This stop is undoubtedly the first of many in our new countrywide, railway-hopping quest to stamp ’em all.

Goshuin, or seal stamps, can be purchased at various shrines and temples in Japan and stored in a small seal collection book (goshuincho) as a record of your visit. Usually featuring beautiful calligraphy and other artistic elements, the seals have become popular and inexpensive souvenirs over the past several years for anyone traveling to new places around the country.

It seems that other industries have taken inspiration from this practice as well because in summer 2020 a new railway-themed version of the seal collection book, called a tetsuincho, was released with cooperation from 40 local railway companies and stations offering individual seals. As rail enthusiasts who also love to “catch ’em all,” this premise sounded perfectly up our alley–so we set out to purchase our rail seal collection book and capture our first seal.

This first station we visited was Kanada Station in Fukuoka Prefecture, which is served by two rail lines that are both operated by the local Heisei Chikuho Railway (or Heichiku for short). Our timing wasn’t the greatest, however, since we arrived after 8 p.m. and the station attendant window was closed…but then we discovered something special in the waiting area.

It was a pair of rail seal-dispensing machines! We never would have guessed that our very first rail seal would come from a machine–but this method came with its own fun, too.

You could purchase a regular seal for 300 yen (US$2.65) or a collaboration seal for 500 yen. We decided to go all out and purchase the more colorful, expensive version on the right.

We inserted five 100-yen coins into the slot…

…and something landed at the bottom with a thud.

It was a little box containing our seal! However, we were still missing the critical rail seal collection book and didn’t have anywhere to affix our seal on to. Since a sign said that the station office was staffed on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., it looked like another visit the following day would be necessary.

That’s why we found ourselves back at Kanada Station the next day in a little more sunlight.

Without wasting any time, we bought the very official-looking rail seal book for 2,200 yen. It definitely felt good supporting local transportation with the purchase as well.

When the rail seal books were first sold last year, they immediately sold out. By November 2021, there were supposedly already more than a few adventurers who had already collected all 40 stamps. With a completed book, you can apply for a “railway master card,” which definitely evokes a Pokémon trainer-like sense of excitement in us.

Each of the individual seals has its own unique flavor. This first Heichiku seal that we received had a “400 series Nanohana (rapeseed flowers) train car” as its main motif along with Heichiku mascot Chikumaru.

In case you’re wondering why the more expensive seal option that we chose is called the collaboration version, it’s a limited-time offering by 15 of the participating rail companies. In particular, each collaboration version features a colorful depiction of a local train car is printed near the top of the seal.

If you collect all of the collaboration versions, the cars will appear to be linked at the top of your collection book’s consecutive pages. The individual railway mascots and the stations’ names are also prominently noted, adding a further local touch.

By the way, we also received a “rail card” at the time of our rail seal purchase. You can receive one of these at all of the participating train stations and they’re an added incentive to collect ’em all (yep, the Pokémon theme is definitely strong here).

On a final note, we couldn’t leave Kanada Station without seeing Heichiku’s famous “Super Happy” train. The design pf this train was completed by professional artist Kensuke Miyazaki along with the children of Fukuchi City, Fukuoka Prefecture (indeed, the “fuku” in both “Fukuchi” and “Fukuoka” means “lucky”). It’s said that anyone who sees this train will become happy.

With that last item of business crossed off and our happiness amplified, we’ll now turn our attention back to collecting the rail seals. Where will we end up next? Maybe we’ll combine getting our second rail seal with a trip to check out some of the newest Pokéfuta to check off two collection boxes at the same time.

Reference: Heisei Chikuho Railway
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