Yesterday I drove to the other side of town to obtain a precious resource: a Subway sandwich. Depending on where you live in the world, you may not think that Subway sandwich shops are particularly rare or special, but in rural Japan where you’re less likely to have interesting food choices, we really appreciate the Subway that recently opened. On the way I crossed over some train tracks and stopped my car for three seconds, which you’re required to do here, and just then noticed an interesting thing: a dozen or so young-ish Japanese men lined up beside the railroad crossing with fabulously expensive cameras mounted on tripods, preparing to take a picture of a train that was passing by soon. Because there are so many trains in Japan, it’s natural the country would have more than its share of 電車オタク densha otaku, aka railfans or rail buffs. When I was an English teacher I had several students who loved to travel around Japan seeking out rare trains to take pictures of, like the Chichibu Steam Locomotive, which has been re-purposed to promote ota-tourism as it’s based out of the city where the AnoHana anime was “filmed,” or the romantic Enoshima Line that runs from Kamakura to Shonan Beach, my personal favorite train. The train otakus I saw yesterday were lined up to photograph a rare sight: the passing of a “Dr. Yellow,” which is what the Japanese call the yellow-colored trains designed to test tracks for damage and wear.
Japan is home to many densha otaku, who are usually not as cute as these girls are.