SL Ginga SL銀河
A steam locomotive that takes you to space
All abroad the Galactic Express! Next stop, the imagination of Kenji Miyazawa. Take a ride on the SL Ginga, and explore the fantastic world that Kenji Miyazawa dreamed of and wrote about.
- The lit-up Megane Bridge by night
- Planetarium show while you travel through the countryside
How to Get There
Take the Tohoku Shinkansen to JR Shin-Hanamaki Station and change trains there.
You can catch the SL Ginga from Shin-Hanamaki Station.
The SL Ginga started service on April 12, 2014
It mainly operates on the Kamaishi Line between Hanamaki and Kamaishi
The trip from Hanamaki to Kamaishi takes about four and a half hours
The concept of the SL Ginga had been around for years. However, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Iwate , the project was seen as a way to revitalize Iwate and the surrounding area. At that time, there was a steam locomotive in a park in Morioka . It was decided that the locomotive would be refitted as the SL Ginga.
The design and concept for the SL Ginga was derived from the Kenji Miyazawa novel, "Night on the Galactic Railroad." The locomotive and cars have been designed to reflect the story. If you see the cars from the outside, you will notice that they are painted blue. There are also stars, flowers, and other galactic images that have been added to the exterior.
You can learn more about Kenji Miyazawa's other works at the Kenji Miyazawa Memorial Museum and the Kenji Miyazawa Dowa Mura. Buses to both locations run from JR Shin-Hanamaki Station.
Along the route
Certain points along the Kamaishi Line like the Megane Bridge in Tono are lit up at night, so when the train passes over the bridge the exterior of the train looks like the Milky Way Galaxy. If you don't feel like taking a four or five-hour train ride, the Megane Bridge is a great place to get a picture of the train as it appears to float in space.
Another great spot to get a shot of the exterior of the train is at Tono Station. The train stops for over an hour in Tono to dispose of engine ash and add water to the steam engine. For a small fee you can purchase a platform ticket, which allows you access to the train platform where you can take as many pictures as you like.
The SL Ginga's interiors will take you back in time to the early twentieth century and the time of Kenji Miyazawa.
The early-20th-century interiors have stained glass windows and gaslight style lighting. All the features are made to enhance the old-time feel for the rider.
Stars on a train
One of the more unique features of the SL Ginga is the digital planetarium. From your seat, you can enjoy the planetarium views as the train rolls through the countryside. It is a special show designed specifically for the SL Ginga.
Each carriage has a gallery dedicated to Kenji Miyazawa. The galleries are stocked with things connected with the Tohoku region , and some of Kenji's prized possessions. During the trip you can wander through the galleries, and learn about Tohoku or Kenji Miyazawa. There is a library with books that you can borrow while on the train.
Usually, the SL Ginga runs on weekends and holidays between April and November. If you want to go, book early. Tickets go on sale one month before and frequently sell out. Currently, you can't purchase tickets outside of Japan.
In the area
If you are heading to Kamaishi on the SL Ginga you should explore the Sanriku Fukko National Park . There is a lot to see in the park, from unique rock formations to cities flattened by the 2011 tsunami. Alternatively, you can head back to Hanamaki and hop in a hot spring.