What’s so wrong with taking the local train to Chichibu?

It’s been 11 years since the release of the anime Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, a touching story about childhood friendships and loss that is one of our otaku reporter Seiji Nakazawa’s favorites. The anime is set in Chichibu, a small, picturesque mountain city in the prefecture of Saitama just outside of Tokyo, and for Seiji, Chichibu is like a second hometown. It’s so close to his heart that he forgot it wasn’t physically close to him too.

▼ An Anohana poster

But a recent trip to Chichibu to meet his editor Go Hatori reminded him just how far away it is. By local train, it can take about two hours from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station, since Seibu Chichibu Station is the last station on the Seibu Chichibu Line and the most western and most northern station of any Seibu Railway line. The line travels through villages and over hills via mountain passes, so going there feels like going on vacation.

The local train ticket cost 786 yen (US$5.85), and since it’s a long ride, Seiji boarded the train for Seibu Chichibu early in the morning in order to make his meeting with Go. The inside was nearly empty. The only other passengers in the car were a middle-aged couple, whose drunken bickering could be heard distantly over the lulling catank catank of the cars as they rolled over the railroad. The experience was actually quite soothing. The silence beyond silence in the car made Seiji wonder if that was what it meant to experience wabisabi.

So pleasant was his experience that, when Seiji arrived at Seibu Chichibu and met up with Go, he began to tell Go all about it. Suddenly, Go flipped out.

Go: “You dozed off the local train on the way here? You’re not supposed to ride the local train! Are you kidding me, man? Seriously? Come on.”

Seiji: “Wait…are you mad?”

Go: “I’m not mad. But as long as I’m not mad you won’t understand, probably. That’s where the challenge for me lies. Yeah. Well…should I be mad? Yeah.”

Seiji was completely baffled by his normally even-tempered editor’s angry mutters. He could not understand what was so wrong with taking the local train. It’s not like he’d arrived late. He’d actually gotten to Seibu Chichibu Station before Go. So why was Go all of a sudden so mad that he stormed back up to the train platform without even taking the time to leave the station and take some pictures? Knowing that our bosses only ever get mad for our sakes, Seiji decided to ask.

Seiji: “Why are you mad?”

Go: “How could you come to Seibu Chichibu without riding the Tokyu Laview?!”

Seiji: “Sorry…The what?”

Go: “Come on, man! How did you travel from Ikebukuro to Chichibu without knowing about the Tokyu Laview? The seats are soft and comfortable and they come with pillows. Once it leaves Ikebukuro, it only stops at four stations so it doesn’t even feel that far to Chichibu! Plus, even though it’s basically like a bullet train to Chichibu, it only costs 710 yen more than the local train! You can’t beat that cost performance. What were you thinking?!”

Seiji: “That does sound like a good deal…”

Go: “The craziest thing about the Laview is the windows. They’re huge! They basically go all the way down to your feet, so you can see everything. Your whole upper body is open to the window, so you feel like you’re flying over the gorges. The whole point of meeting here was so we could ride this train!”

▼ Go, pointing proudly at the Laview’s windows

Seiji: “So I woke up at 6 a.m. for this?”

Go: “If you’d ridden the Tokyu Laview, you probably could have slept in more. What kind of idiot comes to Chichibu without riding the Laview?!”

It was now clear to Seiji that Go was so seduced by the charms of the Tokyu Laview that he was outraged that someone would even consider coming to Chichibu without riding it. So without even leaving the station…

Go dragged Seiji onto the next Laview

And they rode the luxury liner home together.

“Ah…so comfortable.”

So the next time you decide to visit Chichibu, whether to experience their stunning icicle world in winter or the colorful display of pink moss fields in the spring (like at the Mt. Fuji shibazakura fields), make sure you ride the luxury liner Laview, lest Go hears about it and gives you an earful.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]