KUSHIRO, HOKKAIDO – Negotiations are underway for a romantic tie-up between two train stations with fun names.
Trains don’t run between them, but there is a certain dreamy connection between Kofuku (happiness) in Obihiro, Hokkaido, and a station in Hexing, Taiwan, that is locally known as “Love.”
Kofuku Station, a stop on the now-defunct Japanese National Railways’ Hiroo Line between Obihiro and Hiroo, opened in 1956. An adjacent station is named Aikoku (country of love).
Large numbers of tourists would head there in the 1970s because of a promotional catchphrase: “From Country of Love to Happiness.”
The Hiroo Line closed in 1987 and Kofuku Station is now under the management of the Obihiro Municipal Government. The station building and platform were renovated as a tourist attraction in November 2013.
The number of tourists who visited the station in April-September, the first half of fiscal 2015, soared 90.7 percent from a year earlier to 129,100. Many of them were foreign tourists, especially from Taiwan.
The station is widely known in China and Taiwan, an official at the Hokkaido Prefectural Government said.
Hexing Station of the Taiwan Railways Administration’s Neiwan Line got dubbed Love Station from the story of a high school boy who ran after the girl he loved as she departed from the unmanned station around 1960, said a member of a group set up in Obihiro by citizens to promote exchanges between Japan and Taiwan.
Asian tourists visiting Obihiro’s Tokachi region are on the rise. In the first half of fiscal 2015, 54,727 foreign tourists stayed at hotels or inns in Tokachi, up 41.5 percent year-on-year, with those from Taiwan accounting for 46.1 percent of the total.
Negotiations began for a partnership between Kofuku and Hexing stations following a proposal from the Taiwan side in the spring of 2014, with the group, the Tokachi Japan-Taiwan Friendship Association, exchanging information on a number of occasions.
The Obihiro government has tapped the central government’s subsidies for local economic stimulation and set aside ¥1 million ($8,300) in its supplementary budget for fiscal 2015 to facilitate the negotiations.
“We expect a further increase in the exchange of people and goods” between Japan and Taiwan through the two stations’ partnership, said Mikado Kato, head of the city’s tourism department.