Recent travels in the northern parts of Japan’s mainland have seen me whizzing past many unmanned stations. It’s not really a surprise to see them in the countryside but it’s rare to see such a thing so close to Tokyo. Just over the border though is a virtually abandoned station which continues to operate in darkness.
This station in the Tsurumi ward of Yokohama city (Kanagawa prefecture) has incredibly been unstaffed since March 1971 and has none of the regular convenience stores, bakeries, barbers, flower shops and so on which adorn many other stations. Instead Kokudō Staion, located along the Tsurumi Line linking up the industrial area just south of Haneda Airport, has boarded-up shops and outdated signs from an era that time has forgotten.
I could play it cool and say that I was just passing through Kokudō but the truth is that I went out of my way to see what it was all about. After changing trains at Tsurumi I was at Kokudō a couple of minutes later and disembarked onto the platform where nothing seemed too out of place apart from some slightly overgrown vegetation on the tracks. However, once you descend down into the station it’s a different story altogether.
As soon as your head dips beneath the surface you immediately notice how dark and empty it is with just a few solitary figures coming and going or even just passing through.
There are no ticket gates at the foot of the steps which are the only option as this station has no elevator. There’s just a machine for the honest people to tap in or out with their smart cards. It’s not complete darkness for there are a few lights but it’s drastically different from normal.
An automated ticket machine and a couple of vending machines near the main entrance is about as modern as it gets here. The area around the entrance was all a far cry from the usual stations which are the focal point of many towns and cities in Japan. Other than the sound of traffic, this one was eerily quiet. The station sign was similar to those at all other JR stations but with added rust!
At the other end were a load of bicycles pretty much blocking the exit. Amidst the abandoned shops, with doors that have remained locked for a long time, is a narrow side exit doorway which takes you right into the residential area, if not into some people’s gardens!
Across the road from the main exit, I followed the tracks for a bit walking alongside the homes which lie beneath the Tsurumi Line. I’m still not sure if there are people residing in these homes or not as they didn’t seem in that great condition.
Kokudō Station opened at the end of October in 1930 and 14 years later it featured in an Akira Kurosawa movie called ‘Stray Dog’ (1949) which was music to my ears. Sadly though I haven’t seen that film so a return to this station could well be on the cards someday soon once I’ve got round to watching it.