Hiroshima: Train Tour Seeks to Show off Seto Area Wonders

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tour participants in traditional Japanese clothing stroll around the old town of Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture, on Sept. 7.

TAKEHARA, Hiroshima — West Japan Railway Co. has launched a train tour for foreign visitors in Japan, covering a section of the scenic Kure Line that runs along the coast of Hiroshima Prefecture. It shows off the beauty of many small islands in the Seto Inland Sea as well as Japanese traditions and culture.

By using a sightseeing train called the etSETOra, the tour offers participants the chance to drink and compare local sake while enjoying picturesque landscapes through the train windows. The tour includes a stroll around a town that has retained the traditional townscape of the region.

Through the tour, JR West aims to promote the food, culture and tourism resources of Hiroshima, which drew attention during this year’s G7 Hiroshima Summit.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tour participants enjoy sake on the etSETOra sightseeing train on Sept. 7.

At 7:30 a.m., participants in the tour change into traditional Japanese clothing at a hotel in front of JR Hiroshima Station and leave the station at 9:32 a.m. In the train, they experience calligraphy with a traditional Kumano brush and enjoy drinking and comparing sake from the Ryusei series, produced at the Fujii Shuzo sake brewery in Takehara among other activities.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tour participants have their photo taken in front of the etSETOra sightseeing train at Takehara Station.

At 11:31 a.m., the train is scheduled to arrive at Takehara Station. The participants have a French course meal at the Nipponia Hotel Takehara Saltworks Town, which is located in an area designated by the central government as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings. The hotel is a revival of these historic buildings as accommodations and other facilities.

Dishes such as one using Shinmei Chicken from Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, and salt produced in Takehara, as well as a pudding using locally produced kabocha pumpkins are provided.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A French course meal is offered at a hotel during the tour.

After having the meal, participants stroll around the area, with a guide explaining the history and other facts about the area in English. Then, they visit the Fujii Shuzo sake brewery, where they see the sake brewing process and learn about its culture.

The participants then leave Takehara Station at 2:30 p.m. and arrive at Mihara Station about an hour later, where they transfer to the Sanyo Shinkansen Line and return to Hiroshima Station.

There was a trial tour on Sept. 7 and 22 people joined, both foreign and Japanese participants. They all changed into traditional Japanese clothing and boarded the etSETOra train.

Among the participants was Ashlee Marcy, 34, who moved to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, from the U.S. state of Ohio in August. She said that the guide had carefully explained the history of the town while strolling around Takehara. She added that foreign visitors who do not understand Japanese can enjoy the tour even if they come alone.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants take a walk while listening to a guide speaking English.

Carol Rinnert, 76, who currently lives in Hiroshima and has been living in Japan for more than 30 years, said with a smile: “I participated in the tour because I like train trips and Japanese sake. I liked the chilled sake I had in the train, which was refreshing.” She bought sake at the Fujii Shuzo brewery and said that she liked the buildings in Takehara and wanted to visit again with her husband.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The tour costs ¥30,000 for adults and is held on most Thursdays. Reservations are accepted at a special website of JR West  .