Our reporter travelled around Hiroshima City like a king in his own private tram.

Our Japanese reporter Tasuku Egawa recently found himself in Hiroshima, and while Hiroshima has plenty of things to do and see, like the world’s largest MUJI store, he was there for quite a different reason. He was there to enjoy an evening meal in a unique setting — onboard the Train Rouge.

Train Rouge is a streetcar/tram that is designed specially for passengers to enjoy a spot of fine dining as they travel. Running along the regular passenger trams, Train Rouge previously offered guests a range of tours, like wine tours, sake tours, and beer tours, all with a multi-course meal.

Since the advent of the coronavirus the tours have unfortunately been suspended, but the company that runs the trams in Hiroshima, Hiroshima Electric Railway, are looking to start the tours up again in the near future. They occasionally hold special events for a select number of people to try out the Train Rouge’s dining experience. Tasuku was one of those lucky enough to be invited for a recent press event, and so he headed down to Hiroshima to try it out.

It was just as the sun was setting that Tasuku found himself at Hiroshima Port Station, the final stop on the Hiroshima Electric Railway tram line, awaiting the arrival of his restaurant for the evening.

Just at that moment, a shiny red tram pulled into the station, attracting the attention of everyone waiting on the platform. This was the tram Tasuku would be boarding, and he already began to feel excited. The metallic red exterior with the white lettering was extremely cool, and Tasuku couldn’t wait to see what the inside of the tram looked like.

Image: Hiroshima Prefecture

The inside was just as cool as the outside, and looked completely different to a normal tram; this was a tram specially designed for eating and drinking in.

Most of Tasuku’s dealings with public transportation revolves around Tokyo’s JR Yamanote Line, which is usually crammed with people and certainly not somewhere to sit down and enjoy a relaxing meal. Aside from the Shinkansen bullet trains, eating on public transportation is frowned upon in Japan, so this was a brand new experience for him.

The Train Rouge is only available as a charter, so having essentially your own private tram ride allows you to enjoy even the littlest things you wouldn’t normally be able to in a tram packed with other people.

▼ Like getting up close and personal with the driver, who is a regular employee of Hiroshima Electric Railway, but you can pretend he’s your personal train chauffeur

After Tasuku was done admiring the tram’s interior, it was time to depart from Hiroshima Port. It was also time for dinner, and while on normal Train Rouge journeys passengers are required to bring their own food and drink, Tasuku was lucky enough to be on a tour prepared by Hiroshima Prefecture itself, and as such was presented with an absolutely exquisite meal.

Tasuku has only experienced such luxurious food while inside a vehicle once, when he somehow managed to snag a first class seat on an airplane. The food he was served at that time was pretty spectacular, but he never in a million years expected that his top-quality airplane dining experience would have one day be beaten by food he’d eat on a tram.

And while the food was excellent, Tasuku found the experience of riding the tram itself to be the most worthwhile. When passing a regular tram, he could really feel the difference between the two. Rather than travelling in a bright, crowded streetcar full of tired commuters travelling home, Tasuku was enjoying a fancy meal in a tram with a stylish interior and relaxed mood lighting.

Of course, the Train Rouge isn’t regal enough to be above normal transportation laws, so the tram had to occasionally stop for traffic lights at pedestrian crossings.

But this gave Tasuku a chance to ‘look upon his people’ and gaze down at the passers-by like a king would to his subjects. The bright red tram caught the attention of people walking in the street, and many of them were pointing and taking pictures of Tasuku. Like any dutiful king would, Tasuku smiled and waved back.

You’d think such an extravagant method of travel would also come with an extravagant price tag, but a quick glance on the official website lists the ticket prices for the previous public event — which included a viewing of a ritual ceremonial dance performance — at just 20,000 yen ($155).

At the moment, the Train Rouge only offers tours to a limited number of people on select dates. However, upon further investigation, Tasuku found that regular streetcars are available for anyone to rent out for just 21,120 yen per trip. While you won’t get the fancy shiny red exterior or the high-class meals served to you, you’ll still be able to tick “riding in a privately rented tram” off your bucket list, which not many people can. Plus, the cost is per tram, so collect a group of friends and you can ride your own private streetcar for cheap!

As for the Train Rouge, currently the only way to take a ride on it is via their special events, so Tasuku recommends to follow them on their various social media channels, so you can keep abreast of when their next event will be.

Related: Train Rouge Twitter account
Photos © SoraNews24 unless otherwise stated
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