Japan celebrated the 150th anniversary of its railways on Friday with a series of events, observances and merchandising tie-ins in Tokyo and elsewhere.
At Shimbashi, one of the terminuses of Japan’s first railway line opened in 1872, the E655 Nagomi train used by the emperor and other imperial family members set off from what is now an East Japan Railway Co. station to add color to the commemoration.
A commemorative train leaves JR Shimbashi Station in Tokyo on Oct. 14, 2022, marking the 150th anniversary of the launch of Japan’s first railway. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
Also at a ceremony in the station square, which has been home to a classic steam locomotive since the railways’ 100th anniversary, visitors shopped at a special market selling railway-themed merchandise, regional products and other items.
Among the special products and tickets made for the anniversary are solid-gold steam train models retailing at 15 million yen ($102,000) each. According to JR East, there has been good uptake for the expensive items, and the company will continue to take orders until the end of November.
A special commemorative pass allowing unrestricted train travel for three days from Oct. 23 on express and standard services on JR lines nationwide has also been well received.
Hisatsugu Miyata of East Japan Railway Co. lays flowers at the grave of British engineer Edmund Morel, who contributed to the development of Japan’s railways, in Yokohama on Oct. 14, 2022. (Kyodo)
Hisatsugu Miyata, a JR East executive, meanwhile laid flowers at the grave of Edmund Morel, a British engineer who contributed to establishing railways in Japan, at the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.
“Our forebears had the conviction to work toward improving society. We want to inherit that conviction,” Miyata said.
According to the transport ministry, further events are planned by other train operators in Japan.
Japan’s first railway opened in 1872 between Shimbashi and Yokohama neighboring Tokyo. A first-class ticket would cost about 15,000 yen ($102) today.
Another line followed between Osaka and Kobe in western Japan in 1874, and railways soon spread across the archipelago as a symbol of modernization.
File photo shows the former Shimbashi Railway Station built for Japan’s first railway line when it opened in 1872, in this undated image. (Kyodo)
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