Hokkaido’s Nagamare Kaikyo train tour rated best in Japan

JIJI, Kyodo

A tour package featuring the Nagamare Kaikyo sightseeing train in Hokkaido has won the grand prize in a contest to honor great railroad tours in the nation, according to the executive committee of the Tetsutabi Of The Year award.

In its sixth year, the prize, launched to spread the attractions of railway trips, was presented Wednesday at the Railway Museum in the city of Saitama.

Covering 106 rail tours conducted between November 2015 and October last year, the committee rated features such as the content and uniqueness of the tours, as well as the trains. The finalists were selected from among 24 package tours.

The Nagamare Kaikyo train runs on a route operated by South Hokkaido Railway Co., which was established as a public-private venture following the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line in March last year. Nagamare means “relaxed” in a local dialect, while kaikyo means channel or strait in standard Japanese.

Nippon Travel Agency Co. handled planning, sales and in-train services for the Nagamare Kaikyo tour package.

The committee, chaired by Shin Ashihara, editor in chief of the Trains & Travel magazine, highly rated the tour’s work with local communities, including offering local specialties to passengers on the train.

The ride features seafood barbecue on the scenic local line that runs parallel to the Hokkaido Shinkansen.

The trip, costing ¥8,300 to ¥9,800 per person, generated ¥3 million in revenue in the May-October period.

“It enticed people to visit Hakodate just to enjoy this train ride,” said juror Junichi Sugiyama, a writer.

“It was the ultimate example of a regional promotion tour by a travel agency playing to their strong suit in planning, marketing and know-how to persuade people to come a long way for the support of South Hokkaido Railway,” said another juror, Keiichiro Otsuka, a deputy economic news editor at Kyodo News who also writes about railways.

The runner-up prize went to Yomiuri Travel Service Co.’s bus and rail tour to Nagasaki Prefecture’s Shimabara Peninsula. The tour is aimed at helping the local economy, which was damaged by a volcanic eruption that marked its 25th anniversary in 2016.