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How to Go Trainspotting in China Without Being Charged With Espionage

If you go trainspotting in China you have to be careful, or you may be charged with industrial espionage, according to prolific trainspotter and YouTube vlogger RailKingJP.

This is because in China, unlike in Japan, hunting down trains in order to take and share pictures and videos online, is not a widely known hobby. However, China, with its still-working steam trains, is an irresistible destination for Japanese rail enthusiasts.

To help them out, RailKingJP annotes his adventures in China with tips and tricks for tracking down trains and staying on the right side of the law (many of his YouTube videos have English captions):

Besides explaining how not to appear suspicious, RailKingJP also explains how trainspotters can find a hotel room in China, in this case in Chengdu.

The challenge? Finding a hotel room with a working Internet connection that also is permitted to accept foreigners.

He documents his encounter with a roadside tout:

The lesson for trainspotters? Make sure your hotel has an Internet connection, and don’t be afraid top check the room out before parting with your money.

Another video documents his attempts to see steam locomotives dump fly ash from a power plant. Apparently the “mushroom cloud” is quite something to see:


On his trips to China, RailKingJP often goes to great extremes to get the perfect shot. In this video, he awakens early and walks in the dark to find a spot to observe the Shinbanxi narrow-gauge railroad. His video provides a unique glimpse into rural Chinese culture and transportation:

Essentially, if you like trains, RailKingJP has uploaded some fantastic footage, such as this video pairing steam locomotives with China’s state-of-the-art high-speed rail line:

RailKingJP appears to be based near Tokyo. He travels a lot on business, and manages to fit in trainspotting wherever he goes. So, RailKingJP has also posted dozens of videos of Japanese trains (although not all of them have English captions).

In some of his Japanese videos, he provides useful advice that helps trainspotters up their game when attempting to photograph their favorite train.

For example, here is, according to RailKingJP, one of the best spots to watch the Shinkansen bullet train (for railfans and photographers, the bullet train presents special challenges because its elevated tracks essentially hide the train except for a few spots):


In this video, RailKingJP demonstrates a useful wireless gadget he bought in Akihabara that lets trainspotters know when a train is approaching:

Like many trainspotters, RailKingJP is driven to track down and document rare trains, often from “classic” trainspotting locations around Japan. He also has uploaded a few videos in a classic format of the genre called ‘front view” (前面展望, zenmen toubou). “Front view” uploads by railfans are the perfect way to explore Japan's rail system via YouTube.

Here is RailKingJP's recent trip from Shinjuku in Tokyo to the hot spring resort of Hakone, as seen from the front window of the beautiful Odakyu Romance Car: 

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