15:29 25 January 2017
Hokkaido excursion picked as year's best railway trip in Japan
TOKYO, Jan. 25, Kyodo
A ride featuring seafood barbecue on a scenic local Hokkaido railway line that braved the opening in March of a parallel high-speed link has been commended by travel professionals as the best tour of review year 2016 in Japan.
The grand prize trip, arranged by Nippon Travel Agency Co., was credited for drawing passengers visiting Japan's main northern island on the newly launched Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet line to South Hokkaido Railway Co., which operates a local service alongside.
An award presentation ceremony was held Wednesday at the Railway Museum in Saitama City for the Hokkaido tour package and other travel products selected from among 106 packages, a record high, conducted between November 2015 and October 2016 by 16 travel agencies.
In the sixth award year, the finalists were selected from among 24 products by the jury for the prize called Tetsutabi Of The Year, chaired by Shin Ashihara, editor in chief of the Trains & Travel magazine.
Nippon Travel Agency's package was a roughly four-hour round trip between Hakodate and Kikonai, providing passengers on a tourism train with a view of Hakodate Bay, known for its scenic beauty.
The trip, costing 8,300-9,800 yen ($73-86) per person, generated 3 million yen in revenue in the May-October period.
Juror Junichi Sugiyama, a writer, said, "It enticed people to visit Hakodate just to enjoy this train ride."
"It was the ultimate example of a regional promotion tour by a travel agency playing to their strong suit in planning, marketing and know-how to persuade people to come a long way for the support of South Hokkaido Railway," said another juror, Keiichiro Otsuka, a deputy economic news editor at Kyodo News who also writes for an online railway service column.
South Hokkaido Railway was set up by Hokkaido prefectural and municipal governments and other entities to take over the local service previously run by the Japan Railway group until JR Hokkaido opened the parallel shinkansen line to link Hokkaido with the main Honshu archipelago.
The runner-up prize went to Yomiuri Travel Service Co.'s bus and rail tour to Nagasaki Prefecture's Shimabara Peninsula aimed at helping the local economy damaged by a volcanic eruption that marked its 25th anniversary in 2016.