Think about trains in Japan and the first thing that might spring to mind is that they are crowded as heck. After all, Japan is home to not only Shinjuku Station, the busiest station in the world, but out of the 100 busiest train stations in the world, 82 of them are Japanese.
However, these crowded train stations are all located in Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Venture out of the big cities, as our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma did, and you’ll be met with an entirely different experience. The Japanese countryside is home to train stations with a more old-school, rustic vibe, like Kyushu’s Yusubaru Station, located in Fukuoka Prefecture.
Not only is Yusubaru Station quaint and charming, it happens to be the oldest wooden station building in Kyushu, having first opened way back in August 1895.
▼ Yusubaru Station
Just from this picture alone, the first thing you may notice is the complete lack of any vending machines. Most places in Japan, regardless of how remote they may seem, will have the familiar glow of a vending machine, yet Yusubaru was completely vending machine-free.
Above the entrance to the station is a small, wooden sign with the station name in full — Heisei Chikuho Railway Yusubaru Station. Above the bench on the left was another wooden sign, with a sign pointing to a baggage room to the right, and to the bicycle parking area on the left. But hang on a minute…
The sign used the old fashioned kanji character for jitensha (bicycle) — 自轉車, as opposed to the modern way of writing it, 自転車. A small difference, but further evidence of how old this station is.
The waiting area in the station also featured old-fashioned kanji characters for message board (in current Japanese dengonban) — 板言傳 was used instead of 伝言板, which is currently used. The old-fashioned kanji is intended to be read from right to left.
Way back in 1895, this board was used by locals to exchange messages, but Masanuki struggled to think of a time he’d seen one of these being used these days. In fact, the Yusubaru Station message board now features posters and information about the station’s history.
As Masanuki looked around the station, he came across what appeared to be the train timetable. As someone who lives and works in Tokyo, Masanuki is used to confusing train stations, but this… he had no idea what any of it meant. The station names and information listed didn’t make any sense.
Upon further inspection, the timetable seemed to be for another station entirely. The real timetable was on a red-and-blue poster to the left of the entrance. Was the fake sign just put there to add to the retro atmosphere of the station?
Maybe, but the more likely reason is that the station was actually used as a shooting location for the drama "Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad." Perhaps the fake timetable was a leftover prop.
Yusubaru Station was primarily used in the past to help transport coal. As the stations after Yusubaru were all downhill, the bank train was detached here before the rest of the train continued its journey. “That must be why the train station feels so spacious,” thought Masanuki.
At last, the train arrived and Masanuki took his seat next to the window and prepared for the beautiful scenic views only a countryside railway can offer. And he certainly wasn’t disappointed — look at this gorgeous view!
▼ You won’t see anything like this up in Tokyo, that’s for sure!
Despite being over 100 years old, Yusubaru Station is incredibly well preserved. The station is completely unstaffed — not uncommon for train stations in the countryside — so it’s thanks to local residents and railway volunteers who come to clean it that it’s in the condition it is today. If you’re ever in the Fukuoka area and want to enjoy a nice little piece of Japanese history, be sure to check it out.
Yusubaru Station / 油須原駅
Address: Aka, Tagawa District, Fukuoka 824-0431
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