The long goodbye has been a long time coming for Fukushima’s Akaiwa Station.

If you’re waiting for a train in Tokyo, you probably don’t have very long to wait. With so many people needing to get across and around the city at all times of the day, a few minutes of patience is really all you need until the next train pulls up and stops at the platform to let passengers on and off.

But it’s a very different story at Akaiwa Station in Fukushima Prefecture, where the last time a train made a stop was four years ago.

Akaiwa sits high in the mountains in the north part of Fukushima City, not far from the borderline with Yamagata Prefecture. Built in 1910, its secluded location and rugged surrounding scenery have earned it the nickname “The Unexplored Station,” and it’s become an aspirational destination for rail fans.

However, in the century since its opening, the local demand for rail travel has dwindled down to next to nothing. While Akaiwa used to be an intermediary point for travelers making their way through the eastern half of Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region, faster trains mean less reason to stop in the area, and a shrinking local resident population has further cut down on passenger numbers. Currently, there are only three homes within 30 minutes of the station.

So while the line that Akaiwa is on, the JR Ou Main Line, still has trains running on it, the last one to stop there did so back in March of 2017. In addition, trains stopped making winter stops at Akaiwa all the way back in December of 2012, with Japan Railways citing difficulties in removing snow from the passenger-use section of the facilities outweighing the benefits to the few people who used the station during that time of year.

▼ A 2015 photo of Akaiwa Station’s timetable shows a grand total of two trains per day, a northbound departing at 6:43 a.m., and a southbound at 7:40 p.m.

Now, rail operator JR East has made the decision to officially shut down Akaiwa, and will be removing its listing as an Ou Main Line station on March 12 as part of its annual timetable update.

Considering the decision is largely based on a lack of passenger demand, odds are Akaiwa’s closure won’t be such a major problem for the local community, but it’s a sad development for people with a general interest in architectural vestiges of the past. JR is cautioning would-be visitors against entering the premises, due to a lack of winter maintenance, but odds are rail fans will be motivated to swing by the area for one last look from afar, though ironically they’ll need a car to get there.

Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun, Fukushima Minyu Shimbun, JR East
Top image: Wikipedia/Mchew
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