Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Ultimate Guide to the Joyful Train – Resort Shirakami

There are plenty of “joyful trains” in Japan but have you ever boarded one with live performances? Resort Shirakami (リゾートしらかみ) is the only joyful train in Japan with live performances, including shamisen (Japanese guitar), puppet plays, and Japanese folk tales told in the Tsugaru dialect (津軽弁)!

The beautifully designed joyful train will bring you from the vast Tsugaru Plain (津軽平野) to Mt. Shirakami – the home to the world’s greatest beech virgin forest. Before reaching the shore of the Sea of Japan, you might even meet one of the world’s most fascinating sunsets (*’▽’).

A Brief Introduction to Resort Shirakami

Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

Resort Shirakami is a joyful train operating between JR Akita Station (秋田駅) and JR Aomori Station (青森駅).

The joyful train comes with three different designs, all based on the unique sceneries the six Resort Shirakami services are passing through each day (three from JR Aomori Station and another three from JR Akita Station).

All four carriages of the train can only be boarded with advanced reservation. This can be easily done at any JR East’s Station’s ticketing office – Midori-no-Madoguchi (みどりの窓口).

Any JR Passes that cover northeastern Japan can be used to reserve your seats without extra charges (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Different Landscapes during Your Train Ride

  • JR Higashi-Noshiro Station (東能代駅) ~ JR Ajigasawa (鰺ケ沢駅): In this segment of the route, you will have the stunning Sea of Japan view on one side of the train, and Mt. Shirakami on the other! The most renowned scenery of the segment is when the sun slowly disappears at the horizon. So if you love what you see in the Instagram post on the right-hand side, remember to book your train ride between these two stations during sunset time (=゚ω゚)ノ.
  • JR Ajigasawa (鰺ケ沢駅) ~ JR Goshogawara (五所川原駅): Between these two stations, you will be surrounded by vegetables and rice fields!
  • JR Goshogawara (五所川原駅) ~ JR Kawabe (川部駅): You should be able to see a lot of apple or other fruit trees during this segment!

The Two Stops on the Route that Is too Special to not Stop for a Break

Resort Shirakami’s routes 2 to 5 will make a 15-minute break at JR Senjōjiki Station (千畳敷駅) for you to pose alongside the beautiful seashore.

The sunset from the seashore around this station was chosen to be one of the 100 Best Sunsets in Japan. So time your journey right before you make your reservation!

And if you happen to board the train during winter, you will also want a photo with this spectacular 20 meters of ice curtain on the cliff next to the rail track (^^)/.

If you take routes 1 and 3, a little surprise will be waiting for you at JR Noshiro Station (能代駅).

Passengers were given 10 minutes to show off their basketball shooting skills. Those who made a slam dunk will be given a free souvenir!

For those who missed, the participation price was a free postcard (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Which Resort Shirakami will You Book?

As mentioned before, the Resort Shirakami comes in three different designs.

  • Buna (橅) – The green train
  • Kumagera (くまげら) – The yellow/orange one
  • Aoike (青池) – The blue/white train

The newest Resort Shirakami – Buna is equipped not only with the bar counter Oraho (おらほ) but also has an event space.

If you are interested in puppet play, make sure the train that you are reserving is actually “Buna” and that you book your ride in between the below stations and routes:

  • Route 1 between JR Goshogawara Station (五所川原) and JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅)
  • Route 4 between JR Shin-Aomori Station (新青森駅) and JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅)

Important: Please also refer to JR East’s Resort Shirakami Japanese website for the dates HERE the puppet play is on. You can get the page translated by opening it with Google Chrome and changing the language setting to English by clicking on the Google Translate icon at the right of the address bar. If you need assistance reading the website for this information, please contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

Whilst Kumagera and Aoike don’t include a bar counter, there are snacks made locally being sold on the train. Just make sure you are not sleeping when the staff pushing the snack trolley comes toward you!

You will be able to find out which type of Resort Shirakami is running on what route and on what day just by checking the Calendar underneath the Timetable on JR East’s website HERE (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Buna (橅)

Resort-Shirakami-buna-Joyful-trains
Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

The Buna is imaging the beech forest at Mt. Shirakami and the sunset at the Sea of Japan.

The wooden material used for its interior design was sourced locally. You will feel the nature this train will bring you to as soon as you step into Buna!

What is worth mentioning is that the footrest of four box seats located in carriage no.2 can be fully extended out. See how the back of the seat isn’t just one piece but is broken into two pieces?

So if you want to lie down, you totally can! You just have to book seat numbers 1, 2, 8, or 9 (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Resort-Shirakami-Buna-Interior-Joyful-Trains
Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

ORAHO Bar Counter (おらほ カウンター)

If you are exploring Aomori and/or Akita prefecture with Buna, head to the third carriage’s car counter Oraho.

Japanese sake made by local brewers and delicious coffee mountain stream from Mt. Shirakami (and other locally made sweets and souvenirs, of course) will be served to those interested!

Also, on the platforms of the below stations, you will find that there will be people selling sweets, bento boxes (currently no vegetarian options), and cute little stuff. Please refer to Resort Shirakami’s Japanese website HERE for pictures!

  • JR Noshiro Station (能代駅)
  • JR Akita Station (秋田駅)
  • JR Fukaura Station (深浦駅)

Tsugaru Shamisen Live on Resort Shirakami (津軽三味線生演奏)

To attend a live music event, you normally have to pay an entrance fee. However, when you purchase the Resort Shirakami ticket to travel between the below stations, you will get an additional benefit: a Live Shamisen Performance!

Between JR Goshogawara (五所川原駅) to JR Ajigasawa (鰺ケ沢駅) station of Resort Shirakami’s routes 1, 2, and 3, performances will include Japanese Guitar – Shamisen at the carriage where the train driver’s compartment is located.

Even if you couldn’t reserve a seat in that carriage, the performance will play on the other carriages’ TV!

Important: Please also refer to JR East’s Resort Shirakami Japanese website for the dates HERE the puppet play is on. You can get the page translated by opening it with Google Chrome and changing the language setting to English by clicking on the Google Translate icon at the right of the address bar. If you need assistance reading the website for this information, please contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

Japanese Folk Tales Told In Tsugaru Dialect (津軽弁「語りべ」実演)

The last live event on Resort Shirakami is the Japanese folk tale told in the Tsugaru dialect.

This might not be an event for everyone because even some Japanese people themselves will have trouble understanding the Tsugaru dialect if they are not from Tsugaru (´▽`*).

But, if this event does interest you, it is currently held at Resort Shirakami’s routes 3 and 4 between JR Kawabe (川部駅) to JR Mutsu-Tsuruda Station (陸奥鶴田駅).

The exact dates for this event are announced on the Japanese Resort Shirakami website HERE. If you need assistance reading the website for this information, please contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

Jūniko Station (十二湖駅)

Most of the stations that the Resort Shirakami will be stopping at are unique. So, for instance, if you are a nature lover, make sure you get off the train at JR Juniko Station!

This side of Mt. Shirakami has several trekking and hiking trails. As you walk among the beech forest (8,000 years old!), you will discover multiple stunning ponds just like the one on the right-hand side. The ponds attract thousands of tourists every year (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

For more details, please refer to our Mt. Shirakami Article!

Timetable and Things to Watch out for Before You Book

To plan your trip, refer to the timetable of Resort Shirakami HERE on JR East’s website.

Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

As Resort Shirakami only runs six services daily, purchasing a Gonon Line Free Pass would be a good idea if you want to hop on and off the stations along this train line.

Important: Under the timetable on the official JR website, you will find a list of stations where you would not be able to purchase the Resort Shirakami’s ticket (and also a list of stations where you can, but only during certain time intervals).

Gonon Line Free Pass (五能線フリーパス)

As Resort Shirakami only runs six services daily, if you want to hop on and hop off the stations along this train line, purchasing a Gonon Line Free Pass would be a good idea.

This 2-Day Pass comes with a price tag of 3,880 yen (1,940 yen for kids between the age of 6 to 12). For stations such as JR Kitsukuri Station (木造駅), there are only a few attractions, so you can easily pack all of them into the 2 days period. See the photo on the right-hand side.

Ⓒ photo-ac.com/

Important: This pass only allows you to board the normal JR trains that Resort Shirakami stops at. If you want to get on other types of trains such as an express or even Resort Shirakami, extra charges will apply.

At this point, we could not find an English page for this pass. You can refer to the Japanese webpage HERE and translate it with Google Chrome’s translation function. You can purchase this pass from any of the JR Station’s ticketing offices, Midori-no-Madoguchi (みどりの窓口). All JR Stations in Akita prefecture also sell this pass.

Discover the Beautiful Beech Forest Area at the Shirakami Sanchi’s East

Guide-Services-Mt.-Shirakami-Aomori-Japan
Click the photo to find out more information about the other part of Mt. Shirakami!

If you love hiking, we recommend you stop by the beech forest area at Mt. Shirakami’s east. The natural trails in the virgin forest will lead you to some magnificent waterfalls.

For more information, please refer to our article on Mt. Shirakami and the World-Class Virgin Beech Forest!

Discover the Attractions around JR Akita Station

If you love dogs, one of the many things you can do when you arrive at JR Akita Station is to meet the Akitas, the dog breed that originated from the Akita Prefecture. As they aren’t around 24/7, refer to our article on Attractions around Akita Station to plan!

You will also find a couple of historical and cultural attractions that might interest you (^_-)-☆.

Senshu-Park-Akita-Dog-Akita-Japan
Click the photo to know how to meet the cute Akitas!

The Fascinating Attractions in Aomori City

紅葉と蔦沼の日の出
Click the photo for more information about all the great attractions in Aomori City!

On the other hand, if you are coming from Aomori, refer to our article on Aomori City for all the exciting attractions around Aomori Station and those that are further away but extremely scenic!

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