Adorably awesome Pokémon train is part of disaster relief project for tsunami-damaged region.

In Japan, taking the train often means being squeezed in with other commuters heading to or from the schools and offices clustered around the city center. So there’s a special appeal to rail travel that lets you ride in more amenity-rich carriages, such as ones outfitted with hotel-quality sleeping compartments, high-class artwork, or soothing ashiyu foot baths.

But what if your ideal rail journey isn’t so much one that’s luxurious and elegant, but awesome and adorable? Then you’ll want to book a seat on the Pokémon train, which is getting a redesign for the summer vacation season.

The Pokémon with You Train first went into service in the winter of 2012. While it doesn’t run every day, to date some 40,000 fans have ridden it, and that number is only going to grow come midsummer when its Pikachu-themed makeover is finished. The new exterior is covered with dozens of images of the franchise mascot, and the front corners of the lead car even sport rosy cheeks.

The interior has been similarly pika-fied; a particularly nice touch is the variety of Poké Balls adorning the corner of the box seats, or “communication seats” as operator Japan Railways East Japan calls them, in keeping with its hope that the new train will help create fun travel memories for Pokémon-loving families. There’s also a special play area for kids who get antsy during the ride.

The Pokémon with You Train will be making trips up and down the Ofunato Line, which stretches from Iwate Prefecture’s Ichinoseki Station in the south to Kesennuma Station in Miyagi Prefecture in the north. This region suffered heavy damage in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and in fact the Pokémon with You project, of which the train is just one part, is a series of events and activities designed to bring smiles to the people of the area after all the hardships they’ve been through.

The maiden voyage for the Pokémon with You Train will be July 15, with the complete service schedule being:
● July 15-17, 22-23, 29-31
● August 1-20, 26-27
● September 2-3, 9-10, 16-18, 23-24, 30

On each day, the train will depart Ichinoseki at 11:01 a.m., arrive in Kesennuma at 12:51 p.m., then leave on its return trip at 3:08 p.m., arriving back in Ichinoseki at 4:49 p.m. in the afternoon. Tickets can be reserved up to one month in advance here through the JR East Japan website.

Source: Pokémon official website, JR East Japan (1, 2)
Top image: JR East Japan
Insert images: JR East Japan (1, 2)