GIFU--Japan has its share of maid cafes, cat cafes and even bunny rabbit cafes. It was only a matter of time until someone came up with a railroad cafe.
Located in this city's Yanagase shopping street, Haruka opened in July last year.
The railroad-themed cafe is the brainchild of Masaki Shingu, a 40-year-old who used to drive sightseeing and route buses in Nagoya. Shingu enjoyed being a bus driver, but in 2012, the bus company moved him to a desk job.
"It was a job I had never done before, and it was really difficult for me," the transportation buff remembers.
Shingu's wife, Akiko, gave him the supportive push he needed.
"He was wearing out day by day, so I told him, 'It's enough, you should quit.' I wanted him to have a job that he liked," she says.
The couple moved to Kitagata, Akiko's hometown in Gifu Prefecture, and spent about a year preparing for the opening of the cafe, which was named after Masaki's favorite West Japan Railway Co. express train.
Since its July opening, Haruka has been steadily growing in popularity, entertaining railway buffs with N scale model trains running across a large diorama in the center of the cafe.
Customers can enjoy from their seats watching their favorite model trains run around the diorama.
There is also a section for children, where the kids can play games and with toys.
The N scale model trains range from 1:148 to 1:160 in scale and run on tracks with rails that are 9 millimeters apart. Shingu spent about 1 million yen ($9,800) to build his mini railroad.
The diorama, measuring 4.4 meters by 2.6 meters, features nine routes. Customers can run a model train for 50 yen to 150 yen for 10 minutes depending on the routes. They can rent their favorites from a selection of about 30 types, including a Nagoya Railroad Co. (Meitetsu) car and a JR Shinkansen, for 50 yen to 500 yen for each run.
Haruka is located on the second floor of a building in the city's Tetsumeidori district, facing the street where Tetsumeicho Station on Meitetsu's streetcar line once stood. The line was scrapped in April 2005. Photographs of the streetcar line brought in by patrons are on display in the cafe.
"I hope (customers) can reflect on the streetcar from the past," Masaki says.
Visit the official website at (http://traincafe-haruka.com/).
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