Wordcatcher Tales: Tetchan, Mitchan, Noritetsu, Toritetsu

Last month Mr. & Mrs. Outlier made good use of our Japan Rail passes to visit several of the more far-outlying places on Japan’s extensive rail network. We flew in and out of Fukuoka, so we started with JR Kyushu, riding its brand new Shinkansen trains as well as some of the older express trains.

On the way up to Nagoya, we stopped for a night at Shin-Yamaguchi, the starting point for the Yamaguchi Line, which connects the Sanyō Main Line along the Inland Sea with the San’in Main Line along the Japan Sea. Originally called Ogōri, the old station dates from 1913 and now caters to railway nostalgists, among whom I would have to count myself.

The next day we rode the 1-driver, 2-car Super-Oki Limited Express as far as Tottori, famous for its sand dunes. The following day we continued on to Toyooka, where we had to change to the non-JR Kitakinki Tango Railway‘s Miyazu Line in order to cross off my bucket list Amanohashidate, the third of Japan’s three most famous scenic views. Then we hopped back on the KTR to its terminus at Nishi-Maizuru, back on the JR network. Then we rode the local-only JR Obama Line the rest of the way to Tsuruga, the terminus of one of Japan’s earliest railway lines (1882), connecting the port of Osaka to the Japan Sea and crossing Lake Biwa by ship between Ōtsu (‘Big Harbor’) and Nagahama (‘Long Beach’).

In a small railway museum that used to be the Tsuruga Port train station building, we encountered a Japanese railway buff of the first order, a young businessman who was spending holiday time riding trains and visiting railway museums. When I told him we had come from riding the new Kyushu Shinkansen, he told me JR Kyushu had won awards for their new bullet train designs. When I said we were headed for Nagoya, he recommended I visit the new JR SCMAGLEV and Railway Park there. Our paths crossed again when he came out of the Tsuruga City Museum as we were going in, and he and I exchanged a final wave as he was entering and I was leaving the Nagoya Shinkansen station.

It was in Nagoya that Mrs. Outlier learned several words used in Japanese to refer to train buffs. The Japanese word for ‘railroad’ is 鉄道 tetsudou lit. ‘iron-road’, and railroad enthusiasts can be somewhat mockingly referred to as 鉄ちゃん Tetchan ‘railies’ if male and 道ちゃん Mitchan ‘roadies’ if female. (The native Japanese pronunciation of 道 is michi ‘road’.) More neutral terms for them in Japanese are 乗り鉄 nori-tetsu ‘ride-rail’ for those who seek to ride particular trains, or 撮り鉄 tori-tetsu ‘take-rail’ for those who seek to take photographs of particular trains.

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3 Comments

Filed under Japan, language, travel

3 responses to “Wordcatcher Tales: Tetchan, Mitchan, Noritetsu, Toritetsu

  1. Not far from Tottori is the Adachi Museum of Art [ http://www.adachi-museum.or.jp/e/ ]with its beautiful gardens. Hope you had a chance to see them. The area can also be reached by air via the Yonago Airport. The Tottori Dunes, of course, were the setting for the movie made of Abe Kobo’s “Woman of the Dunes” 砂の女.

  2. Informative and interesting. Japanese love to develop those special names!

  3. Pingback: Wordcatcher Tales: Japanese Fish Names | Far Outliers

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