Yoshimoto Kogyo comedians team up with Fukushima to restore disaster-hit scenic rail line

JIJI

Fukushima Prefecture has teamed up with major entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. as the prefecture reopens a scenic local railway line that had been partially closed due to damage from torrential rain six years ago.

Special tours were launched recently that took visitors on the Tadami Line with comedians from Yoshimoto along for the ride. The prefecture hopes the initiative will attract visitors by publicizing the attractions of the line, which offers spectacular mountain and valley views.

“Thank you very much for traveling on the Tadami Line today,” Reiji, a member of comedy duo Nakagawake and a railway enthusiast, said in his welcome announcement as he played the role of a conductor on a Tadami Line train on Sept. 14, the first day of an overnight tour arranged by Yoshimoto.

Reiji, clad in a conductor’s uniform, and 26 tour participants from the Tokyo metropolitan area rode on a scenic section of the line, which is operated by East Japan Railway Co.

“There are only a few railway lines full of such superb views,” Reiji said. “The Tadami Line gives us a taste of all four seasons.”

JR East plans to restore services on all sections of the Tadami Line by fiscal 2021.

Part of the 135.2-km line, which links Aizu-Wakamatsu Station in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, and Koide Station in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, remains suspended following the July 2011 rain disaster, which led to the collapse of bridges over the Tadami River.

The Tadami Line is famous for traversing secluded areas where access is very difficult.

Before the disaster, the average number of passengers daily on the suspended section between Aizu-Kawaguchi Station and Tadami Station, both in Fukushima, was only 49.

JR East will shoulder one-third of the total estimated reconstruction costs of ¥8.1 billion for the section, while the rest will be covered by the Fukushima government and 17 municipalities in the prefecture. The railway plans to start reconstruction work next spring.

The prefectural and municipal governments will be responsible for ¥210 million of maintenance costs a year after the full restoration of the Tadami Line.

On the recent tour, participants had the opportunity to paint their own akabeko, traditional cow figurines. The visitors also enjoyed sights in Aizuwakamatsu, a major tourist destination in Fukushima.

“The abundant nature around the Tadami Line healed my heart,” Shoko Takano, an 18-year-old on the tour, said. “Comedy performances in the evening party were also interesting,” she said.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government and Yoshimoto Kogyo have designed a total of 12 tour programs featuring train rides on the Tadami Line

“We hope a lot of people will use the Tadami Line,” Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori, who joined the latest tour, said. “We aim to make it the country’s No. 1 local railway line.”