MASHIKE, Hokkaido -- Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) has discontinued part of its Rumoi Line in the northwest of Japan's northernmost prefecture, between Rumoi and Mashike stations, marking an end to 95 years of service since 1921.
Train aficionados and tourists flocked on Dec. 4. to JR Mashike Station in the Hokkaido town of Mashike -- which was used as a filming location for the 1981 classic "Station" starring late actor Ken Takakura -- to say their final farewells to the 16.7-kilometer section. An official farewell ceremony was held at Mashike Station on Dec. 4, at which Mashike Mayor Masashi Hori announced, "We will continue to develop this town around the station."
With a declining population and the development of car-oriented society, the average number of passengers on the Rumoi to Mashike section of the Rumoi Line fell to approximately three passengers per train in fiscal 2014, and in April this year, it was decided to discontinue the section.
To assist Mashike residents, JR Hokkaido will provide a subsidized shuttle taxi service for the next 10 years.
On the evening of Dec. 4, the final train departed Mashike Station to the sounds of an emotional crowd. Approximately 2,000 people waving penlights gathered at the station to send off the final train, which eventually left 22 minutes later than scheduled.
At the farewell ceremony at Rumoi Station, JR Hokkaido Chairman Yukio Suda stated, "We are determined to bring about further development." However, in response to Suda's statement, criticism such as, "Didn't your failure to achieve development result in the closure of this (section of the) line?" was heard among the attendees.