Chuggington Rides the Rails in Okayama

Society Guide to Japan

The world of the popular animated locomotive Chuggington comes to life on the tramways of Okayama thanks to designs by Mitooka Eiji, who also worked on the Nanatsuboshi, Kyūshū’s luxury “cruise train.”

Okayama Electric Tramway, informally known as “Okaden” in Japanese, debuted its “Okaden Chuggington” tram on March 16, 2019. The tram carriages, which operate on the city’s passenger network, resemble trains in the popular British children’s animation Chuggington, which is broadcast in over 175 countries worldwide.

The kids’show is set in a fictional town called Chuggington, inhabited by locomotives including the lively Wilson, a red train, and strong, dependable Brewster, who is blue, along with a host of others. These two characters have been recreated as individual cars of a two-carriage tram.

The interior is decorated with an array of Chuggington characters, while the tram also features seating designed with the safety of small children in mind, and includes a floor space where children can sit and watch DVDs.

Many other novel ideas were incorporated to amuse children. Each window has a choice of shades in three designs, featuring various characters from Chuggington who seem to be peering out from the windows when viewed from outside, with dozens of possible combinations.

The two carriages of the sightseeing tram, produced at a total cost of ¥500 million, are the creation of Okayama-born designer Mitooka Eiji, known for his work on the luxurious Nanatsuboshi cruise train in Kyūshū. Mitooka hoped to produce “a physically and emotionally stimulating experience for children, to create special memories.”

It is also intended as a new tourism drawcard for the city. The carriages’ exteriors present familiar faces to the show’s fans, while the interiors—never depicted in the program—open up new vistas for their imagination. While children ride the tram, a tour guide tests their knowledge of Chuggington and entertains them with dancing.

Kojima Mitsunobu, president of Okayama Electric Tramway, hopes that the unique tram will be a fun attraction that boosts the city’s appeal.

The Chuggington tram operates two routes—from Okayama-Ekimae, just in front of Okayama Station, to Higashiyama, and the reverse, taking roughly one hour to travel the 7.2 kilometers. It can carry up to 16 adults and 20 children, and costs ¥3,400 (¥1,900 for kids) on weekdays, with a ¥100 surcharge on weekends and holidays.

Okaden Chuggington re-creates the children’s animation with a charming sightseeing tram that runs four or five times a day in downtown Okayama, and is sure to get the whole town chugging.

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on March 21, 2019. Translated and edited by Nippon.com.)

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