Model Railroading Hobby in Japan

I just came back from a vacation in Japan for a week.  I was surprised though that many department stores and hobby shops there actually carried a decent selection of train items.  Most of them had a full selection of Kato and Tomix N scale items and some even had HO and Z-scale too.  There are some really good train stores in the US but none of them are really in my area.  The last train store in my area closed down over a year ago.  It seems like the model train hobby is doing pretty well over there.  I think one of the reason is trains impact people lives more because most people in a major city like Tokyo use subways and commuter rail. Also the intercity passenger trains like the Nazomi Shinkansen are world class and are heavily used.  Has anyone else traveled to Japan and noticed this?

Original Post
After seeing all these cool items it made me really want to think about modeling Japanese trains in N Scale.  That is cool that there is a group in the US that model Japanese Railways. I also rode on alot of trains while I was there. 
Originally Posted by SJC:

I had never seen any Japanese items in my area until this group, the Japan Rail Modelers, formed and began coming to many local shows. Really neat layout with lots of detail. 

 

Originally Posted by John A DeAlto:

FECguy, That's nice to know. How the Prices. Thanks, John 

The exchange rate is better then it has been in years. I payed around $46 JR Freight Class EF-210-100 locomotive by Kato that is conventional and $21 for two flatcars that were also by Kato. I do not know if the prices were the cheapest but they seemed fairly reasonable for items that are not really available in my area.  

Kato does make some beautiful toy trains. I actually own a few because I like Passenger trains and I live in Manhattan,NYC so not enough room to run them in O. One thing I like about the passenger trains Kato makes is that they bother accurately modeling the window placement in the passenger cars unlike most O scale makers. There also are quite a few model magazines in Japan and the quality of the magazines and modeling is quite high unfortunately after importing so are the prices.

 

Here are my Kato Virginia Railway Express commuter train 4 pack I got new for $100. No body in O scale is making a MP36PH anytime soon no doubt. Sorry Metra, GO transit, Mass Transit (T), Coaster and Metrolink fans.

 

Kato track is the gold standard of exactness in the hobby in general as I see it. The street trackage they are making for trollys is great stuff. Recently both Tomy and Kato have made some great very small trollys and even articulated LRVs that are just amazing.

 

As far as Japanese model railway layout themes there are many more modelers who chose to model railroads of the U.S. in Japan than modelers here who chose to model Japanese subjects. I feel like when I occasionally purchase model railroad mags from around the world this seems to be true all over. Modelers outside the states model the U.S. far more than Americans look elsewhere in their subject matter.

 

 My sub hobby.

 

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Member New York Society of Model Engineers

 

Maybe this post won't get me shouted down by experts.

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Originally Posted by Silver Lake:

Kato does make some beautiful toy trains. I actually own a few because I like Passenger trains and I live in Manhattan,NYC so not enough room to run them in O. One thing I like about the passenger trains Kato makes is that they bother accurately modeling the window placement in the passenger cars unlike most O scale makers. There also are quite a few model magazines in Japan and the quality of the magazines and modeling is quite high unfortunately after importing so are the prices.

 

Here are my Kato Virginia Railway Express commuter train 4 pack I got new for $100. No body in O scale is making a MP36PH anytime soon no doubt. Sorry Metra, GO transit, Mass Transit (T), Coaster and Metrolink fans.

 

Kato track is the gold standard of exactness in the hobby in general as I see it. The street trackage they are making for trollys is great stuff. Recently both Tomy and Kato have made some great very small trollys and even articulated LRVs that are just amazing.

 

As far as Japanese model railway layout themes there are many more modelers who chose to model railroads of the U.S. in Japan than modelers here who chose to model Japanese subjects. I feel like when I occasionally purchase model railroad mags from around the world this seems to be true all over. Modelers outside the states model the U.S. far more than Americans look elsewhere in their subject matter.

 

 My sub hobby.

 

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Kato makes some high quality models.  I like how their products are made in Japan still and they have not exported their production to a cheaper labour country.  It almost makes me want to get into N-scale.  Yeah it seems like people like US prototype stuff globally.  There is alot history and lore about US railroads which probably helps their popularity.  Unfortunately in the US it is tough to get none US prototype equipment which may be a factor of why it is niche here. 

Originally Posted by FECguy:

I just came back from a vacation in Japan for a week.  

If you ever go to Tokyo do not forget to visit the Tenshodo shop in Ginza; Tenshodo is a jeweler shop at the ground floor and a very large model railroad shop on 4 floors above. Leave your wife at the ground floor to look around and look around at the 4 MRR floors; you can easily spent an hour over there. (http://www.tenshodo.co.jp/)

In my 'former life' (pre-retirement) I did a fair amount of travel to Japan.  Made lots of good friends, saw lots of interesting places.  Learned about their model railroading hobby.

  • Most model railroaders in Japan cannot afford the luxury of dedicated space for a permanent layout. 
  • An operating session...singly or as a group (also very popular)...often consists of creating a layout with interconnecting track pieces, quick/reliable electrical connections/harnesses, ready-built buildings, etc., for the evening on the tatami (floor grass mat) in a common room.  At the end of the session, it's all taken down carefully and stored for the next time.
  • Ergo, smaller scales...especially N...are very popular, well supported. O scale?...not so much.
  • And, Kato track is, indeed, a benchmark in the industry for accuracy, reliability, portability, flexibility of design.
  • Kato's largest market is Japan, not the U.S..
  • Kato preferably manufactures complete passenger trains, not an assortment of cars and engines from which a hodge-podge of trains can be made up.  This reflects the strategy of their 1:1 railroad equipment, too: Complete trains.  If you have an opportunity to see a complete Kato catalog (in Japanese, of course!) of the equipment they manufacture, it will be a mind-blowing experience and insight into their hobby/market.
  • Kato models are extremely accurate in their representations.  Slathering a bazillion logos/names on common body/engine moldings would seem to be nigh unto heresy.
  • Riding the Shinkansen (commonly referred to as 'the bullet train') is an unforgettable experience.  But even boarding the train is noteworthy.  In the U.S.A., at an urban station awaiting a train that will have very limited station time, crowds of people mill about.  As the train slows to a stop, the crowds 'congeal', scamper for a door, creating a blob of humanity trying to funnel through the doorway.  At a Shinkansen station?...There are lines on the station platform indicating the door positions for the train.  People quietly, politely get in line according to the markings.  The train arrives precisely on time, comes to a stop precisely in position according to the door markings.  All doors open simultaneously, the people quickly, smoothly file onto the train, the agent blows his whistle, the doors close, the train leaves.....ON TIME!
  • So, yes, trains are VERY much a part of Japan life, and proudly so, which is why model railroading is so popular among the people, young and old.  Around here?....not so much anymore, sorry to say.

Just a few accumulated thoughts, memories.....FWIW.

 

KD

 

I modeled Japanese trains from 2007 until 2012 when O gauge caught my eye. Tomix is the largest Japanese N gauge train and track line and usually first train for Japanese children.  Tomytec is a sub line of Tomix.  Both Tomix and Kato have large showrooms in Tokyo. Most current prototype trains are available, especially in N gauge.

 

Most Japanese trains are electrically powered, but Japanese modelers do not use working overhead just dummy poles probably because of the small size and temporary nature of layouts.

 

It is rare to see an O gauge item listed with a Japanese dealer.

 

For more information on Japanese train modeling try JNS (Japanese Modeling & Japan Rail Enthusiasts Forum.

 

Hobby Search is a larger Japanese online model train dealer, dealing mostly in N gauge.

Look how big the Kato line is........Also check out the Green Max line......I bought a number of Green Max structure kits just because they were so COOL and cheap! Per capita I know Japan has many more model railroaders than the USA. N scale rules, Z is more popular than in the USA and they have T scale 1/450!!!

Just look at Kato track offerings.....things like a double cross over with full remote control for around $40!! Good looking stuff......tempts me often....then I recall all that track cleaning and trying to work on a N scale loco!!! 

____________________________

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I know that N is really big there, and there are lots of Japanese N trains to have.  But I would love to get any of these in O.

 

O is in desperate need to get some Japanese rolling stock.  At least MTH is doing some European items.  But Japan has a large and diverse rail history that is being neglected in O.  I'd so buy Japanese bullet trains, commuter trains, and trollies.

That 2nd from the left is good....the OLD Bullet Train.....but those Platypus lookin things....ugh.

 

O scale Japanese models would be a hard sell in Japan. Many layouts in Japan are about 2x3 feet......urban settings. What are you going to do in O scale in that space. This is whyT scale 1/450 was invented by the Japanese.......when the make a T scale Big Boy that runs well......I may have to have one with about 100 reefers......think of the layout I could build in my 28 x 40 foot room!!!  

____________________________

Read about my Amtrak travel in words and pics www.currtail.com

32,000+ miles by Rail!

Originally Posted by sinclair:

I know that N is really big there, and there are lots of Japanese N trains to have.  But I would love to get any of these in O.

 

O is in desperate need to get some Japanese rolling stock.  At least MTH is doing some European items.  But Japan has a large and diverse rail history that is being neglected in O.  I'd so buy Japanese bullet trains, commuter trains, and trollies.

A company named Kumata made some 0 gauge bullet trains:

 

Regards

Fred

Space definitely felt like a premium in Japan so temporary layouts make sense.  I wonder if micro layouts are popular over there.  I did notice most of the equipment being sold were full passenger sets based off of various commuter and intercity passenger trains.  Freight trains do not seem that popular to model.  I only saw a few freight trains while I was in Japan compared to way more passenger trains. I rode on the Nazomi Shinkansen and it was a great experience.  It made wish the US had actual high speed rail. 
Originally Posted by dkdkrd:

In my 'former life' (pre-retirement) I did a fair amount of travel to Japan.  Made lots of good friends, saw lots of interesting places.  Learned about their model railroading hobby.

  • Most model railroaders in Japan cannot afford the luxury of dedicated space for a permanent layout. 
  • An operating session...singly or as a group (also very popular)...often consists of creating a layout with interconnecting track pieces, quick/reliable electrical connections/harnesses, ready-built buildings, etc., for the evening on the tatami (floor grass mat) in a common room.  At the end of the session, it's all taken down carefully and stored for the next time.
  • Ergo, smaller scales...especially N...are very popular, well supported. O scale?...not so much.
  • And, Kato track is, indeed, a benchmark in the industry for accuracy, reliability, portability, flexibility of design.
  • Kato's largest market is Japan, not the U.S..
  • Kato preferably manufactures complete passenger trains, not an assortment of cars and engines from which a hodge-podge of trains can be made up.  This reflects the strategy of their 1:1 railroad equipment, too: Complete trains.  If you have an opportunity to see a complete Kato catalog (in Japanese, of course!) of the equipment they manufacture, it will be a mind-blowing experience and insight into their hobby/market.
  • Kato models are extremely accurate in their representations.  Slathering a bazillion logos/names on common body/engine moldings would seem to be nigh unto heresy.
  • Riding the Shinkansen (commonly referred to as 'the bullet train') is an unforgettable experience.  But even boarding the train is noteworthy.  In the U.S.A., at an urban station awaiting a train that will have very limited station time, crowds of people mill about.  As the train slows to a stop, the crowds 'congeal', scamper for a door, creating a blob of humanity trying to funnel through the doorway.  At a Shinkansen station?...There are lines on the station platform indicating the door positions for the train.  People quietly, politely get in line according to the markings.  The train arrives precisely on time, comes to a stop precisely in position according to the door markings.  All doors open simultaneously, the people quickly, smoothly file onto the train, the agent blows his whistle, the doors close, the train leaves.....ON TIME!
  • So, yes, trains are VERY much a part of Japan life, and proudly so, which is why model railroading is so popular among the people, young and old.  Around here?....not so much anymore, sorry to say.

Just a few accumulated thoughts, memories.....FWIW.

 

KD

 

 

Does Hobby Search ship to the US?
Originally Posted by Bill Robb:

I modeled Japanese trains from 2007 until 2012 when O gauge caught my eye. Tomix is the largest Japanese N gauge train and track line and usually first train for Japanese children.  Tomy is a sub line of Tomix.  Both Tomix and Kato have large showrooms in Tokyo. Most current prototype trains are available, especially in N gauge.

 

Most Japanese trains are electrically powered, but Japanese modelers do not use working overhead just dummy poles probably because of the small size and temporary nature of layouts.

 

It is rare to see an O gauge item listed with a Japanese dealer.

 

For more information on Japanese train modeling try JNS (Japanese Modeling & Japan Rail Enthusiasts Forum.

 

Hobby Search is a larger Japanese online model train dealer, dealing mostly in N gauge.

 

Model building, generally, is a much larger thing in Japan than it ever was in the US. There's a reason why some of the best model companies are from there. As I understand it, model building contests take on downright awe-inspiring levels for the quality and originality. Sadly, though, robot modeling has become a massive thing over there. If you ever pick up a copy of "Hobby Japan" from the last 10-15 years, you'll see that the vast majority of the models are of fictional robots.

A lot of TV in Japan in animated, as well (yes, even the stuff you'd never want kids watching, if you get my drift), which also says something about their culture.

I've got an assortment of Kato N scale, great stuff, gradually farming it out to my brother while I focus on O.   I still have a layout table for N, but haven't messed with it for years.  

 

I also have a Z oval and four locomotives and cars.   Nice for traveling.

 

"Don't yuck my yum!"  Not a bad little saying that I had not heard before.   All trains are yum.

O Gauge: the IMAX of Model Railroading, and a multi-sensory experience.

Originally Posted by sinclair:

I know that N is really big there, and there are lots of Japanese N trains to have.  But I would love to get any of these in O.

 

O is in desperate need to get some Japanese rolling stock.  At least MTH is doing some European items.  But Japan has a large and diverse rail history that is being neglected in O.  I'd so buy Japanese bullet trains, commuter trains, and trollies.

I just remembered that the Series 500 has been produced in O, by Kumata Co. Ltd. or KMT--but there will be sticker shock.  These are hand made 1/45 brass models, I assume two rail.  A four car Series 500 starter set was $8,290 US when produced in 2011. A full consist is 16 cars.    At the time of issue a full consist amounted to $32,500 US. A typical product cycle in Japan is to pre-order or you may not get the item and then even N gauge items sell out and disappear from the market in six months.

Originally Posted by FECguy:
 
Does Hobby Search ship to the US?
Originally Posted by Bill Robb:

I modeled Japanese trains from 2007 until 2012 when O gauge caught my eye. Tomix is the largest Japanese N gauge train and track line and usually first train for Japanese children.  Tomy is a sub line of Tomix.  Both Tomix and Kato have large showrooms in Tokyo. Most current prototype trains are available, especially in N gauge.

 

Most Japanese trains are electrically powered, but Japanese modelers do not use working overhead just dummy poles probably because of the small size and temporary nature of layouts.

 

It is rare to see an O gauge item listed with a Japanese dealer.

 

For more information on Japanese train modeling try JNS (Japanese Modeling & Japan Rail Enthusiasts Forum.

 

Hobby Search is a larger Japanese online model train dealer, dealing mostly in N gauge.

 

Yes, Hobby Search does ship to the US and Canada and most other western countries. I have ordered at least 50 times from them over the years.

 

When you go into the individual item, the Hobby Search listing shows a conversion to US dollars to provide reference.

 

 There are two basic methods of shipment: SAL which is cheaper and slower with no tracking or EMS which is expensive, very fast (a matter of days),  automatically insured up to 20,000 Yen and has tracking.

 

Another long time dealer is Plaza Japan on eBay. I have also ordered from Plaza Japan numerous times.

 

One other note most N gauge trains are 1:150 because of the narrow gauge track except Shinkansen are 1:160. (Prototype Shinkansen are almost completely segregated from conventional trains). 

Originally Posted by p51:

A lot of TV in Japan in animated, as well (yes, even the stuff you'd never want kids watching, if you get my drift), which also says something about their culture.

Japanese culture is vastly different than western culture.  This is neither good nor bad, in fact one of the biggest differences is that they do not view things as good or bad to begin with.

Originally Posted by FECguy:
 I did notice most of the equipment being sold were full passenger sets based off of various commuter and intercity passenger trains.  Freight trains do not seem that popular to model.  I only saw a few freight trains while I was in Japan compared to way more passenger trains. 

Freight trains in Japan have to fit into passenger train slots. Generally freight trains will not be more than 20-30 cars.  Railways have historically always had a smaller share of the market with the biggest share going to shipping. Even some new trains are delivered by Japanese trains.

 





Originally Posted by Bill Robb:
Originally Posted by FECguy:
 I did notice most of the equipment being sold were full passenger sets based off of various commuter and intercity passenger trains.  Freight trains do not seem that popular to model.  I only saw a few freight trains while I was in Japan compared to way more passenger trains. 

Freight trains in Japan have to fit into passenger train slots. Generally freight trains will not be more than 20-30 cars.  Railways have historically always had a smaller share of the market with the biggest share going to shipping. Even some new trains are delivered by Japanese ships.

 


 

I get that people like robots, but if you read "Hobby Japan," a magazine that used to carrying all types of models, it's almost 100% robots now.
 
Originally Posted by Bill Robb:
Originally Posted by p51:

A lot of TV in Japan in animated, as well (yes, even the stuff you'd never want kids watching, if you get my drift), which also says something about their culture.

Japanese culture is vastly different than western culture.  This is neither good nor bad, in fact one of the biggest differences is that they do not view things as good or bad to begin with.

I didn't mean it as a bad thing, in that animated content on TV is far more acceptable in Japan than it is here (in that cartoon never automatically equals, "for kids" in Japan, which is a cultural thing). I'm actually a big fan of Japanese animation. I have DVDs of several of them (not the adult ones, I do find that sorta creepy) and a small collection cells from the epic movie, "Akira"...

There is a very high level of railfan video shooting in Japanese train stations and on train lines. Generally in populated areas the rail lines are fenced off.

 

Here is a line intrusion and emergency stop caught on video at Tobu Tojo line at Wako Station.The arrow points to trespassers who try to run across the tracks only to encounter a Tobu train at speed. There`s no reason to be at track level at this point.

 

Here is a near O scale bullet train style EMU. It is a Chinese toy of a Chinese train that itself a near exact copy of a Japanese EMU. It is in effect a copy of a copy. This one and a mate are on my bench as a future conversion project that needs power trucks, some plastic surgery to convert it from a floor toy and a paint job. It cost much less than $8000.

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This is a Japanese Railways commuter train in tin plate.These were like RDCs and often ran MU. It is a floor train and would take a lot to make it run on Oscale track. I have seen it in other liveries as well. I took the last picture with a MTH scale Subway car for comparison. A fun piece of contemporary tinplate.

 

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Member New York Society of Model Engineers

 

Maybe this post won't get me shouted down by experts.

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There is also a heavily-compressed version (as in, the coaches are like RMT Peeps) of a Series 0 or Series 100 Shinkansen made as a floor toy. It's almost sized for O Gauge.

 

I considered getting a pair of them (they're cheap) and outfitting them to run on 'O' track in a back-to-back configuration, like the prototype. But there is still that bugaboo about getting power trucks in 3-rail 'O'. I could probably fabricate something for the coaches, but the power cars are beyond my means to convert without spending a lot of dough. (well, much more than the trains cost anyway)

 

Addendum: Here's a goofy-looking Chinese toy bullet train. The coaches look like compressed copies of 027 coaches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3w2YXfUCfI

---PCJ

My YouTube videos

"Wait... Why am I rolling? Am I moving or are the trees moving? What'd you say about my brakes? Youtookoutmywhaaat?

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Bill Robb posted:

O gauge in Japan. JAM is the major Japanese train exhibition each August. O gauge in Japan strikes me as individuals experimenting with some limited manufacturer support.

Where can I get me some of these Japanese commuter trains in 3R O?

sinclair posted:

Where can I get me some of these Japanese commuter trains in 3R O?

Even though I have been buying Japanese N gauge trains since 2007, I have no idea where you would find these items in Japan.  They do not show up at any of the usual dealers. After Kato and Tomix there is another layer of model train manufacturers in Japan that in many cases may be almost craft like ventures.  Wish I could help you more.

sinclair posted:

I know that N is really big there, and there are lots of Japanese N trains to have.  But I would love to get any of these in O.

 

O is in desperate need to get some Japanese rolling stock.  At least MTH is doing some European items.  But Japan has a large and diverse rail history that is being neglected in O.  I'd so buy Japanese bullet trains, commuter trains, and trollies.

Europe is done by MTH maybe Lionel or Bachmann can take up the Japanese market in the USA.  

 

Keep Your Rails Polished!

NJ HiRailer

(Just Picture The Image)

sinclair posted:
Bill Robb posted:

O gauge in Japan. JAM is the major Japanese train exhibition each August. O gauge in Japan strikes me as individuals experimenting with some limited manufacturer support.

 

  

Where can I get me some of these Japanese commuter trains in 3R O?

The orange cars look like the Ken Kidder O-Gauge brass imports from many moons ago:

(image source: Worthpoint)

brass-scale-car-subway-set-ken-kidder

I don't know if they came in any color than the above, but I've seen them at the mass-transit model show. I've considered "adopting" a set, but they'd need a drivetrain upgrade, lighting and detail upgrades. All do-able, but the power-truck thing still stands in my way. Of course by now, I think if I could get power trucks, I would have scratchbuilt one of the newer commuter trains by buying an HO model and then using its measurements to derive an O-scale version. It wouldn't be too hard, most modern Japanese MU's are pretty squarish.

---PCJ

My YouTube videos

"Wait... Why am I rolling? Am I moving or are the trees moving? What'd you say about my brakes? Youtookoutmywhaaat?

Holy Cow I Can't Staaahp!!"

--MAD's Thomas the "Unstoppable" Tank engine

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