You might already be aware that to the Japanese, trains are sometimes more than just vehicles that carry you from A to B. Unlike most countries in the world, Japan’s Sightseeing Trains don’t just run between the tourist attractions in the rural areas. They operate on normal train tracks between cities and prefectures, and compared to ordinary trains, they are splendidly decorated with the color themes and local specialties of the regions they run past. Light meals and desserts are served on this type of train too!
Remaining unknown to many, one sightseeing train runs between Karuizawa and Nagano Station. Operating by Shinano Railway, the train named Rokumon allows you to adore the prefecture’s stunning natural scenery in a stylish manner! While you can certainly take the bullet train to get to Karuizawa from Nagano Station or vice versa, taking the sightseeing train will definitely make this train trip more memorable! And interestingly, Rokumon makes longer stops at stations with designated tourist spots!
Sightseeing Train Rokumon’s Little Profile
Shinano Railway’s sightseeing train Rokumon which connects Karuizawa with Nagano City also passes through Ueda City (上田市) in Nagano Prefecture. This city used to be ruled by the Sanada clan in the late 16th century. So the train’s name was derived from Rokumonsen (六文銭), the Sanada clan’s family crest!
The train’s base color also relates to the Sanada clan. It is the color of the armor of Sanada Yukimura’s army in the winter campaign of the Seige of Osaka (大坂冬の陣). So if you are a fan of Sanada Yukimura, boarding Rokumon should make you very excited (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Important: Rokumon doesn’t have any plans that offer vegetarian meals.
Rokumon was designed by Mitooka Eiji (水戸岡 鋭治), who also designed JR Kyushu’s sightseeing sleeper train, Seven Stars in Kyushu (ななつ星 in 九州) and Wakayama Dentetsu’s cute Tama Densha Train (たま電車).
Rokumon’s Train Route
Although the sightseeing train Rokumon is owned by Shinano Railway, its travel route doesn’t all belong to the company. Departing from Karuizawa, the train changes to JR’s train track at Shinonoi Station (篠ノ井駅). Depending on the plan, Rokumon might even stop at Obasute Station.
Taking Rokumon from Shinano Railway’s Karuizawa Station
Like all the sightseeing trains in Japan, Rokumon’s speed isn’t fast. While it only takes 30 minutes to travel from Karuizawa to Nagano Station by bullet train, you will have 2 hours on Rokumon to enjoy the scenery along the train track.
Unlike the more modern JR Karuizawa Station, Shinano Railway’s Karuizawa Station is a reproduction of the old Karuizawa Station, completed at the beginning of the 20th century and demolished when the Shinkansen opened. On the 2nd floor of the station, there is a Rokumon Lounge where the sightseeing train’s passengers can relax while waiting until the train’s departure.
The classic Western-style lounge and a drink in your hand will set your mood right before you board Rokumon. And don’t forget to check out the Happōnirami Daihōō-zu (八方睨み大鳳凰図) painting on the wall. It is a replica of the one painted by the famous ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) on the Ganshoin Temple‘s ceiling in Obuse Town in Nagano.
Remember we mentioned Rokumon’s design is inspired by the Sanada clan? The samurai element doesn’t stop at the train’s design. The announcement of departure is by blowing a conch by the train attendant. It is like a little war departure ceremony is held before you board the train!
☛ Remember to use the drink voucher to exchange a cup of coffee or juice at the station’s cafe given to you at Shinano Railway’s reception.
☛ If you want to see the conch-blowing performance, head down to the platform early.
Rokumon consists of 3 carriages, each having a different layout. Although the flooring, tables, and chairs in Rokumon are all made from Nagano Prefecture‘s wood, the type of wood used differs in each carriage.
The carriage that suits those traveling with their families and friends should be carriage 1. In addition to sofa seats, the carriage also has boxed seats, which are perfect for a delightful group chat or family time. There is even a wooden bowl pool to keep the young children entertained!
Carriage 2 has a lounge-like interior with counter-seats and sofas in front of the wide windows. In other words, this is Rokumon’s best train carriage for scenery.
If you value privacy, carriage 3, which is divided into several 2-person private spaces, is perfect for you. Once the Japanese paper sliding doors are closed, you will have complete privacy. As the aisles and toilets are wide enough, wheelchair users can enjoy what Rokumon has to offer too!
Of course, Rokumon merchandise and local specialties along the train line are sold. So remember to check them out!
With the above said, Carriage 1 is for the Reserved Seat Plan, and Carriage 2 and 3 are for plans including meals.
The Main Attractions that You Can See from Rokumon’s Window
- Komorojō Castle Ruins (小諸城) will be on your left soon after the train departs Komuro Station (小諸駅).
- A mini tour is held by the train attendant during the time Rokumon stops at Komuro Station.
- Uedajō Castle (上田城) will be on your right soon after the train departs Ueda Station (上田駅).
- Because the Sanada clan was once the feudal lord of Uedajō Castle, it was where a part of the Japanese periodic drama, Sanada-maru (真田丸), was filmed.
To conclude, the scenery from the Rokumon’s window is mainly Nagano Prefecture‘s beautiful countryside landscape. While it may not be particularly exciting if you aren’t a railfan who likes to take trains, you will certainly be touched and welcomed by those who wave at the train!
You might even run into a couple of Shinano Railway’s station staff dressed in dark red armor at Ueda Station!
The Recommended Seats on the Sightseeing Train, Rokumon
Below are the best seats to admire the scenery outside the train window.
- For trains departing for Karuizawa
- 6 A and 12 A in Carriage 1
- 7B, 18B, and 110B in Carriage 2
- 2C, 16C, and 110C in Carriage 3
- For trains departing for Nagano
- 17A and 123 A in Carriage 1
- 7B, 18B, and 110B in Carriage 2
- 9C, 13C, 117C in Carriage 3
How to Reserve a Seat on the Sightseeing Train, Rokumon
You can reserve a seat on Rokumon online, at Shinano Railway’s ticket office, or by phone. Depending on what plan you want to reserve, the reservation starting date differs.
- For the Reserved Seat Plan (excluding meals), reservation is open for the following month on the 1st of each month at 10 am.
- Reservation closes the day before the train’s departure date.
- For all other plans, reservation is open on the 1st of each month for the following 2 months.
- Reservation closes 7 days before the train’s departure date.
If Rokumon isn’t fully booked, you can purchase the ticket on the day.
For more information and to reserve, refer to Rokumon’s official website HERE!
Discover Karuizawa, One of Japan’s Japan’s Top Highland Resort
Karuizawa, one of Japan’s leading highland resorts, is a great place to stay for a day or overnight trip from Tokyo. Besides the rich nature, the traditional township has several Western-style villas and amazingly designed churches. So if you have a day or two to spare, consider visiting Karuizawa.
For more information about the tourist spots in the town, refer to our Guide to Karuizawa article!
Visiting Togakushi, Where the Main Attractions in the Region Are Located
After you get off Rokumon at Nagano Station, how about allocating a few days here to explore the attractions that can be reached from the station? Togakushi, which receives around 150 thousand visitors annually, can be a great destination for a day trip.
For more information, refer to our article on Togakushi to discover the best restaurants for mouthwatering soba noodles, how to improve your ninja skills, and more (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.