Okayama to Kochi by Train

“The limited express Nanpu will soon arrive on track 7. Please back from the white line”

The four-car express pulls into Okayama station, a central Japan Railways transit point on the main island of Honshu. The platform is crowded, and every one is hurrying. The train is noisy and smells of exhaust gas. It looks little bit old. Some people are taking photos of the train. Some people are sending off their friends or family. And some are checking their seat numbers on the ticket. They enter car, go through a door and sit down–a window seat is better. The sound of whistle marks the start start of a long adventure, a rail trip to Kochi.
“Thanks for using JR, this is Nanpu limited express…” The announcement comes, but no one in the car is listening. Some of them are talking to each other, some of them are just looking out of the window. After twenty minutes of winding through the built up center of Okayama with its high buildings and out into the surrounding patchwork of rice paddies, there comes a loud “gatcha-gatcha” as the train begins to across the Seto Ohashi bridge.

This massive bridge over Japan’s Setonaikai, “Inland Sea”, carries both rail and highway traffic between the main island of Honshu and Shikoku. It’s 13 kilometers long, making it the longest double decker bridge in the world. It takes twenty minutes to cross and on such a fine day as this, great views of ocean, blue skies and the deep green of countless small islands appear. This is the only bridge for trains between Honshu at Shikoku , and more than 23,000 people use this bridge per day. In the car, many people are taking photos. Soon, there comes a lowd “gacha-gacha” as the train reaches the island of Shikoku, and pulls into the first station.

“Lady’s and gentleman, we will soon make a brief stop at Utazu, thank you.”

First cars stop at Utazu, Kagawa prefecture, the most populous in Shikoku. After Utazu, station windows show flat fields and tiny cute mountains, and sometimes a shrine. This was the first railways in Shikoku.

The sixth station, Kotohira is near to a very famous shrine, Konpira-san, so many passengers get off at Kotohira.

“The next stop is Awaikeda, thank you.”

The train begins to climb the mountains of the Shikoku range that served to isolate Kochi prefecture from the rest of Japan for much of history. Construction the mountain line was difficult and slow. Part of “Dosan line” was ready in 1889s, but the whole line was completed only in 1951. A great seismic fault runs through Shikoku and gave birth to these magnificent mountains, known as Shikoku sanmyaku. it is growing 8m every 1000years. That’s why engineers had to cut parts mountain, sometime people stopped a river and change the stream to built this line.. The number of houses is decreasing, and windows show just rural landscape, tunnels woods and small towns. After train go through big river, near the high way, train will stop the next station soon.

After Awaikeda, the express goes through tunnel after tunnel, train cleave the high mountain with big noise. Some passengers are reading and some of them are sleeping. Here is Shikoku Sanmyaku, it is highest mountains in the west Japan, and it separated Kochi from other prefecture for a long time.

After few minutes, window shows us beautiful river, Yoshinogawa.

“Attention please, on the left side, there is the beautiful river, Yoshino-river.” People on the right side of the car crane their necks to catch a flash of the river below.

After 8km from here is the best place of view in Dosan-line. This is Koboke-valley. Water dug mountains for thousand years, so this beautiful valley was born. After few minutes, cars will go across the iron bridge, and after that, Oboke-valley will appears on right side. We have some tunnels, but please look at the window.”

Many passengers wake up and start to take photos. Some passengers open their bento lunch boxes to eat with the beautiful view. At the river, some people are enjoying rafting. After Oboke station, train go through more mountains and tunnels.

“The next stop will be Tosayamada, thank you.”

It looks far from mountains and it looks train is reaching the town. Beside the rail, some houses stand, but view is almost idyll. Here is Tosayamada. Nearby is Anpanman museum, which is very famous manga and anime character in Japan. Some kids in the car are pointing the signboard of the museum. Cars start to appear again. After just few minutes, the number of houses is increasing, stop at Gomen. (The name of the town is a homonym for “I’m sorry” in Japanese.) The author of Anmanman was born in here, so there are many characters around Gomen. On the left side, there are, one of them, Gomen-Ekio-kun.

After the whistle, cars starts to move. “We will soon make a brief stop at the end of line, Kochi. Thank you”

Out of the window, there are not so high buildings and sun is shiny. The doors open and people gather their bags and shuffle off the train. The platform is not crowded, and no one seems in much of a hurry. This is it, Kochi.

–Kado Takefumi