Tsugaru Railway in Aomori Prefecture is publishing “Virtual Ride” on its website with videos of the station, the inside of the train, and the scenery of the running train, that makes you feel like you are on the train.
Currently, as the season 2, they are presenting a series where you can enjoy the autumn scenery. New videos are uploaded irregularly with dividing for each station of the Tsugaru Railway Line between Tsugaru-Goshogawara Station and Tsugaru-Nakasato Station.
In April 2020, when the number of tourists dropped sharply due to the spread of COVID-19, which was a difficult situation for local railways, the first season of “Virtual Ride” was delivered for the first time. The bank account for “fare” was posted in the page where videos of scenery with beautiful cherry blossoms and fresh greenery in Tsugaru area are lined up, and they reported that they receipt the transfer of 215 payments, over 2.55 million yen the amount, as of October 6, 2020.
A questionnaire conducted by a student of the Faculty of Tourism of Tokai University to the person who made the payment said as below (Excerpt from the company’s website).
“In a harsh business environment, the corona turmoil has caught up and even the survival is in jeopardy, and I thought it would be useful as much as possible.”
“I was moved by the honesty of appealing for fare payment.”
Tsugaru Railway says that the “fare” is used as a donation for various expenses such as vehicle repair costs.
You can also pay the “fare” in the “Virtual Ride” season 2, and a request is posted in the name of President Chojiro Sawada, “If you feel like riding, please pay the fare.” The number of tourists has increased due to the “Go To Travel” campaign by the government, and the number of passengers on the Tsugaru Railway has recovered to about 70% of the previous year. However, the situation is not reassuring for the survival of the railway company, and it seems that they need more support by the method including the “Rail Owner Supporting System” that they have been recruiting for a long time.