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View From a Train Window

I don’t remember when I started to prefer local trains over express trains, but when I was in high school, I was already interested in traveling by train. I didn’t really get a chance to go, but I have planned several trips for a rainy day: a trip to Kamakura in Kanagawa for a day trip, a trip to Nagoya in Aichi, a trip to Kurashiki in Okayama. However, in today’s high-speed society, people prefer express trains because local trains take longer time than express trains to get to the place, or they might not be able to find a seat, so traveling by local train tends not to be so popular. I used to feel the same way, but even these shortcomings in our busy world have become things that I can enjoy, especially when I travel between Yamanashi and Gunma.

In fact, I think a journey by local train is popular in Japan. We have the Sekai no Shasou Kara (世界の車窓から, in English “See The World By Train”), a 5 minutes Japanese TV program broadcasting for more than 30 years. The program document views from the window of a train in different countries. Also, there is Seishun Juhachi Kippu (青春18きっぷ, "Ticket for youth"). It is a JR (Japan Railway Company) railway ticket only for a limited season, allowing five days of unlimited, nationwide travel on local and rapid JR trains. As the name signifies, the train journey is something deeply associated with adolescence and many people dream of. As the TV program and discount travel ticket shows, Japanese culture promotes local train journey. Maybe I have been unconsciously immersed into this culture that celebrate the journey by local trains.


In 2019, when I was still in freshman at the International College of Liberal Arts (iCLA) at Yamanashi Gakuin University, I often went back to Gunma, where I grew up, to see my family, because I had more free time, and the world was without COVID-19. Since I moved to Yamanashi, I have been fascinated with its beautiful scenery. Magnificent mountains surround the area and the blue sky stretches afar. I feel like I am protected in a dome made by mountains and the sky. It gives me some feeling that I cannot explain well. Nature’s greenery and the sky makes me calm, greatly helping in dealing with the stresses of life. The scenery allows me to believe that I could manage my problems.

A day on the way back to Yamanashi, I took JR local train, painted white with light blue and greenish blue lines, running along the Chuo Main line, from Takao in Tokyo to Kofu. I was looking outside as usual, just mindlessly watching a view that changed as the train moved. Because I have motion sickness, I couldn’t look at my cellphone or read a book. On the left side of the train, I could see mountains and rivers near, on the right side of the train, there were few houses with mountains on their back. As we moved far from Tokyo, there were less buildings and more greenery. Once we passed the tunnel right before the Katsunuma Budoukyou station, I held my breath. How beautiful it was. I was so excited with the cityscape and couldn’t take my eyes off it. Because the train’s elevation was quite high at that time, we could glance down the whole city like it was a miniature. The city was surrounded by mountains, and the sky covering them. When I was watching the city, I got this strange idea that in each place, there are people living who I have never met, and each of them have their own lives. Some people might be having a good day, facing a struggle, receiving a good score on a quiz, making a big decision, or maybe spending a usual day. I don’t know, and I’ll never know. I know that there is nothing strange about the fact there are people outside of our world, and yet, whenever I saw lights in a house, I feel like I’m catching a glimpse of a different world.


Among many stations, my favorite is Katsunuma Budoukyou station. Right after I got off the train, a wide blue sky spread in front of me. I felt I got a little bit closer to the sky. The station had its own atmosphere like from the old days, and when I went through the exit gate, stained glass was waiting for me.


Behind the stained glass, I could find a hill with some houses, and sunlight shined through the clouds. When I actually got out from the station, it’s an open space where I could feel like I was on top of the hill with a thick cover of trees and bushes. This is one of the reasons why it’s my favorite station. Since I was in high school, I liked gazing at the sky, because in my social life even as a high school student, everything had a meaning. Like social status, relationships, and grades. They ask us to be “something”. Sky and green, they are not bounded for social meaning, they are not there for me. In contrast to society where is full of meaning and constraints, nature doesn’t consist of any meaning, that is to say, it doesn’t have the pressures of expectations and demands. I don’t need to be “something”, I can just be the way I am, nothing matters.


Another day, it was the middle of the summer, again I was on the train way back from Gunma. This day, I was lucky and saw fireworks from a train. I didn’t expect that. Like this, a journey by train is all about a chance. You might find new things, see beautiful scenery, discover your favorite station, or anything you didn’t expect. Even for the briefest moment, I was thinking of people I’ve never met and most likely I will never meet. Also, I cannot see the exactly same view twice even I take the same train. Mountains have different attractions in different seasons, and the sky also has different expressions every day. Like all of the other local train journeys, I gazed at the sky, dream about the day I could take a local train to go back to my home, and thoughtlessly gazed from the train window for something that reminds me that life is all about a continual journey of unfolding moments.

Nana K.

Published on

  • June 1, 2022


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