The number of foreigners visiting Mikawa-Anjo Station, the next stop after Nagoya Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line, is increasing, particularly visitors from Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
But why are so many tourists stopping at this station even though there is no famous sightseeing spot or major city nearby?
At around 8:30 a.m. on a weekday, approximately 30 Indonesian tourists boarded the Kodama bullet train at Nagoya Station.
As soon as the group entered one of the empty, nonreserved carriages and found seats, they began taking photos and videos on their smartphones.
When they alighted at Mikawa-Anjo Station 10 minutes later, they took another round of photos on the platform. Soon after, a bus came to pick them up.
“Their purpose is to try the shinkansen,” said a representative from JTB Chubu in Nagoya, which arranged the tour.
The tourists had stayed at a hotel in Nagoya the night before and after going for a quick ride on the shinkansen, they boarded their tour bus and headed to a shopping mall in Shizuoka Prefecture.
“The train was very comfortable and I wish we could have ridden it all the way to its final destination,” said a 40-year-old tourist from Indonesia, who was visiting Japan with her husband.
The most popular course for foreign tourists is the Golden Route from Tokyo to Osaka, with stops at Mount Fuji and Kyoto. A majority of the tour groups, however, do not take the costly shinkansen, and instead use chartered tour buses.
But an express fare to cover one station on a nonreserved carriage on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line only costs ¥860. It is almost ¥1,400 cheaper than the ¥2,250 it would normally cost to cover a distance of 100 km or less.
It is for this reason that the “quick shinkansen ride” tour is becoming popular.
Since the seats cannot be reserved, Mikawa-Anjo Station is a popular choice because the Kodama trains are frequent and not crowded. Other popular stations include Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture and Kakegawa in Shizuoka Prefecture.
About half of the tour groups from Southeast Asia on the Golden Route add a shinkansen ride to their itinerary, the person in charge of inbound visitors at Meitetsu World Travel Inc. said, adding their interest in bullet trains may stem from the possibility that in the future, their home countries may also build high-speed railways.
JR Tokai does not have statistics on the number of foreign visitors who ride bullet trains, but a Mikawa-Anjo Station worker said, “there is about one group of foreign visitors a day on average.”
However, this number has been declining, which has been attributed in part to the rise in the yen at the beginning of the year.
As part of their efforts to improving safety and services, staff at Mikawa-Anjo Station have voluntarily created and put up handmade posters in different languages, warning passengers not to get too close to the trains while on the platform. They have also handed out ticket holders that can serve as souvenirs.
The station has also prepared the “Please stand behind the yellow lines” announcement, heard often on train platforms, in Thai and Vietnamese that the staff play whenever they spot a foreign visitor at the station.
“I want visitors who come to Japan and try our shinkansen to have a good impression,” said Tomoo Fukasawa, the station’s head assistant.
This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Nov. 14.