Norokko Train

Japan has gained a lot of international attention with its Shinkansen – the world’s busiest high speed train line. Aside from the feat of modern engineering that allows the bullet trains to function, the Land of the Rising Sun is home to one of the best public transportation systems on the planet.

However, one does not always have to be the fastest to experience the most. That seems to be the motto behind the Norokko Train. The Norokko Train is Japan’s slowest train and while that may seem to be negative, the way the train is used maximises its potential and turns its weakness into a strength that attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train goes through Kushiro marsh. (C) 640px-Kushiro_shitugen_norokko_train / 欅

One of the most grandiose natural sights to see when visiting Japan is its huge natural wetland and marsh habitat, encased by the Kushiro Shitsugen National Park. The park is home to the famously endangered, black and white colored Japanese Cranes. The cranes were thought to be extinct throughout all of Japan until a small group of about 20 were found living in the marshes around Kushiro. Since then, they have been taken care of exceptionally and have made a remarkable recovery, number in the 1000s now.

However, much of the wetlands and marshes are not traversable on foot – one, due to their size and two due to the danger of wandering around in wetlands. This is where the Norokko train comes in – a solution for those wishing to experience the natural beauty of the area. One of the Japan Rail’s routes does traverse through it, Hokkaido’s Senma line to be specific. During the months of April to late September, visitors can take the Norokko Train to slowly cruise through the wetlands at 20 km/h and see the sights of the area. An added benefit is that the Norokko Train is fully covered by the Rail Pass, making it very convenient for visitors to climb aboard and take the slow tour.

The train also hosts an open-air observation deck, making a ride through the Kushiro wetlands a true outdoor experience. The crew on-board is more than happy to provide visitors with information about the wetlands, and point out the most scenic spots or places the famous Japanese Cranes can be viewed from regularly. It should be noted that the train operates from very specific stops at rather specific times and dates, which should be taken into consideration by anyone wishing to explore the wetlands by the means of the Norokko Train.

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