Located at the intersection of three prefectures, two train lines and in the middle of Japan's #1 island, Honshu, Bingo-Ochiai is in the middle of nowhere. This use to be a more important station when train travel was more important to the nation's transportation infrastructure. There was a turntable and house there for the staff to stay during long layovers. Now there's the shuttered up house over grown with plants, one small station building, a sink with out a faucet, and three platforms for the trains that go there. The Geibi line does not go straight through to Hiroshima from Niimi, those customers who want to travel through must change trains here. The even more local Kisuki line going to Shinji in Shimane heads north terminates at Bingo-Ochiai also.
Looking back towards Niimi
All three trains arrive at nearly the same time allowing everyone to cross over to their next train. I doubt many people... if any... end their day's travels here. But, it's not just changing trains as you can see in this video a pretty good number of people are taking photos with the trains and station in the background. Why? This is an epicenter for train enthusiasts, aka densha otaku 電車オタク. The remoteness of the station, the rarity of the trains that come here, and those who ride the lines for completeness like me find Bingo-Ochiai an important stop on their train journeys.
Granted, that I've only been here on the Seishun 18 Kippu I've never seen the station during a non-tourist time, but it seemed the motive of everyone coming here was to ride the trains coming here and transit at this station. Perhaps when most of the densha otaku are at work or prohibited from such trips for cost reasons the ridership coming to this station turns to just local ridership. The amont of crazed people with cameras and tripods would decrease greatl. It would be interesting to see the numbers and how the Seishun 18 Kippu effects the numbers of people using this station.
Looking Back Towards Niimi
Is this station kept in operation for riders like me and those you'll see in the video? Is it economically sound to keep this station and the lines linking to it operational? To what degree is this station kept in operation for the densha otaku vs. the normal local ridership? How strong is the influence of Japanese history and train culture to keeping this wonderful place open? The consolidation of the cities in Japan, privatization of state to citizen relationship and the changes in the government vs. governed social contract that it entails all effects the current situation and the future of this place.
I'm one of those crazies with the cameras too!
Now it's an amazing sight to see and participate in the unbridled train love that goes on here. Finding and exploring places like this is one of the best pastimes there is in Japan and getting to and from Bingo-Ochiai couldn't have been any more fun.