Japan is famous for fast trains, but one new line crawls along at 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) per hour! Can the ultra-slow Snow Turtle save an endangered company?

▼ “The headmark attached to the Hokuhoku Line’s super-slow Snow Turtle”

■ Life in the slow lane
Until recently Japan’s Shinkansen has mainly run along the southeastern coast of the island of Honshu, connecting major urban areas such as Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. This left the relatively rural parts of northeastern Japan inaccessible by high-speed trains.

This was a niche that the small but profitable Hokuetsu Express was able to fill with their Hokuhoku Line. This single 60-kilometer (37-mile) stretch of track was the company’s only line but provided a much-needed link between the Kanto and Hokuriku areas of Japan. Hokuetsu also had the Snow Rabbit trains which ran at average speeds of 88.6 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour), which they claim is the fastest in Japan among regular fare trains.

However, in March of this year, the Hokuriku Shinkansen opened making the Hokuhoku line obsolete. With no chance of outpacing the Shinkansen and facing certain doom, Hokuetsu had to find a new way to stay in business.

■ Rabbit versus turtle
Instead of the high-speed junction they once were, Hokuetsu’s overarching plan was to focus on local transportation and tourism. According to Yahoo! News, during a meeting someone quipped “We already have a Snow Rabbit. Why don’t we make a Snow Turtle?” referring to the Aesop fable, The Tortoise and The Hare.

Surprisingly, the president loved the idea and enthusiastically shouted “Let’s do it!” And thus the Snow Turtle was born.

▼ ***Wait for it, waaaiiiiit for it***

■ Slow and steady wins the race
In its heyday, the Snow Rabbit could run the 59.9-kilometer Hokuhoku Line in a tight 57 minutes. Average trains would take a little over an hour. The two-car Snow Turtle, which kicked off on 7 November will complete the run in a brisk four hours and four minutes.

▼ “There’s a regular train overtaking the Snow Turtle. lol”

▼ “There’s a runner overtaking the Snow Turtle. lol”


At a calming speed of 14 kilometers per hour it will complete its journey slower than a skilled marathon runner but allow passengers to take in the beauty of the Niigata countryside. Hopefully for Hokuetsu Express, slow and steady will win the race.

Source: Naver Matome, Yahoo! News Japan (Japanese)
Featured image: Twitter/@t_megumi, Twitter/@583_KitaguniExp

Rabbit Express Image: Wikipedia/Rsa
Shinkansen Map: Wikipedia/Hisagi
Video: YouTube/Ta Koz