Umekoji Steam locomotive museum

Umekoji Steam locomotive museum
Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto. City of new and old, cheek by jowl, which means it doesn’t always make it obvious how lovely a city it is. Temples are tucked away in with newer buildings, signs taking you round the districts to see them; 10 mins here, 11 there. Having walked past two big temples yesterday, Kosho-Ji on my way to the hostel, and Higashi Honganji when checking out the proper way to the station, I skipped that and headed for the park, once I’d run.

A small pond surrounded by gravelled paths and trees
Umekoji Park.

I’d only run 45 mins the day before so wanted to go further today, ending up with an hour and a half in the 11.00 sun. I suspect the water fountain an hour in saved me, but I was a bit lethargic for the rest of the day. I found food, then the park, which seemed full of youngsters practicing dance. They looked synchronised to me. A group on the far side wherein multicoloured clothing, and later I saw a couple of baton twirlers there too. Turning left I wandered through the manicured part of the gardens – lovely, though really I thought this would take me to the museum, and I saw a family looking at the map that I figured had done the same.

A train turner - roundabout, outside it, train tracks point in many directions

The museum was just a little further along. As strolled to the door I could see I was in good time – it shuts at 5.30, last entry 5, and it was only 3.30. But as I got closer there a Japanese man appeared, miming a steam train at me. I mimed back, smiling – enthusiasm deserves the same in return, though I wasn’t sure why I had to confirm that I was heading for a steam train museum whilst heading for the door of same.

A crane made from flower-decorated paper

Course, it wasn’t just that. 3 times a day you can ride a steam train for an extra ¥200, and the Japanese family in front of me paid and started running for the train, with me in hot pursuit. They were semi ushered towards the train while I was at the cash desk – separate ticket for the train. 200yen, 300? The man was indicating 3, but seemed to be asking me the question, and only when he accepted my two did he figure I might be paying for the family. Working as their western bodyguard, or something.

A small model train, with the word 'Spain' printed behind

We made it, and had our 1k backwards, one forwards trip. The other family I’d seen in the park were already on board, which pleased the bit of me that pretends at psychic connections. Frankly, a fair amount of the ride is through a concrete sided part, and it’s not that great a ride – you probably see the train better from the sidelines – but the whole experience above made me laugh, I was still grinning when I got off, spotting some JNerds taking pictures of the train. Afterwards, they move it onto the train roundabout, spin it all the way round and move it onto a different lane. As an intro to the museum – having dashed, I’d skipped the old station building and it’s exhibits and was now faced with most of the 15 or so trains they have. I allowed myself to say “massively cool”, before I had to admit to myself that it may be many things, but a trip to a steam engine locomotive museum is anything but ‘cool’. The museum is twinned with York and one other locomotive museum, and to prove it they’ve planted a tree together.

Model trains, each on it's own coloured display stand
The greats of Britain, Norway, Germany, Asia.

I lay in the park afterwards, it was cool enough after 4 to lie in the sun, though moving back into the city proper – only the matter of a street or so – was noticeably warmer even as the sun went down. The evening passed in chat and dinner – I even made my own, for quantity-at the hostel. Kyoto council don’t allow buildings of higher than 15 storeys, and there aren’t many even that high, so it has a nice feel to it, quite different to the bustle and businessy feel of Tokyo and to some extent Nagoya.

People practicing in a park
Youths practising.

Train stats. Because that ensures my coolness. One built in 1919, speed 100km/h, produced 289 over 10 years. 20m long, 113.8 ton. It’s the .8 of a ton that really squishes the foot.

Wartime special freight locomotive – produced 285 in 4 years. Look at the increase in productivity on that. 136.8t. 21m long.

“The flapple’s articulation-circuit asserted, ‘I feel a million times better; I’m now prepared to depart for your original destination, sir or madam, as soon as the superfluous individual has disemflappled.'”

Start a Blog at

Up ↑