A Hometown Scenery that Leaves an Impression
Flower Nagai Line
The Founding of the Flower Nagai Line
The “Flower Nagai Line” is a Yamagata railway that runs along the northern point of the Okitama valley in the southern part of Yamagata. Starting from Nanyo City’s Akayu station, it goes through Kawanishi and Nagai City to Shirataka Town’s Arato Station. It passes through 17 stations, about 30.5 kilometers. It’s a line that goes back and forth 12 times a day, and it takes about an hour from one end to the other. It is primarily used by local highschoolers heading to school and elderly visiting hospitals. It’s a non-electric, diesel engine ran local line that runs through the peaceful countryside.
The history of the Flower Nagai Line is that it started in 1913 as the Nagai Light Railway that ran from Akayu to Ringo. The next year it was extended to Nagai, and in 1922 renamed to the Nagai Line. The railway was completed in 1923. Afterwards, with the reform of the Japanese National Railways, it was chosen as a special local line, and then in 1987 inherited by the East Japan Railroad Company. In order to keep the Nagai Line going, Yamagata Prefecture and local municipalities financed the founding of the Yamagata Railway Co.,Ltd. Nagai Line was converted to a voluntary sector. The name “Flower Nagai Line” was decided by the public.
Approximately the year the Yamagata Railway was founded in 1988, there was more than 1,400,000 people using the line yearly, but currently there are about 500,000 people a year. Even though the total number of passengers is only a third of what it used to be, 70 percent being highschoolers hasn’t changed. The Flower Nagai Line is a conductorless train. Every time a passenger thanks the driver as they get off the train, even with passengers decreasing, they feel the significance and importance of the railway.
People who Protect the Scenery of a Railway
The first train leaves from Arato to Akayu at 5:38. The sights and sounds are the same every morning. The Flower Nagai Line has various attractions and features such as the beauty of the scenery seen from the train window, famous flower fields, designed trains, and the Mogami river bridge. For people living in the area, the scenery itself with the Flower Nagai Line is an irreplaceable sight. Behind the daily operation is the unrelenting work of the people who maintain the cars and manage the tracks.
“Oshikiri Sakae,” who has been involved in railway facilities for many years since joining the company, says that daily inspections are of the utmost importance. “Anyhow, you first look at the site. Just like a doctor, if you look at it regularly, you’ll notice that it’s sick. Just because it is iron doesn’t mean it won’t break. In the summer, you can hear the sound of the railroad tracks stretching due to the heat, and the sound of the trains running over them sound different every day. Only people who are in this field will notice it, so I watch over closely as if it was a living animal.” This kind of sincere attitude is being passed down to young workers.
Kodaira Tamaki who joined the Yamagata Railway is from Saitama Prefecture. From an early age, he visited Takahata where his grandfather lived, and gradually began to want to work for the Yamagata Railway. He studied to become a driver while working as a conductor for 2 years after joining the company, and in July 2020 he obtained his train driver’s license. He has been in charge of the operations of the Flower Nagai Line since August.
At Yamagata Railway, the driver also conducts inspections and simple maintenance, and they also have the ability to respond to a problem if one arises during a once every 3 months engine functionality check. “Each of the 6 cars have their own personality. They each feel different even when going the same speed. I make adjustments to my driving to try and make sure we safely arrive on time,” says Kodaira. Although he feels the pressure of the passengers’ lives being in his hands, he continues to operate safely with his love for the trains and his gratitude for the passengers.
A Railway that Connects Hearts
and is Loved by the Locals
Carrying the People’s Feelings to the Future
The Flower Nagai Line will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Akayu-Nagai section, the “Smile Project” was started in which local people waved in support to the trains along the railroad. This also put a smile on the faces of the railway workers. The local railway line, which is loved by the locals, is also popular among train fans visiting from outside of the prefecture. There are also people that enjoy the historical train stations, local foods, and local people. The Flower Nagai Line has the potential to rediscover the value of and give life back to the region. It carries the feelings of many people.
INFORMATION & MAP
- Yamagata Railway Co.,Ltd.
- 〒993-0084 Yamagata Prefecture, Nagai City, Sakae-machi 1-10