JR Shikoku’s new “Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari” tourist train creates a relaxed atmosphere, featuring warm, subdued lighting and interiors made from Japanese cedars grown in Tokushima Prefecture. (Hiroshi Kimijima)

TAKAMATSU--A tourist train with a modern Japanese twist showed onlookers what it's got as it took a test ride through the magnificent Shikoku mountains on March 23.

Shikoku Railway Co.’s (JR Shikoku) three-car train, the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari (The 1,000-year story at the heart of Shikoku), ran a 54.2-kilometer route from Kotohira Station in Kagawa Prefecture to Oboke Station in Tokushima Prefecture on the Dosan Line.

The train, which creates a relaxed atmosphere with its warm, subdued lighting and interiors including walls and floors made from Japanese cedars grown in Tokushima Prefecture, will make its debut on JR Shikoku’s line here from April.

Passengers enjoyed gazing out at breathtaking scenery while the train slowed and stopped at a station for a 10-minute break during the approximate two-hour journey. The same journey would take about 40 minutes by limited express train.

“The train was named after its route that cuts through the heart of Shikoku, an area filled with a millennium of history and culture,” said Shinji Hani, president of JR Shikoku, in the speech he gave on board at the event.

“This area covers the birthplace of the renowned eighth-century monk Kobo Daishi and legendary land of the fleeing defeated Heike warriors,” Hani added.

Kobo Daishi (774-835), also known as Kukai, is the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism in Japan.

Tetsuya Matsuoka, who designed the train carriages, explained how each car features designs inspired by the four seasons.

“Passengers can enjoy the change of seasons throughout the year while walking through the train cars,” he said.

During the test ride, the driver changed his driving position when the train reached a so-called "switchback" in the tracks, also known as a zig-zag railway, which is used to help trains climb steep gradients.

Locals waved at the passengers from the opposite shore of the Yoshinogawa river when the train ran alongside it.