Saturday, March 17, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Mihara JR Station 三原駅, Setouchi Marine View 瀬戸内マリンビュー

Travelled 18.04.2015 (Sat)

Setouchi Marine View making a brief stop at Kure JR Station.
Long overdue review but train still in operation. I was extremely fascinated by the various themed trains offered by JR West while researching for my itinerary. On the day of arrival in Japan, I was able to secure seats for two of them - Setouchi Marine View and SL Yamaguchi. Despite this being a long overdue post (almost three years later), I have checked that both themed trains are currently still in operation.

Setouchi Marine View (瀬戸内マリンビュー), is a sightseeing train which commutes between Hiroshima (広島駅) and Mihara (三原駅) via Kure line (呉線). This train only operates on weekends and public holidays, with only one return trip made per day.
  • Setouchi Marine View 1: Hiroshima > Mihara
  • Setouchi Marine View 2: Mihara > Hiroshima
For the latest Setouchi Marine View operating schedule (till Jun 2018): http://www.jr-odekake.net/navi/setouchi_cp/setouchi_train.pdf
  • Setouchi Marine View 1: Hiroshima (1002 hrs) > Mihara (1226 hrs)
  • Setouchi Marine View 2: Mihara (1426 hrs) > Hiroshima (1704 hrs)
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Highlights: 

Mihara is an "octopus" town.
As Kure line runs alongside Seto Inland Sea, train journey is particularly well known for its panoramic view of the stretch of waterway separating Honshu from Shikoku. Apart from the terminus stations - Hiroshima (広島駅) and Mihara (三原駅), Setouchi Marine View train also stops at Tadanoumi (忠海駅), Takehara (竹原駅) and Kure (呉駅), located along Kure line.
  • Mihara (三原駅): At and around the train station, many pictorial representations and statues of octopus can be spotted. Waters around Mihara city are excellent breeding grounds for octopus and octopus fishing has flourished here since Edo Period. Apart from being known as an "octopus' town, the current train station also sits on the remains of Mihara Castle. After exiting from the Shinkansen ticket gates, you will see signages to an exit where visitors can see the remains of the castle foundation (which has been converted into a public park) and its surrounding moat. 
  • Tadanoumi (忠海駅): Tadanoumi Port is about 7 minutes walk away from the train station. Ferry departs from this port to Okunoshima (大久野島), which is famously known as the "rabbit" island. This small island, where rabbits are the primary inhabitant, has been on the limelight for quite some time and was featured on numerous travel programs. Other than cuddling with the furry adorable animals, visitors can also learn more about the role played by Okunoshima during WWII in the Poison Gas Museum (大久野島毒ガス資料館). Ferry schedule: http://sanyo-shosen.jp/omishima/index.html
  • Takehara (竹原駅): About 15 minutes walk away from the train station is Takehara Preservation District of Important Historical Buildings (竹原町並み保存地区). Once flourished as a salt industry in the Edo Period, old buildings from the era have been retained as cultural property for future generation to appreciate. 
Imaging yourself cruising on the sea - the purpose of these portholes found in the train carriage.

Comfortable sofa seats. 
Cruise or train? Setouchi Marine View is made up of two train carriages. First carriage comprises of reserved seating while the second carriage is free-seating. For my trip, I sat on Setouchi Marine View 2 which departed from Mihara for Hiroshima. When the train pulled into the station, I was immediately attracted to its beautiful and luxurious looking exterior - blue and white outlook decorated with oars and life buoys on the front. Inside the train, the wood parquet flooring, sofa seats and cosy lighting created a strong resort ambience. What makes this train unique is that some of the windows are portholes, similar to those found on ships. As the train cruises along the perimeter of Seto Inland Sea, admiring the sea view through the portholes did make me feel like I was on a ship instead of train! I have to agree that the scenery of the Seto Inland Sea is particularly amazing on a good day; see how the sea glitters under the sun and a clear view of the nearby islands can be captured.

Not a full fledged themed train. Overall, I was slightly disappointed by the train ride. There were not much to explore on board or keep guests entertained during the entire 2.5 hour train journey. I was surprised that there were no sale of food, drinks and merchandise on board. Though I love the theme of the train, I felt more could have been done to enhance the train ride experience.

Decorative items.

View of Seto Inland Sea captured from the train.

Setouchi Marine View #2 departed from Mihara JR Station. 
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Commemorative stamp:

Mihara JR Station
Commemorative boarding ticket: 

Setouchi Marine View

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