A very unique place to eat. 

As the leaves begin to change colour in Japan, people around the country are setting out to explore the best fall foliage sightseeing areas, and over in Gunma Prefecture, the trees are already putting on a gorgeous display.

Our reporter Takamichi Furusawa was recently in the area on a sightseeing train admiring the fall colours when he came across an unusual train that few people know about.

This special train can be found at Godo Station in Midori City, and although people are able to board it, it never leaves the platform.

That’s because the train is actually a restaurant that goes by the name “Train Restaurant Seiryu“.

▼ The restaurant can be seen on the far platform, marked with the words “レストラン清流” (“Restaurant Seiryu”).

Regular trains still run through the station, so visitors usually get the train here and then walk across the overpass to the restaurant entrance on the other platform. When Takamichi visited at around noon, there were a number of other tourists eager to try the restaurant as well, with everyone snapping photos of the signs outside.

▼ “Train Restaurant Seiryu”

Stepping through the entrance, Takamichi was greeted by what looked to be a kitchen, and on either side were doors leading to the two carriages.

Impressed by this clever use of a former limited express train, Takamichi headed over to the ticket machine to see what types of meals were available.

▼ The menu consisted mainly of Japanese food, with options like udon, curry, and bento boxed meals.

The item that caught Takamichi’s eye was an ekiben (train station bento) called “Yamato Pork Bento” for 1,200 yen (US$8.58). He inserted his money and pressed the button to select it, and when he took his meal ticket over to staff, they told him it would take a little while to prepare so he used that time to sneak a peek at the attached carriages.

The interior was absolutely beautiful, retaining a gorgeous old-world charm that made Takamichi feel as if he’d stepped into a portal to the past.

The large windows gave the dining area a great sense of openness, and diners are free to sit wherever they like.

This used to be a limited express train that was once active on Tobu Railway, and the seating hasn’t changed since then, with the only modification being the setup of tables between the seats.

As Takamichi made his way back to the kitchen to collect his meal, he was impressed to find that even the bathrooms on the train had been well maintained and can still be used by diners.

The excitement of being inside this unusual train had helped to work up Takamichi’s appetite, and he couldn’t wait to find out what his Yamato Pork Bento contained.

▼ Diners can help themselves to free water and tea at the dispenser when they pick up their meals.

Takamichi was thrilled to find his meal came with a side of miso soup and…a free tenugui towel!

 ▼ Watarase Keikoku Railway is the operator of the line at this station.

Opening the bento revealed a simple bed of white rice topped with pork covered in a Japanese-style grated radish sauce, and some pickled radish and a candied sweet potato on the side. The simplicity of this ekiben made it feel like a meal people would’ve eaten on the train decades ago, adding to the old-timey atmosphere.

“Yamato Pork” is a popular brand of pork made in Gunma with locally grown meat, and it was plump, juicy and tender, with a moderate sweetness from the sauce. It was absolutely delicious, and before he knew it, Takamichi had eaten the entire thing and had to restrain himself from ordering another one.

Takamichi finished the rest of his tea while enjoying the view out the window, and was surprised to see a trolley train stop at the platform on the other side of the station. There were lots of people on board the train, and they all seemed to be enjoying the unusual ride on the open carriages that had no glass on the windows.

People on the trolley train waved happily at the restaurant train, and so Takamichi raised his hand and waved back at them. It was a wonderfully heartwarming way to wrap up his visit to the countryside, and when he returned home, he carried the smiles of the people he saw back home with him.

Train Restaurant Seiryu is definitely worth a visit, especially now when the fall foliage is putting on a beautiful show. It’s the perfect setting for an idyllic afternoon, and it’s not too far from the birthplace of the Japanese daruma, another unusual site worth visiting.

Restaurant Information

Train Restaurant Seiryu / 列車のレストラン清流
Address: Gunma-ken, Midori-shi, Higashimachi, Kobe 891, inside the Godo Station premises
群馬県みどり市東町神戸891番地 神戸駅構内
Hours: 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Open every day in April-November; Closed Mondays in December-March (the following day if Monday falls on a public holiday)

Reference: Watarase Keikoku Railway Company
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