As you may have noticed, Japan has something of an obsession with trains and railway. Ever since Commander Perry gave a gift of a small locomotive car to the ruling Shogunate in 1854, the Japanese have been captivated by all things railway.
In Nagoya this fascination is expected to reach fever pitch over the coming years as the arrival of the magnetically levitated bullet train (maglev), that will be able to hit maximum speeds of 505 km, is awaited with baited breath.
Unfortunately that is a full 10 years away, but that doesn’t mean there is no need to get excited. It just means that until then we will have to get our train fix at the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park.
Opened in 2011, the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is a museum exhibiting the history – and future – of Japan Central Railways. Focusing mainly on the Tokaido Shinkansen (Bullet Train), the museum aims at entertaining and educating visitors in the advances in high speed rail in Japan down the ages.
The exhibition includes collection of 39 retired train cars from various periods of Japan’s rail travel history, from steam locomotives to the latest designs of the high-speed maglev, some of which are famed for having broken world speed records. Many of these can be entered or viewed from below, all with explanations of the different parts of the trains, their operation and maintenance.
The museum houses one of Japan’s largest train dioramas, which should delight all, but particularly younger children, with miniature trains running through detailed recreations of Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo.
Other fun items for children includes the simulators*, with a life-size mock-up of the driver’s cabin for the Series N700 of the Tokaido Shinkansen and a Conventional Train Driving Simulator where users can open and close the doors and give train announcements between stations.
There are also various learning zones such as the Railway System Learning Zone that explains the history and evolution of the high-speed railway, a Railway History room that focuses on all advancements in train travel along the Tokaido line, and a Relics Room that hosts historical documents and objects, such as old tools and equipment from the bygone era of travel. Another great attraction for children is the Learning and Experiencing Room where kids can use models to seeing how the science that they have learned in school is applied to the world of the railway.
While a lot of the exhibition is in Japanese, there is an excellent English audio guide (as well as in Chinese, Korean, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese) available for 500 yen, providing detailed explanations of all of the museum exhibits.
* Simulators are charged an additional fee of between 100 and 500 JPY. Reservations must be made in advance at the museum information desk and are determined by a lottery system which takes place four times per day. Entries must be submitted at least 45 minutes in advance.
By Mark Guthrie