“WEST EXPRESS GINGA” – New long-distance train starts running to the San-yo area

JR West’s new long-distance train “WEST EXPRESS Ginga” operates a daytime route connecting the Kansai and San-yo areas from December 2020 to March 2021.

Kanmon Straits and Kanmon Bridge seen from the Karato Market in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi ©Katsumi
Kanmon Straits and Kanmon Bridge seen from the Karato Market in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi ©Katsumi

The “WEST EXPRESS GINGA” is a nickname for a long-distance train by JR West, which aims to revitalize the West Japan area through tourism. Although due to the effects of COVID-19, the debut scheduled for May 2020 was postponed to September 11 (Friday), it had been operated as a night train on the San-in course (Kyoto Station – via Hakubi Line – Izumoshi Station) until November 28 (Saturday).

From December 12, 2020 (Saturday), daytime service began on the San-yo course. The westbound train departs from Osaka Station at 7:19, heads west on the San-yo Main Line, and arrives at Shimonoseki Station, the final stop, at 19:45. The eastbound train runs on the reverse route, departing from Shimonoseki Station at 10:38 and arriving at Osaka Station at 22:02. Until March 11, 2021 (Thursday), it will be operated twice a week (Tuesday & Saturday for westbound / Thursday & Sunday for eastbound) except for some periods.

“WEST EXPRESS GINGA” San-yo Course (1) “WEST EXPRESS GINGA” San-yo Course (2) “WEST EXPRESS GINGA” San-yo Course (3)

JR West cooperates with the areas along the route to provide various “Omotenashi (means hospitality)”. As “Omotenashi” at the stops, special products are sold, some crafts are exhibited, and traditional performing arts are shown at Fukuyama Station on the westbound train, or Yanai and Kurashiki Stations on the eastbound. At Fukuyama Station, a welcome in-car announcement will be heard made by populr radio DJ Katsuya Kobayashi born in Fukuyama City. Lunch boxes and sweets with a rich regional flavor are provided in the car, and local sake of Yamaguchi tasting and sales are also held.

“WEST EXPRESS GINGA” is now on sale only as tour products by Nippon Travel Agency (NTA). The sales for departures on January and February 2021 has already ended, but for March departures, advance lottery is accepted on the NTA site during the period from 11:00 on December 17, 2020 (Thursday) to 18:00 on January 13, 2021 (Wednesday) (not on a first-come-first-served basis).

In addition, JR West announced the future course of “WEST EXPRESS Ginga”. In the spring of 2021, it will be operated at night on the San-in course again. From summer to autumn, it will run for the first time in the direction of the Kisei Line (Kinokuni Line). They says that the train departing from Kyoto to Shingu will be operated as a night train, and the train departing from Shingu to Kyoto will be operated as a daytime train. The schedule may change depending on the future situation of COVID-19.

The vehicle of “WEST EXPRESS Ginga” is based on the 117 series train that was once active in “Special Rapid Service” in the Kansai area, and the exterior is wearing of “navie blue” that makes you imagine the sea and sky of West Japan. The interior is distinctive, with seats for different purposes such as private rooms, family cabins, and simple sleeper couchettes, as well as three free spaces with different tastes.

The design was done by Kawanishi Yasuyuki, a designer who worked on the sightseeing train “Echigo Tokimeki Resort SETSUGEKKA” of the Echigo TOKImeki Railway.