Railway and train-lovers have a unique-designed café to try in Gifu Prefecture. Haruka, named after the owner’s favorite West Japan Railway Co. express train, is a railroad-themed café owned by Masaki Shingu, a former route and sightseeing bus driver in Nagoya.
Shingu worked for 40 years as a bus driver and was used to seeing sights. But in 2012, the bus company he was hired by moved him to a desk job, a decision that proved to be exhausting for Shingu.
“It was a job I had never done before, and it was really difficult for me.” His wife, Akiko saw the toll his new position was taking on him and encouraged him to venture elsewhere. “He was wearing out day by day, so I told him, ‘It is enough, you should quit.’
“I wanted him to have a job that he liked,” she said. So the couple moved to Kitagata in Gifu and started to plan the railway-themed café, which was open a year later, according to the local press.
Situated at the center of the café is a large diorama where N scale model trains run across while customers enjoy their food. Spending around Y1 million (around US$9,800) to build a mini-railroad, Shingu’s N scale model trains are around 1:148 to 1:160 in scale, and move around rail tracks that are 9 millimeters apart. Featuring 9 routes, the diorama is 4.4 meters by 2.6 meters in size.
Customers can also rent their favorite train and run it around the diorama for Y50 to Y150 per 10 minutes, and children have a special place where they can play while their parents enjoy their meal.