Photo/IllutrationThe Satoyama Torocco sightseeing train runs through fields of canola flowers in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. (Michinori Ishidaira)

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ICHIHARA, Chiba Prefecture--Charming train stations that blend in with idyllic countryside scenery and which have helped the railroad become an integral part of local communities have won Kominato Railway Co. a 2017 Good Design Award.

The Ichihara-based company, which operates a local line passing through the city and other areas, won praise from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion in October for its design concept for the stations.

Kominato Railway’s two-tone cream-and-red diesel train service runs 39.1 kilometers between Goi Station in Ichikawa and Kazusa-Nakano Station in Otaki. Its old-fashioned station buildings along the tracks are well-preserved, with 22 structures associated with the railway company becoming government-registered tangible cultural properties in May this year. The company also marked its 100th anniversary this year.

“We want to continue to make new efforts to revitalize the countryside communities to keep operating here,” said Yuji Kurokawa, head of Kominato Railway’s railroad department.

Kominato Railway also operates the Satoyama Torocco sightseeing train service traveling through the picturesque countryside at a speed of 30 kph, which has become a popular tourist attraction since its introduction in fall 2015.

Meanwhile, the company has been moving forward with its “reverse development” project to plant trees in an open space in front of Yoro Keikoku Station, which serves as a gateway to the most popular sightseeing area along the tracks, and exert other efforts to bring nature back to the area surrounding the station.

For the past 10 years or so, local residents living along the tracks have also been working with Kominato Railway to maintain the area, trimming bushes, sowing rapeseeds and taking part in other activities to maintain nature and the landscapes of the countryside.

Company officials said they are cooperating with volunteers to promote the benefits of their countryside communities.

Such efforts won praise from the Good Design Award jury. Members said that the company has been working to simplify the stations and the railroad itself for the purpose of reverse development in an attempt to unite with local communities. They added that the design concept, in which local residents are taking initiatives to improve the quality of the railway landscapes integrated with their lives, is excellent.