Railway Museums in Japan: A Complete Guide

3 Oct by Elizabeth D. Burson

Railway Museums in Japan: A Complete Guide

Do you like trains? From children to adults, many people are fascinated by these large, powerful vehicles. Japan, with its long history of innovation in rail transport, is a perfect destination for train lovers of all ages.

Japanese railway museums take a journey through the history of the train in Japan and the rest of the world. From the first steam locomotives, diesel, and electric cars, to the innovative bullet train and maglev trains. To the advantage of international travelers, these Japanese museums include informational exhibits in both English and Japanese.

The main museums in Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo are designed for family enjoyment, and offer interesting interactive exhibits for the education and enjoyment of young railroad fans and their parents.

If you’re a railroad enthusiast, you can’t miss Japan’s themed museums. In Japan, the railway system is not only an efficient and affordable way to travel, but also an integral part of the country’s deep-rooted culture. Railway museums are also a popular option if you travel to Japan in high season, such as Golden Week or during school holidays. You may wonder why? Museums are diaphanous and spacious places, pleasant to visit even when the visits reach their maximum capacity. We have compiled the main ones for you to keep in mind in your next vacation.

Kyoto Railway Museum

The train museum in Kyoto has a huge central hall that houses 53 authentic, life-size train carriages for the enjoyment of all its visitors. They describe the history of the country’s rail travel. In 2019, a new Japanese train station will be opened next to the museum, with a viewpoint to observe the activities of the trains currently in operation. Near Umekoji Park there is a steam locomotive that offers short walks several times a day.

There is also a highly recommended exhibition, which once took place at the Museum of Modern Transportation in Osaka and was kept there from 1962 to 2014. If you’re a train enthusiast, but you travel with others who aren’t so enthusiastic, don’t worry, the Kyoto Train Museum is close to other museums and tourist attractions to enjoy with your family, including the Kyoto Aquarium, allowing it to please everyone.

Railway Museum (Saitama)

The Tokyo Railway Museum is located in the city of Saitama, an hour’s drive away. It commemorates the 20th anniversary of the JR East railway system, and houses exhibitions of Japanese and foreign trains. There is a “History Zone” exhibition featuring 36 contemporary train cars.

The children’s exhibits include model trains, a video simulation to learn how to drive these high-precision machines, and a miniature train for the little ones to take a walk. In addition, a track to test their skills as train drivers, yes, in miniature. It is interesting to know that this museum has a research and development department for JR East.

How To Get There: From Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, take the JR Saikyo Line or the Shonan-Shinjuku Line to JR Omiya Station. From there, you can use the new shuttle service and in three minutes you will reach your destination. The museum is next to Tetsudo Hakubutsukan Station (this option is not included in the Japan Rail Pass).

Other museums related to trains

This list is not made in detail, and you can find other interesting exhibitions of railway themes during your trip to the country of Nippon. You could add to the list the Railway Land Museum in Keio, the Tobu Museum, the Metro Museum, and the Ome Railway Park in Tokyo. Also, Tsuyama Railway Education Museum in Okayama; Usui Pass Railway Park in Gunma; Otaru City Museum in Hokkaido; Kyushu Railway History Museum in Fukuoka; and Shikoku Railway Cultural Center in Ehime.

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