Japan is known for its efficient and extensive railway network, which plays a vital and integral role in the daily lives of millions of people. So it’s only fitting that there is a dedicated day to celebrate Japan’s rich railway history and advancements!

 

What is Railway Day?

Every 14 October, Japan celebrates Railway Day (鉄道の日 Tetsudō no Hi), a special occasion to honor the history and achievements of its remarkable transportation system. So hop on board as we explore the fascinating world of Japanese railways in the Land of the Rising Sun.

 

Paying Homage to Japan’s Railway History

A photo taken in the 19th-century of the former Shimbashi Station, Tokyo.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Japan’s railway history dates back to the late 19th century during the Meiji Period (1868–1912) when the country experienced a rapid modernisation period. The first passenger railway line, a 30km railroad connecting Tokyo (Shimbashi Station) and Yokohama operated by the Japanese National Railways (JNR), was inaugurated on 14 October 1872.

Old Transportation Museum in Tokyo
Photo by Naocchi (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

In celebration of this momentous milestone in its 50th year, the first Railway Museum was opened at the Marunouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station on 14 October 1921 and the Railway Memorial Day (鉄道記念日) was first observed in 1922. But it wasn’t until 14 October 1994 that the first official Railway Day was established, shaping it into the celebration we recognise today.

 

Notable Events on Railway Day

Railway Day is an opportunity for all railway companies and enthusiasts to showcase their achievements and promote the benefits of rail travel, in hopes of instilling interest and passion amongst the people of Japan. Various events and campaigns are organised throughout the country in the month of October, attracting both locals and tourists.

One of such large-scale events is the Railway Festival (鉄道フェスティバル) held at Hibiya Park every weekend preceding 14 October. At the Railway Festival, railway companies set up informative booths where visitors can learn more about their services and offerings. Attendees, whether they’re railway enthusiasts or children, can partake in various activities, including diorama displays, mini train rides, and the chance to purchase souvenirs and merchandise from different railway companies.

 

 

Another highlight is the open-house events held at railway facilities, allowing visitors to explore behind-the-scenes and learn about the technology and operations involved in running a railway system.

Additionally, railway companies often collaborate with local communities to organise special train rides, including exclusive railway routes or limited-edition designed trains, themed events, and exhibitions. These initiatives aim to foster a sense of community and promote tourism by showcasing the unique cultural and scenic attractions along the railway routes.

 

Visit The Railway Museum in Omiya, Saitama

A grand rolling stock display at The Railway Museum in Omiya, Saitama, Japan.
Photo by Sue Lynn

Whether you happen to be in Japan during Railway Day or not, a good way to learn about and grow your appreciation for Japan’s railways is by making a trip to The Railway Museum (鉄道博物館 Tetsudō Hakubutsukan) in Omiya, Saitama!

Affectionately known as Teppaku, this railway museum is owned by JR East and stands as one of Japan’s largest and arguably most important railway museums, alongside JR West’s Kyoto Railway Museum and JR Central’s SCMaglev and Railway Park in Nagoya. Teppaku is a must-visit destination not only for fellow densha otaku but anyone looking for a fun and informative day out. Here are three reasons why you should visit Teppaku:

 

Inside of an old train display
Photo by Sue Lynn

 

1) Visually-stimulating exhibits

Apart from housing one of Japan’s largest displays and collection of diorama, 36 real-life rolling stock from the past are also exhibited here. In fact, Japan’s very first steam locomotive “Locomotive No. 1” from 1872 is preserved here! There are a total of five main exhibits or “stations”: “Rolling Stock”, “History”, “Job”, “Science”, “Future”. From old ticket stubs to artefacts showcasing the science behind the iconic shinkansen, Teppaku’s exhibits offer a comprehensive journey through Japan’s railway history and development.

 

Train conductor and train driver simulators
Photo by Sue Lynn & Julia Yee

 

2) Hands-on activities for everyone

Ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a train driver or conductor on one of the world’s busiest railway lines? Hop aboard train simulators and mini shinkansen rides which provide an interactive and immersive experience for visitors of all ages. There are also hands-on exhibits to help visitors understand the intricate mechanics of trains, as well as role-playing in the equally important roles that ensure the safety and efficiency of this transport system.

 

TRAINIART Museum Store at The Railway Museum, Saitama
Photo by TRAINIART

3) Shop ’til you drop at TRAINIART Museum Store

What’s a railway museum without an exciting gift shop? Run by TRAINIART, this souvenir store is perfect for those looking to take home railway-themed memorabilia. In fact, the store is also positioned as a ‘second exhibition room’ at the museum and offers a wide range of original goods with railway-inspired designs and functions that give form to the experiences and learning at The Railway Museum.

In addition to these reasons, The Railway Museum is conveniently located in Omiya, which is easily accessible from Tokyo, making it a great day trip option for tourists and locals alike.

 

Discover Your Love for Railway with JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s Snack Box

If you’re a railway enthusiast or simply want to experience a taste of Japan’s railway culture, JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s Snack Box Subscription Plan is a unique offering you won’t want to miss. Receive a box full of delicious snacks and treats from different regions of Japan delivered straight to your doorstep.

In celebration of Railway Day this October, the theme of this month’s Snack Box is “Tetsudo Encounters”, where you’ll receive omiyage inspired by Japan’s iconic train station and bullet trains, as well as delicious treats found along various railway lines. It’s a delightful way to explore Japan’s diverse culinary traditions while immersing yourself in the fascinating world of railways.