Recently JR West unveiled a new livery for a train that runs in Shimane along the Japan Sea coast, the Iwami Kagura Train.
Iwami, the old name of the province that is now the western part of Shimane Prefecture, is home to a very popular and dynamic style of kagura, a type of folk dance theater popular is some areas of Japan but virtually unknown in others.
The two car train is decorated on the outside with masked characters from some of the dances: Ebisu, red demons, fox demons, the god Susano-o & the eight-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi.
There is no decoration on the inside of the train. The train is an Aqualiner, an express that runs on the Sanin Line between Masuda in the west of Shimane to Yonago just across the border in Tottori. Strangely it does not run on the newly named Iwami Kagura Line.
Iwami Kagura Line is the new name for the Sanko Line which runs from the Sanin Line Gotsu Station on the Japan Sea coast to Miyoshi in the mountains of northern Hiroshima where it connects with the Geibi Line to Hiroshima and Niimi, and the Fukuen Line for Fuchu.
The 108 kilometer Sanko Line opened in 1930 though the central section was not completed until 1970.
The Iwami Kagura Line follows the Gonokawa River, the longest river in West Japan, and the five trains a day leisurely crisscross the river many times taking almost three and a half hours to complete the journey passing right through the heart of Iwami Kagura country.
As the Iwami Kagura Line each of the 35 stations has been given a name of one of the dances in the Iwami kagura repertoire, and a large signboard displays a photo from the dance as performed by a kagura group from close to the station and an explanation of the dances story is also displayed.
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