JAPANESE TRAINSPOTTING EXTRAVAGANZA
When: FRI NOV 01 to FRI NOV 15 , 2019.
Duration: 15 days / 14 nights, from Tokyo to Tokyo.
Minimum 4 people Maximum 8 people.
Fee: $ A 8000 includes choice accommodation (twin share*), dinners and most breakfasts,
some special excellent lunches on the train, admission to the attractions, additional transport cost.
( GBP 4500 $US 6000 EUR 5000 or, of course, we accept Japanese Yen 650,000)
Discounts available for some train enthusiasts groups. Just ask !
The tour starts from Tokyo and finishes in Tokyo. *Single supplement about $ 600 where available.
Not included: JR Rail pass, lunch, international airfare to Japan and transfers to the airports.
The word gunzel originated from the Sydney Tramway Museum in the 1960s as a term for foolish or reckless railfans who shot at things with cameras. Usage was originally confined to south eastern states, but it has since spread to the whole of Australia and parts of New Zealand, and now it’s taking off in Japan!
This tour focuses on Trains, model trains, train hotels and all things TRAIN related.
Accom: Our accommodations vary but all are selected carefully and specifically for the people who just love trains.
Most nights we stay in the hotels that commands the views of the railway stations, rail yards and trains.
We also travel on the last of the regular sleeper train.
So, at this stage, we will stay three nights in Tokyo, two in Nagoya, one in Kyoto, three in Kumamoto
four in Okayama, then the final night on the sleeper train. All western style bed.
Food: Evening meals are all included in the travel fee (excluding your drinks).
We will visit as many cafes and restaurants of rail themes, full of memorabilia, model trains and dioramas.
Many are built by the Japanese gunzels, rail enthusiasts just like us. Other nights, the Lobrow team
will take you to the choice diners in the town where you can enjoy the atmosphere and local cuisine.
Breakfasts are included. Most of the time, you will have a choice between western style breakfast and hearty local breakfast.
Lunches, morning tea, afternoon tea are not included in the tour price,
except some very special lunch where we take the very special restaurant trains.
Note: If you want to bring your own model engines and run on some of the tracks,
we are happy to try to organise the run for you. Let us know what you have.
Pre tour THU OCT 31 Tokyo. We can assist with early arrival before the tour. Just ask.
Day 1 (FRI NOV 1) Tokyo
Good morning, we will get together a designated spot in Tokyo, then do some house keeping stuff,
like dropping our luggage at the hotel, exchange railpass and the stuff like that in the morning.
Then we will spend the whole afternoon at the JR railway museum.
Dinner tonight is a real treat for model rail fans, looking at little trains going through the diorama landscape.
Our hotel will offer commanding view of the railways down below.
Day 2 (SAT NOV 2 ) Tokyo
It is a day of steam loco today. From the morning to late afternoon, we will spend the whole day with a C58 engine,
known affectionately as “Shigohachi”built in 1938. Over lunch we can watch the engine turning directions on a turn table.
There are a few photo spots (or shall we say, Insta spots?) we may try to get to, to snap some pictures.
We may stop at a couple of train viewing spots on the way back to our hotel.
Dinner is at a rail themed cafe you will feel very welcomed and at home.
Day 3 (SUN NOV 3 ) Tokyo
Today, we will visit an amazing model train museum in Yokohama, and an adjacent model train shop,
then we do a bit of historical walkabout, spotting the birthplaces of railways in the country.
On the way back, we go to a rail themed burger and pasta joint where we can dine with the model trains going around.
It’s full on gunzel, it’s awesome.
Day 4 (MON NOV 4) Nagoya
After breakfast, we check out, and then travel on the Shinkansen for a few hours to Nagoya.
The afternoon we will spend at the railway museum where we see the railways of old (steam locos)
and new (maglev), and a lot in between.
In case you are impatient and keen to try out a real working model of maglev train, we can go and ride one on an 8.9km long line.
It may not be as fast as the one they are building, but it works on the same principle.
Tonight we venture into another rail themed restaurant where, we are sure, you would fit in perfectly.
Our hotel room in Nagoya offers one of the best train viewing.
Day 5 (TUE NOV 5) Nagoya
Today, after breakfast, we will go to one of the pioneer steam loco operators in the country.
They saw the value in preserving the old iron horses in working order. Right on.
We will take a return trip along the scenic river.
By the time we arrive back at the hotel, we are sure you will have thoroughly enjoy the day out on the steamer.
We stay at the same hotel which commands the best view of the trains.
Day 6 (WED NOV 6) Kyoto
After breakfast, we will travel to Kyoto on a Shinkansen, then we go to the Arashiyama and Sugano area,
and then its up to you how you want to spend the day.
You can go on an old tram ride, and sample shrines and temples, OR drop in at the samurai movie world theme park.
OR, maybe you want to go on a 30 minute narrow gauge trolley rail ride, OR inspect one of the biggest dioramas in the country
and run model engines. OR some old steam engines? Options options options.
So much so, we leave the day open and will decide what everyone wants to do on this day.
We may go as a group together or we may split up.
Our hotel in Kyoto is owned by a train company, and rooms offer pretty damn good view of the trains below, coming and going.
Make sure you get some sleep.
Day 7 (THU NOV 7) Kyoto to Kumamoto
After breakfast, we will stroll to the railway museum, and spend whole morning there.
After lunch, we get to the Kyoto station, another fine example by the master architect, HIroshi Hara.
We may stop and marvel the design before travelling on Shinkansen to the west, all the way to Kumamoto.
Our hotel, right next to the retro futuristic station building, has commanding views of trains below.
We recommend to check out the station, designed by the innovative architects. Very arty and functional.
Kumamoto is another tram town, and we will no doubt enjoy riding them.
Dinner will be as always, smart, local and delicious.
Day 8 (FRI NOV 8) Kumamoto fine dining IRON CHEF train experience.
After breakfast we will depart on Shinkansen and then catch the Hisatsu Orange railways’ special original lunch restaurant train,
where we will enjoy the ride, a French lunch will be served by TV hero chef, the Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai!
After lunch we will return to Kumamato late afternoon to rest and relax before another excellent dinner.
Day 9 (SAT NOV 9) Mitooka appreciation day
Eiji Mitooka is an industrial (and industrious) designer but these days he is better known for train designs.
He has done so many but all of them are very distinctive, different from each other, yet has definite Mitooka touch.
Today, we will ride three of his designs.
In the morning, we catch Isaburo special train (interior furnished by Mitooka) pulled by an old Kiha engine
from Kumamoto up the steep hills. We will see the engineering marvels, two zigzag switch backs, one of which is in a big loop. Amazing. Along the way we will see the old fashioned railway stations, still operating.
We will then travel to Kagoshima on the Hayato no Kaze train (interior furnished by Mitooka).
Then shinkansen back to Kumamoto in time for the A train (interior furnished by Mitooka).
We will do a lazy return trip to Misumi on the A train. Of course there is a classy bar on board.
Are we Mitookaed out? Not enough, we hear.
Upon returning to Kumamato and back to our hotel for a little rest, or look out for trains, if you are not bored yet,
before another local dinner date at a handpicked establishment.
Day 10 (SUN NOV 10) More steam
We depart Kumamoto in the morning to ride on an old wagon pulled by a classic steam locomotive.
Our engine will be C57-1 (Shigonana) the first one of C57 series introduced in 1937 or D51-200 built in 1938.
Feel the full blast from the past.
After nearly four hours of steam ride, we will ride a Shinkansen to Okayama where we will base ourselves for four nights.
Yes, our hotel is carefully chosen for the best train views, and dinner is a special treat Okayama offers.
Day 11 (MON NOV 11) Tsuyama
Morning at leisure. Okayama is another tram town, and have we mentioned it yet? It is Mitooka’s home town. Naturally, there are a few Mitooka designs you can check out, including the tramcars and a museum. All good stuff.
Talking about the museum, we will visit one in Tsuyama in the afternoon. Converted from the second biggest turn table and garage in the country (the biggest one, we have been in Kyoto), here we see D51 steam locomotive, some vintage Kiha diesels and one and only DE50 1. There is a cool diorama there too. Back to Okayama late afternoon for another excellent dining experience.
Day 12 (TUE NOV 12) Hiroshima and Miyajima
After breakfast, we head for Hiroshima on Shinkansen. Hiroshima is another gunzel friendly town with a tram network.
Of course the city was also known for the first place where a nuclear bomb was dropped in anger in 1945.
We will visit the Atomic bomb museum first on tram (Most of the old trams are replaced by the slick new trams, one of the fleet, #650, is actually the survivor from the nuclear bombing). The dome stands almost at the epicentre of the blast.
Hiroshima occupies an important place in the history of railway development in the country.
Some fifty years before the nuclear blast, it was here a temporary capital with the military headquarters was placed when the Imperial Japan waged the first real war against China (July 25, 1894 to Nov 30, 1895).
The emperor Meiji moved to Hiroshima to lead his imperial forces. Why Hiroshima?
It was chosen, because it was at the time, the western end of the line, and it had an ideal port to move the soldiers
and the stuff to the Korean peninsula and north eastern China where the most of the fighting took place.
We will then ride a tram for 16kms to the world heritage listed Miyajima, Itsukushima Shrine,
to the top of the mountain on ropeways. The spot is regarded as one of the three most scenic spots in the country. See for yourself.
After another enjoyable day out, we get back to Okayama for another fine dinner.
Day 13 (WED NOV 13) Tadotsu and Matsuyama
After breakfast, we will go across one of the longest bridges in the world, Seto Ohashi,
going over to one of the four major island of Shikoku.
We first stop at Tadotsu.
The station is the first one set up on the island in 1890, and has long been the important rail junction for the railways
in the Shikoku, as it was the entry/departure point of the island. The significance has diminished somewhat over the years,
but a rather unassuming town still attracts many enthusiastic gunzels from all over the country.
They come to see a couple of water tanks built for the steam engines. One of them is believed to have been constructed in 1913
while the other in late 1920s. Only a few of these still stands in the country, and the brick one here is a real beauty.
Then we resume our ride on the trains in Shikoku, heading to Matsuyama where we spend the afternoon.
Matsuyama is another tram town and that is one of the reasons we come here. They run a replica steam tram
(run on diesel, but looks like an old steam tram that used to run on the streets here). Another reason?
It is the gateway to a fine onsen natural hot spa. We hop back on the express train to get back to Okayama,
crossing the Seto Ohashi bridge again. A twilight crossing is quite a different experience.
The dinner will be local and fun.
Day 14 (THU NOV 14) Okayama and then overnight train to Tokyo
It will be a leisurely strolling kind of day, or perhaps you would like a day trip to gorgeous Edo period Kurashiki,
or you might like to be hanging around in Okayama, riding on trams, visiting the castle, temples and shrines,
because there is a big train ride waiting.
We will spend our last night on the tour on the only remaining regular sleeper train service in the country -
The Sunrise - overnight to Tokyo.
A chance to discover the legendary Japanese Bento box and other train food, if you haven’t already.
We will have a dinner before we catch the sleeper.
Day 15 (FRI NOV 15) Arrive in TOKYO
We arrive in Tokyo on the Sunrise at about 7 am, and that is where we will end our train frenzy gunzel tour.
Thank you for your company, and we hope you have had a good ride around the country.
We will be only too happy to help you get to your next destination.
The itinerary above may be subject to change.
Steam locomotives, and the sleeper train, have been known to become 'unavailable', but let's keep our fingers crossed.
If we cannot get exactly what we want, or find a better option, we will adjust the itinerary accordingly, along the spirit of the tour.
One of our post Gunzel tour suggestions is to come with us to the "Kumano my house" tour. We will take you to the UNESCO world heritage listed pilgrimage path, as well as the only world heritage listed hot spa, the WW2 army fortress (ruin now), a shrine with 20,000 dolls, and of course, one of the best coastal ride on the train. Check it out. You can do the "Kumano" before the Gunzel tour too.