Melon bread or train tickets, which can we buy here?

Japan is home to many quirky train stations, like ones that have stationmaster cats, or ones that have no entrances or exits.

But recently we heard about Sekiguchi Station, which has a reputation for looking exactly like a Lawson convenience store. Was this a strange coincidence? A case of mistaken identity? Or something deeper?

Since we happened to live nearby the station, we decided to pop on over to Sekiguchi Station to investigate it ourselves. Seki, known for its handcrafted swords and handcrafted sword ice cream, is in the countryside of Gifu Prefecture, which is already pretty rural. Getting to the station requires a bunch of transfers to progressively smaller stations and train lines, until…

▼ …you arrive at the station shelter in all of its glory.

▼ Seki Station is so small that it doesn’t have a station attendant, or even a ticket gate.
You take a ticket when you get on the train, and pay when you leave it.

▼ Here’s the schedule, with the train only coming through 21 times per day in each direction.
Don’t miss your train, because we’re not in Shibuya Station anymore!

▼ A few steps down is another, smaller shelter.
And then, across the metal fence is…

▼ A Lawson! No wait, it’s the station. No wait, it’s a Lawson?

▼ It says “Sekiguchi Station” in the upper-right there.
What’s going on?!

Apparently the place where the Lawson is now used to be Sekiguchi Station. It had one station attendant who worked there, and there was a cafe inside the station building too

When the owner of the cafe retired, Lawson swooped in to rebrand and rebuild it in 2013, keeping up the “Sekiguchi Station” sign as an homage.

▼ The old Sekiguchi Station and cafe, from 2009.


Lawson taking over the location was a win-win for both sides. Not only did the rail line got a free facelift for the station, but also having a brightly-lit 24-hour convenience store let them turn it into an unmanned station without worrying about crime prevention or passenger safety.

Meanwhile, Lawson hoped to attract more customers with the unique setup, getting people to come visit who wouldn’t even normally ride the train.

So far it seems to be working, because it brought us in!

▼ There are some parking spots that specify they’re for Lawson customers only,
to prevent commuters from parking there all day.

▼ With all the bikes parked behind the Lawson, it’s a decently popular station too, getting
several hundred passengers per day, so it’s not like it’s staying open for just one person.

▼ There’s a cute little train mural painted on the side of the Lawson too.

The signs and imagery are about all that connects the Lawson to the actual station though. The Lawson doesn’t sell train tickets or anything inside the convenience store, and you don’t have to pass through it to get onto the train.

It also seems as though the history of the station isn’t too well known. When we asked the teenage girl working at the register about why the Lawson was like this, she just smiled and said she had no idea. 

▼ Although they do sell Seki milk and Seki coffee inside (middle shelf),
so you can pick up some local produce if you visit!

▼ …and there’s also sour cream and onion Pringle yakisoba.
Which is of course something we’ve tried before ourselves.

After walking around a bit, it was time to head home from Sekiguchi Station, and we were lucky that the next train was just about ready to pull in… because we definitely didn’t want to wait an hour for the next one!

▼ It’s a cute little one-car red train,
with just enough room for a few passengers and some memories.

▼ Farewell, Sekiguchi Station. Until we crave your milk and Pringles yakisoba again!

The mystery of the Lawson-station may be solved, but there are still plenty more strange train stations out there to investigate. Like the station that hangs up hundreds of persimmons from their ceiling to dry. Or the station with a turtle head sticking out of its roof.

Images © SoraNews24
Related: Wikipedia/関口駅

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