How to Ride the Moomin Train in Chiba

Isumi Railway is best known for its Moomin Train, fashioned after the beloved Finnish series of the same name. Running along the Bōsō Peninsula, these yellow train cars take its passengers through Chiba’s green fields and historic towns, and is especially popular in spring as cherry and rape blossoms (菜の花) frame the landscape.

In my last entry, I posted a video of what traveling on board the Moomin Train was like. Here, I get down to the details.

How to Get There

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Starting Station: Ōhara Station (大原駅).
*From Akihabara Station, take the JR Chuo-Soba Line (Local) bound for Chiba. Get off at Chiba Station and change to JR Sotobo Line for Awa-Kamogawa. Get off at Ōhara Station.
Free Pass: JPY 1,000
Validity: One day

Tickets can be bought from the vending machine or from the counter. Buying from the staff allows passengers to choose the design of their tickets. One version includes a stamp paper for collecting Moomin train stamps that you can find at stations or inside train cars.


Sample Itinerary

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Kaze o Soyogu Kuniyoshi (風をそよぐ国吉駅)

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Google Maps URL
Business Hours: Depends on train schedule

Kuniyoshi Station itself is a spot worth visiting. One side of the station is an open field with benches, tables and chairs, along with Moomin statues that may have seen better days but add to the fairy tale-like atmosphere nonetheless. With mountains in the background and grass, it’s the ideal place for a picnic, or just some quiet me time with a book. Around lunchtime, you will also catch people selling ekiben. (駅弁, station lunchbox)


Moomin Shop Valley Winds (ムーミンショップヴァレーウィンズ)

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Google Maps URL
Business Hours: Weekdays 10:00-16:00; Weekends 09:00-17:00

On the other side of Kuniyoshi Station is a shop that sells over 900 varieties of  Moomin goods as well as Isumi Railway collectibles.


Double Power Spot: Kuniyoshi Shrine & Kazusa Izumo Taisha

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When Japanese people say “power spot,”  it’s usually a place believed to have concentrated energy that makes one feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Usually power spots are in the form of shrines, temples, or gorgeous natural wonders removed from civilization. There are no actual guidelines of what constitutes a power spot, at times the term is used rather loosely. If anything, a power spot is simply a place that resonates with a person in a spiritual sense, regardless of faith or religious background.

Kuniyoshi Shrine (国吉神社)

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11-minute walk from Kuniyoshi Station
Google Maps URL

Said to be around 1,500 years old, Kuniyoshi Shrine is home to 28 gods worshipped since the Meiji Period. The shrine is also famous for the giant ginkgo tree that experts believe to be at least 150 years old.

Kazusa Izumo Taisha (上総出雲大社)

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10-minute walk from Kuniyoshi Station
Google Maps URL

Kazusa Izumo Taisha branched out from the well-known Izumo Taisha of Shimane Prefecture. Similar to the head shrine, the one in Chiba is also known for granting prayers related to love. The ema (wooden plaque) where people write down their wishes come in the shape of a heart. The manner of worship required in the shrine is also quite unusual, given that it asks guests to bow twice, clap four times, and bow once, instead of the usual two bows, two claps and one bow.


Poppo no Oka (ポッポの丘)

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30-minute walk from Kazusa Nakagawa Station
Google Maps URL
Business Hours: 10:00-15:00; Closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

A 30-minute walk from Kazusa Nakagawa is a park that houses retired train cars. Kids and train enthusiasts will find the place exciting as you can play pretend to your heart’s content. Some of the cars have also been transformed into photo exhibits as well as shops selling train collectibles.


TKG Cafe

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30-minute walk from Kazusa Nakagawa Station
Google Maps URL
Business Hours: 10:00-15:00; Closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

Inside Poppo no Oka is a small restaurant called TKG Cafe. TKG stands for tamago kakegohan, which is dish with raw egg on top of hot rice (usually mixed with a bit of soysauce). If raw egg isn’t your fancy, you can also order other dishes such as chicken curry and beef bowl.


Ōtaki Castle Museum

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18-minute walk from Ōtaki Station
Google Maps URL
Business Hours: 09:00-16:30; Closed on Mondays

Ōtaki Castle belonged to the Satomi Clan and dates back to the Sengoku Era in the 1500s. Today, the castle is a museum offering a glimpse into Japan’s past.


Oshokujidokoro Bansho (お食事処番所)

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Google Maps URL
Business Hours: 11:30-22:00; Closed on Wednesdays

A small restaurant right outside Ōtaki Station, Bansho is most popular for its signature dish: wild boar rice bowl. You can buy a set meal for JPY 1,200 as well as opt for extra meat for JPY 1,500. The restaurant also serves other dishes such as soba and udon.


Alternatives

If you have more time to spare, you can head to Kazusa Nakano, the last station of Isumi Railway, and ride a bus to Goriyaku Hot Spring. You can also switch trains at Kazusa Nakano and ride another local train, the Kominato Railway. The train stops at Yoro Keikoku Station, where you can ride a bus to Yoro Valley, a sightseeing spot best known for its fall foliage. A set ticket for both Kominato and Isumi Railway is available for JPY 1,700 at Kominato Line’s Goi Station.

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