Iwami Characters Train いわみキャラクタートレイン
The latest exterior decoration on trains promoting local attractions is now running on the San-in Line of JR West Railways. The Iwami Characters Train features 16 mascots and photos of towns in the Iwami region.
Iwami was the former province which, with Izumo and the Oki Islands, were combined to form Shimane Prefecture in 1871 during the Meiji Period, but almost 150 years later the people of Iwami still retain an identity distinct from Shimane.
The train is a two car diesel unit which operates on the Super Oki Express and Super Matsukaze Express which run between various points on the Sanin Line between Tottori in Tottori Prefecture in the east and Shin-Yamaguchi in Yamaguchi Prefecture in the west. Most of the route hugs the Japan Sea coastline and has beautiful sea views.
Cute mascot characters are ubiquitous in Japan, and a recent survey found that the vast majority of them are unrecognizable to most people and culling has begun.
Even though I live in Iwami I must admit I didn't recognize some of the mascots. The dominant mascot on the train is Shimanekko, the mascot of Shimane, formed by combining Shimane with the Japanese word for cat "neko", and this is a very well known mascot, wearing a hat modeled on the roof of Izumo Taisha, the largest shrine in the country and the main tourist draw of the prefecture.
The JR Rail Pass is valid on the Iwami Characters Train.
1 Iwami Characters Train at Masuda Station
2 Orochi Kun, the mascot of Mito in the west of Iwami. The garden is designed by the famed Zen monk-artist Sesshu and is located in Masuda.
3 Tsuwa Min, the mascot of the castle town of Tsuwano. The character is based on the Sagimai, White Heron dance. The photos show the old street of the town and the approach to Taikodani Inari Shrine.
4 Yu Nami. One of the mascots of Hamada. The local aquarium, Aquas, is famous for its Beluga Whales, some of whom who born in captivity. The photos show a scene from Iwami Kagura, and Tatamigaura, a spectacular section of coast.
5 Shimanekko, the mascot for Shimane Prefecture.