of 39 vintage carriages that visitors can enter. One section of the museum is dedicated to maglev trains and JR Central's plans to build a high-speed maglev connection between Tokyo and Osaka. On the second floor there is an interactive area for kids.

The newest shinkansen
The newest shinkansen

Popular attractions are models of trains, where visitors can try themselves as train conductors responsible for opening and closing doors. To do this, you need a reservation and an additional fee of JPY100-500. The museum exhibits one of the largest railway models in Japan with miniature trains passing through detailed models of Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo.

The museum is open from 10-1730, and closed on Tuesday. Entry is JPY1000.

The SCMAGLEV Museum can be reached by train: from Nagoya Station to Kinjofuto Station, Aonami Line. A one-way trip takes about 25 minutes and the fare is JPY360.

2. Omiya Railway Museum

Omiya Railway Museum
Omiya Railway Museum

The museum presents 36 different rolling stock, from locomotive No.1, launched on the first railway in 1872, to the fastest shinkansen train. The museum gives visitors the opportunity to experience the huge size, power and dynamism of the rolling stock via special video series, sounds and lighting. In the exhibition hall, visitors are introduced to the future of railways. Interactive classes are offered as well.

The museum is open from 10-1700 and is closed on Tuesday. Entry is JPY1330.

The museum is located next to Omiya Station. From Ueno Station it takes 25 minutes (JR Ueno-Tokyo Line). The fare is JPY480.

3. Ome Railway Park

Old train
Old train

The Ome Railway Park opened in 1962 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Japanese Railways. The museum park exhibits unique old steam locomotives, detailed models of trains and a panoramic miniature railway.

Playgrounds, a play area and several rides on the roof are made for kids. Children can take a ride on Benkei, a small steam locomotive. The museum shop offers toys and souvenirs.

The museum is open from 10-1630 and is closed on Monday. Entey is JPY100 with children and the elderly free.

The Ome Railway Park is located some distance from Ome Station. From Shinjuku Station it takes 60 minutes with a transfer at Tachikawa Station (JR Chuo Line Special Rapid Service for Takao, Ome). The fare is JPY820.

Shinkansen NOZOMI
Shinkansen NOZOMI

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I am interested in Japanese art, crafts, history and Shinto religion. Photography is my hobby, and there are many amazing places to capture in Japan.

Original by Elena Lisina

Join the discussion

Sander van Werkhoven 3 months ago
Nice one! All three are great museums indeed, Ome Railway Park is obviously a lot smaller than the other two, but fun in its own way, and Ome itself is a nice place to visit too!

And there are so many more great railway museums in Japan! Obviously the Kyoto Railway Museum, which might actually be may favorite of the big three. Not as huge but still pretty sizable are the Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park in Yokokawa (Gunma), the Kyushu Railway History Museum in Mojiko and the Railway Museum in Otaru (Hokkaid). And so many smaller ones that are also well worth a visit! And don't get me started on the SL steam trains still running in so many places...

I just can't think of any other country that has so much to offer for railway enthusiasts. Japan really loves their trains!
Elena Lisina Author 3 months ago
Thank you very much for great addition, Sander! Yes, there are MANY different trains in Japan, indeed, and it's hard to imagine that before Meiji period japanese people mostly travelled by foot!
Elizabeth S 3 months ago
The historic trains at the Railway Museum near Omiya Station are a must-see when you're in the greater Tokyo area. The imperial train carriages and the antique trains with wooden interiors are like time capsules.
Justin Velgus 3 months ago
Japan is well-known for its train fans--and it easy to see why! These images and places are magical.
Sleiman Azizi 3 months ago
I can safely say that the Omiya museum is incredible.
Elena Lisina Author 3 months ago
Yes! I also like to ride trains in Japan, particularly shinkansen! They're much more comfortables than planes! ;)
Kim 3 months ago
Great idea for an article! My kids love museums like these! :)
Kim 3 months ago
Yes, they're interesting for adults, too! :)