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This winter I was fortunate enough to visit Aomori and hence the famous Tsugaru Railway Winter “Stove Train”. It was a fun experience and I knew immediately after visiting that I’d have to write a blog post all about the Stove Train.
If you’re looking to visit Aomori in winter or would like to know more about the Tsugaru Railway Winter Stove Train, read on!
Table of contents
- What is the Stove Train?
- Why take the Tsugaru Railway Winter Stove Train?
- How much does the Stove Train cost?
- How to buy tickets for the Tsugaru Railway Winter Stove Train?
- How often does the Stove Train run?
- Which part of the route should I take?
- How to get to the Winter Stove Train?
- How to order the grilled squid on the Stove Train?
What is the Stove Train?
Operated by the Tsugaru Railway in winter, the Stove Train is a traditional passenger train that is heated using a potbelly stove.
While this alone doesn’t sound that exciting, the Stove Train is unique for the onboard atmosphere.
Train attendants push food carts, selling sake and dried squid, the later of which is grilled on the coal powered stoves.
Why take the Tsugaru Railway Winter Stove Train?
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I ate freshly grilled squid on a train. And I say that as someone who doesn’t even like eating squid.
Since the train only operates in winter, you’ll also enjoy the snow covered scenery of the Tsugaru Plains.
How much does the Stove Train cost?
The Stove Train is an additional 500 JPY supplement fee on top of the regular train fare.
If you’re taking the stove train along it’s entire route, the breakdown is:
- Regular train fare = 870 JPY one way
- Stove train supplementary fare = 500 JPY one way
In total, you’ll pay 1,370 JPY per person, one way.
If need to take the train back to where the stove train begins (Goshogawara Station), you have 2 options:
- Take the Stove train back = 870 + 500 JPY = 1,370; or
- Take the regular train back = 870 JPY
The “regular” (non-stove) train is a seperate car attached to the stove train. This means you can head back to Goshogawara Station on the “same” train.
This is also cheaper, if you were hoping to save some money.
There is also an additional cost for any food or drinks you consume onboard (the squid is 700 JPY)
How to buy tickets for the Tsugaru Railway Winter Stove Train?
I haven’t found anywhere online that you can purchase tickets to the stove train in advance.
The best way to buy a ticket is at the train station you embark at (for most, this is Goshogawara Station) or onboard from the ticket conductor.
When purchasing onboard, you need to let the conductor know where you’d like to disembark.
You also need cash with you (there are no credit card facilities onboard). We didn’t have any issues with correct change, as the train has plenty from the food cart!
Purchasing your ticket onboard means you can jump on the train straight away if transferring from elsewhere. We did this when taking the Stove Train and it was convenient – though a bit nerve wrecking, as in Australia you never get on a train unless you already have a ticket!
At the end of the line, all passengers will be asked to disembark. You will be asked for your tickets at the ticket office before getting back on or you can purchase a return ticket.
How often does the Stove Train run?
The stove train travels between Goshogawara Station and Nakasato station, running 3 roundtrips every day from December 1st til March 31st every year.
There is a timetable (it’s completely in Japanese) available via the Tsugaru Railways Website.
I’ve not uploaded a copy here, as the timetable is subject to change – so it’s best to view it directly via the website. On the timetable, the Stove Train is marked by a “star” and if you’d like a clearer translation, it’s worth uploading it to Google Translate.
Which part of the route should I take?
Unless you’d like to visit any places on route, my recommendation would be to board at Goshogawara Station and return back.
There were many passengers on our train who got off at Kanagi Station. However, in my opinion this would be a very rushed Stove Train experience. You would barely have enough time to eat your grilled squid or finish a drink!
A bonus of staying on for the full route is that the train is much quieter after Kanagi Station. When we got on at Goshogawara, we were unable to get a seat next to the stove, but after Kanagi Station we could!
How to get to the Winter Stove Train?
The Tsugaru Railway’s Stove Train begins at Goshogawara Station.
From Hirosaki, any Ou/Gono line train will take you to Goshogawara Station.
On the Ou/Gono Line, you can also take the Resort Shinkansen (reservations necessary). This Shinkansen is covered by the JR East Pass too.
How to order the grilled squid on the Stove Train?
I originally didn’t give the squid its own section in this blog post. But I think the whole point of traveling the stove train is for the grilled squid!
As soon as you get onboard, the attendants will shortly begin pushing food carts along the train.
If you don’t speak Japanese (like me!) all you need to do is point at or order a packet of squid. These are stored in clear plastic packaging and are hard to miss. They cost 700 JPY per squid pack.
The attendants will then serve everyone in the carriage, before circling back to passengers who have bought squid packs. These packets are opened, and the attendants will grill them for you on your nearest stove.
As someone who isn’t a big fan of seafood, I found the squid to be a bit too chewy. Though, I think all squid is like that – that isn’t a reflection on the stove train.
In all, even as someone who doesn’t like squid, it was definitely a fun and unique experience. One I’m glad we partook in!
I hope this guide to visiting the Stove Train helps you plan your trip.
We loved our visit on the Stove Train and it will forever be on my list of memorable Japanese experiences.