By HIDEYUKI OYA/ Staff Writer
September 7, 2020 at 07:00 JST
Special bento box lunches and exclusive items that will be sold at each station where the West Express Ginga stops are shown at JR West's Yonago Branch in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, on July 22. (Hideyuki Oya)
YONAGO, Tottori Prefecture--Initially scheduled to debut in May, the new long-distance sightseeing train West Express Ginga will finally commence operations in the Sanin region on Sept. 11.
The West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) train was delayed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
To reduce the risks of exposing passengers to the virus, air purifiers and ventilation devices are installed on the train, while partitions are set up in a free space in the No. 4 car and elsewhere, according to the railway operator.
"We have introduced infection prevention measures to ensure the safety and security for passengers. We will also make sure that prevention measures are thoroughly followed during special events to be held at each station," said Hiroshi Makihara, head of JR West's Yonago Branch.
The West Express Ginga will now run until Nov. 28, offering special treats at each station it stops in Tottori and Shimane prefectures. It will operate as an overnight train to make about two round trips a week, linking Kyoto and Osaka with Izumoshi Station in Shimane Prefecture.
Passengers will be given an original "tenugui" hand towel at Yonago Station in Tottori Prefecture and Yasugi, Matsue and Izumoshi stations, all in Shimane Prefecture.
When they present the "Ginga Passport" sightseeing pass, they can receive discounts for bike rentals in the Kaike onsen hot spring resort in Yonago and at Yasugi Station, in addition to a one-day ticket for the Lakeline Bus service in Matsue, the capital of Shimane Prefecture.
Many other treats are also offered in collaboration with local communities.
Tomato juice produced in Nichinan will be sold at Shoyama Station in Tottori Prefecture, while a branch shrine of Kamochijinja shrine in Hino will be set up at Neu Station to offer lucky charms.
Available at Yonago Station is a special bento lunch box with food items prepared with locally grown Hoshizoramai brand rice, seafood and other specialties, as well as a guided tour to the Yonago Castle ruins.
A special "ekiben" boxed meal and a “yokan” (sweet jellied bean paste) will also be available at Matsue Station.
On weekdays, passengers will be greeted and given a send-off by Matsue Wakamushatai, whose members are dressed as feudal warriors to promote local tourism.
On board, passengers can wear virtual reality goggles to enjoy a view of the star-filled dark skies over Tottori Prefecture.
Tickets for the West Express Ginga are handled exclusively by Nippon Travel Agency Co. for the time being.
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