The Heisei Chikuho Railway Company recently announced the launch of the Coto Coto Train, a new sightseeing train beginning service from March 21 to September 29. Eiji Mitooka helped with the design of the 48-seat vehicle. Mitooka is a famous industrial designer known for his work on the development of JR Kyushu’s luxury excursion train Seven Stars in Kyushu. Approximately ¥100 million was spent on refurbishing two previously used carriages. The interior features a range of furnishings made from local materials and handicrafts including Okawa kumiko (lattice) woodwork. The train will primarily be in service on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays. The three and a half hour journey will send passengers on a journey from Nogata to Yukuhashi Station. Tickets cost ¥14,800.
First Ride and First Impressions
Fukuoka Now was invited to take a ride on the Coto Coto Train last weekend, and what a pleasant surprise! The polished mirror-like ruby-red exterior is stunning! The interior, using mostly natural materials, is brightly colored, luxurious, but not over the top, and most importantly, comfortable. White shirt, bow-tied attendants were always on hand to answer our questions, serve the next dish, or refill our glasses with local craft beer, sake, and juices. Two of the staff even spoke English, so international visitors shouldn’t have any difficulties. As part of the media tour, we tasted three of the six dishes. The Japanese French fusion food is made under direct direction by Tsuyoshi Fukuyama, owner-chef of La Maison de la Nature Goh in Fukuoka (currently ranked as one of Asia’s Top 50 restaurants). Using seasonal ingredients and served in local Aganoyaki ceramics the food was delicious, imaginative and complementary to the scenery. We also enjoyed a chat with legendary industrial designer Eiji Mitooka, whose company designed the Coto Coto Train. It was his first ride on the Coto Coto Train in a full dress rehearsal including food and beverage service. He said he hoped the train would continue to run for many years and create more awareness of the region. Originally built to service coal producing towns this line rolls through sleepy agrarian lands dotted with historic buildings, such as a sake brewery, remnants from former glory days. And that laid-back, nothing special scenery was in fact on the highlights of the journey. For those who have lived in Japan a long time, but mostly in the cities, this cruise through the Fukuoka Prefecture’s backcountry will be a refreshing day trip filled with many nostalgic moments and memories.
For more information on the train and to make reservations, access here: http://www.heichiku.net/cotocoto_train/