Folks, if you’re a bit of a transport fan like me, then you’ll find a few things in Yokohama to interest you. Whilst the wonders of Hakone allow you to take various modes of transport about the place, in Yokohama I discovered a museum of model trains and the Nissan showroom which made for a very interesting day out.
Of course, it helps if you are a ‘Tetsuko’ – a train enthusiast, because the Hara Museum in Yokohama, located not too far from the main train station in the Mitsui Building, is a dedicated museum to Nabutaro Hara – one of the world’s great model train collectors, builders and lovers. And, he is still kicking at 95 years old!
Most of the displays have come from his personal collection, and perhaps it’s not vitally interesting to the casual observer, but boy did he have a hell of a collection of model engines and rolling stock! Some of the collection on display dates back to before the Second World War. And what’s perhaps more curious than the entire museum, this guy who bought kits and made model trains, collected them and the like, became an expert in model trains actually became a celebrity because of his passion! His name is known throughout Japan, and Japan Post actually made stamps of his image! I think this is probably one of the instances where we can say ‘only in Japan!’
The displays are interesting, but if you have kids the thing that will wow them – and maybe some of you, is the model railway setup. It’s huge! It’s beautiful, and they have a train there with a little camera attached to the front which people can drive! They have a screen feeding the camera’s images, and you sit in a sort of box with the controls – like you were in a real train – in front of you. They asked me if I’d like a go. I was like ‘ehhhh you know… Who am I kidding? Hell yeah!’
And I drove the train around the circuit three times. I even got to wear a cap. The important things were – don’t go to fast around bends (image if I caused a derailment! How embarrassment!) and stopping at stations. There were only two on this route. I had to know when to apply the brakes and go to full stop! I pulled up a little short a couple of times, but thankfully didn’t overshoot the stations! Every time the guest driver pulled into the station well, there was a round of applause from the staff and watchers!
It’s a little pricey at 1000 yen – $10, but as you can see I enjoyed myself and kids are cheaper of course. It’s probably not on the tourist itinerary, but I’ve covered most of what is already! I then went next door to the Nissan Showroom.
I had passed through the Nissan showroom in Yokohama before. There is a special walkway that goes through this area from Minato Mirai to Yokohama station, and it goes through a couple of buildings including the Nissan show room, and I thought ‘I should get back there and have a look!’
What had interested me was the concept car they were trialling. They called it simply ‘New Mobility Concept’, based on a design from Renault. It’s a completely electric car which has to have its battery recharged every 80km, which is also its top speed. Already in use in Europe, here it’s just a bit of a show piece and not available to buy as yet.
The guy was really kind, I said I was writing a blog and he kindly took me for a very short spin in the back seat. It’s only got two seats and for the passenger there isn’t much room to move. As a vehicle it moves pretty smoothly and quietly and of course, it has zero emissions. I couldn’t help thinking that for Japan, especially Yokohama with its alleys and narrow streets, it’s the perfect kind of vehicle to get around in! Until we all get our own trains that is!
The showroom itself is pretty swanky looking, and of course it’s free to visit. There was another make of electric car there too. The guy I talked to spoke English, so if you’re interested and in Yokohama, why not pop in and see the thing for yourself?