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“Tetsuincho,” a book for collecting original stamps of third-sector, or public-private, railways across Japan, is attracting strong demand, with its initial 5,000 copies having sold out less than one month after it was launched on July 10.

An association comprising 40 third-sector railway operators that launched the project planned to put an additional 10,000 copies on sale as a result.

“We hope that the stamp book will help people keep memories of their railway trips,” an official involved in the project said, adding that the initiative would hopefully contribute to keeping third-sector railway operators alive at a time when the business environment is tough for many of them due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus.

“Tetsuincho,” a railway version of “goshuincho,” a book for collecting stamps at shrines and temples in Japan, is designed to promote ridership amid the pandemic.

Priced at ¥2,200 yen, the book is sold at stations run by the 40 railway companies.

Users can get stamps by showing their book and train tickets at stations, with fees for receiving a stamp set at ¥300 or more. Each railway company has a unique stamp design, and those who collect stamps from all 40 firms can purchase a special commemorative card with a serial number.

While 110 copies of the book were initially allotted to each third-sector railway operator, some companies saw them sell out only days after the launch. All initial copies, including those additionally allocated to some operators, sold out by early this month.

“Previously, no commemorative gift was given out to railway users,” Koji Honbo, an official of the association, said. “‘Tetsuincho’ will become a memorable item and provide people with an opportunity to start traveling on local railways.”

For the reprint, four more colors — pink, green, light blue and black — will be added for the cover of the stamp book, on top of navy blue, which was adopted for the initial print. The new color addition is partly intended to attract female customers, after most of the initial 5,000 copies were bought by male rail users.

Many third-sector railway operators have weak financial foundations, with 33 of the 40 firms reporting ordinary losses for fiscal 2019.

A series of natural disasters and the coronavirus crisis are putting additional pressure on them.

Last month’s heavy rain damaged facilities on the Kumagawa Railway, which operates in Kumamoto Prefecture, and Hisatsu Orange Railway, which runs a line linking Kumamoto and neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture.

“Local railway operators can maintain their services by attracting various users as they are expected to continue facing a tough business environment,” Honbo said.

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