During my recent trip to Japan, I was surprised to find “Pokemon Train to Kesennuma” on the HyperDia travel app when I was returning to Sendai after my sightseeing trip at Geibike Gorge. So, I decided to reserve a seat on this train and boy, it was my first and unforgettable themed-train ride experience and a major highlight of my Tohoku winter vacation!
Screenshot from HyperDia.
About the Pokemon Themed Train
In 2011, Tohoku region was greatly devastated by the great earthquake and tsunami. To bring joy and cheer to children who travel by train in the area, the JR East Railway Company launched the POKEMON with YOU Train in the winter of 2012, and at the same time encouraging tourism and railway travel. The train later had a makeover and was relaunched again in 2017 with the new concept of parents and children having fun together with Pikachu.
A poster about the train.
However, the POKEMON with YOU Train doesn’t run daily. When it does, the train will run two trips according to the following schedule.
Arrives at JR Ichinoseki (11:01 AM), terminates at JR Kesennuma (12:51 PM)
JR Ichinoseki (11:01 AM) > JR Rikuchumasukawa (11:41 AM) > JR Geibikei (11:46 AM) > JR Surisawa (12:04 PM) > JR Semmaya (12:23 PM) > JR Orikabe (12:37 PM) > JR Kesennuma (12:51 PM).
Arrives at JR Kesennuma (2:37 PM), terminates at JR Ichinoseki (4:34 PM)
JR Kesennuma (2:37 PM) > JR Orikabe (2:56 PM) > JR Semmaya (3:20 PM) > JR Surisawa (3:45 PM) – JR Geibikei (3:57 PM) > JR Rikuchumasukawa (4:03 PM) > JR Ichinoseki (4:34 PM).
As such, do ensure you check the schedule with JR station or through the HyperDia app beforehand. On top of that, the cost of this ride is fully covered by JR passes and train seats must be reserved prior to boarding.
For this particular occasion, I boarded at the JR Geibikei Station.
When I was at the station, it was unmanned so I was a little nervous. I thought I might have missed the train, and wondered if I should board the next train if it is a different train than expected.
I was relieved that the train arrived next was the bright yellow Pokemon train with Pikachu images plastered all over. I was totally excited at this sight!
When the door opened, there were two female train conductors giving a warm welcome. It felt like boarding a plane!
The interior decoration of the train is just as amazing and everything screams Pikachu. It is fully decorated in Pikachu’s signature colours of blue, yellow and red. I think the Pokemon theme is very impressive and good, as it felt as if Pikachu was with me at every corner of the train.
I was led to my seat in the cabin and it is relatively small. The seats are grouped in fours and facing each other. If it is a full house, there will be two passengers facing you. This might be a little awkward and cramped. I was glad my train was not full that day.
Once seated, the train staff will present to you a set of welcome gift (as if you’re attending a Pikachu party). The gift consists of a POKEMON With YOU themed clear file, a badge, stickers, a name card and stamp card.
And of course, I couldn’t sit still and had to explore the train!
There are only 2 cabins on this train and the second cabin is an indoor train playground. There were many happy and excited kids enjoying themselves in this cabin.
Before stepping into this playground, you have to remove your shoes.
A ball throwing station.
A Pikachu train controller.
There’s even a toilet on the train! But only the toilet door is Pikachu-themed, the toilet facilities are as usual.
The 37 minutes of joyful train ride stops at JR Ichinoseki, with kids beaming as they alighted from the train.
In conclusion, this was my experience of boarding the Pokemon themed train.
If you are to travelling in the Tohoku region, do find the opportunity to plan a ride on the POKEMON with YOU Train for sightseeing at Geibikei Gorge and a fun-filled day! I hope you will have an exciting journey just as I did!