Tucked in Yanagase City’s shopping street in Gifu Prefecture is a unique restaurant for all train-lovers out there. Haruka, named after the owner’s favorite West Japan Railway Co. express train, is a railroad-themed café owned by Masaki Shingu, a former route and sightseeing bus driver in Nagoya.
40 year old Shingu thought of the business when the bus company he was working for moved him to a desk job in 2012. Used to driving and seeing sights, Shingu remembers, “It was a job I had never done before, and it was really difficult for me.” His wife, Akiko saw the toll his new position was taking on him and encouraged him to venture elsewhere. “He was wearing out day by day, so I told him, ‘It’s enough, you should quit.’ I wanted him to have a job that he liked,” she said. The couple then moved to Kitagata in Gifu, which is Akiko’s hometown, to prepare for the café’s opening a year later.
Situated at the center of the café is a large diorama where N scale model trains run across while customers enjoy their food. Spending around 1 million yen (around US$9,800) to build a mini-railroad, Shingu’s N scale model trains are around 1:148 to 1:160 in scale, and move around rail tracks that are 9 millimeters apart. Featuring 9 routes, the diorama is 4.4 meters by 2.6 meters in size. To complete the railway experience, customers can rent their favorite model trains and run them around the diorama for 50 to 150 yen ($0.50 – $1.50) per 10 minutes, depending on the route chosen. Trains can be selected from 30 types, which include a JR Shinkansen and Nagoya Railroad Co. car for 50 to 500 yen per run. Children can also enjoy their time at Haruka as the owner set up a section where kids can play with toys and games while their parents eat and converse. A collection of photos of the Meitetsu streetcar line is also on display at the restaurant. “I hope (customers) can reflect on the streetcar from the past,” said Shingu.
[via Asahi Shimbun]