UEDA, Nagano Prefecture--As Shinano Railway Co. turns 20, it is preparing an anniversary present for visitors of all ages.
The railway company announced March 14 that it will transform the Karuizawa Station building, located in a popular summer retreat, into a facility fun for children and parents alike.
The station’s platforms will be connected with a pedestrian deck to make an open plaza on which a mini train and other playground equipment will be installed.
The company plans to open the new facility in October. Marking the company’s 20th anniversary that month, the project is aimed at helping improve the railway company's profitability.
"It is a symbolic project for our company that will mark the 20th anniversary of our business and is also a new challenge for us to secure transportation for local residents," Shinano Railway President Atsushi Tamaki said at a news conference on March 14. "We’d like to provide new fun to about 8.4 million tourists visiting Karuizawa."
The new facility is tentatively called "Mori no Korisu Kids Station."
The platform for the No. 1 and No. 2 tracks, which are currently in use at the station, will be connected to the platform used for the former No. 1 track with a pedestrian deck to create an open plaza, in which a mini train, rail bikes and other play equipment will be installed. Visitors can enjoy meals and shopping in stalls on wheels, according to the company.
The railway operator will also set up a ticket gate in the Old Karuizawa Station Memorial Hall standing next to Karuizawa Station to use as another station building. The old structure had served as the Karuizawa Station building until the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line opened before it was relocated to the current location. The exterior and other features replicate the old station building from the late Meiji Era (1868-1912).
The company said it is in talks with the Karuizawa town office, which owns the memorial hall, to hammer out details on utilizing the old station house.
Shinano Railway intends to keep the current ticket gate at Karuizawa Station intact, with its office space set to be expanded to accommodate shops.
The company has allocated about 250 million yen ($2.27 million) for the project. Don Design Associates, which also handled the design of Shinano Railway’s tourist train Rokumon, was responsible for the overall design of the new facility.