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Festival takes train fans for ride

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Just because the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom nationwide, it doesn’t mean weekend activities will be restricted to the park — any time of year is a good time for trainspotting.

The “Tetsudo Festival 2012 in Nagoya” is a two-day festival that hopes to attract densha otaku (train enthusiasts) from across the country by organizing a series of locomotive-themed events. Among these is a flea market, one of the biggest of its kind in the Tokai region, that will sell items like model railways and vintage train tickets.

More mind-blowing for participants, though, could be the miniature trains that are set to run through the gigantic railway dioramas scattered about the venue.

It sounds like a train geek’s dream, but just to sweeten the deal organizers have invited Yuko Kimura and Yukino Saito, two young women who are so-called tetsudo-idols (railway celebrities) that have become increasingly popular among a circle of train lovers. They will hold talk sessions along with some other guest speakers.

Kimura considers it her mission to upturn the stereotypical image of train lovers being introverts by highlighting her natural vivacity, as represented by the humorous title of her blog that reads: “Even Train Otaku Are Human Beings!”

Other guest speakers include Hirohiko Yokomi, a renowned train expert who boasts the achievement of visiting all 9,843 train stations across the nation in 2005. Yokomi had visited 10,000 stations by August of 2009, to account for stops that were constructed following his original journey.

The festival is not just geared toward aficionados, there will be plenty of family-friendly activities such as being able to ride toy trains. Kids can also dress up in a variety of train-themed uniforms for photographs.

The Tetsudo Festival 2012 in Nagoya takes place at Fukiage Hall in Nagoya on April 7 and 8 (10 a.m. till 5 p.m.). Admission costs ¥800. For more information, call (052) 951-0450 or visit www.tokai-tvj.co.jp/train_festival_ngy (in Japanese).