An eye opener for early morning commuters, indeed! Kids were asked about what kind of train they would like to ride on - and the designs were actually made, as you can see on the Odakyu train. Let the morning sun in! This is Nanako Kato’s "Let’s All Ride Together" that won the Odakyu Line children's contest.

Train Design by Kids: “All on board the Technicolor Zoo”

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While waiting on your commuter train, a wagon neatly decorated all over with crayoned swinging monkeys, grazing elephants and prowling snakes pulls into the station. Is the children’s zoo in town? Far from that! This recently happened for real on the Odakyu Line. PingMag got curious and asked them what this was all about: These colourful kid’s illustrations on the train are the result of a design contest. Today PingMag tells you more about this wonderful idea to put a little colour into the rat race of Tokyo.

Written by Ryoko
Translated by Kevin Mcgue

In commemoration of their 80th anniversary, Odakyu Railway held a “Train Design Contest” to collect drawings from children all over Japan. At the conclusion, two of the submitted works were used to decorate actual trains. We contacted the PR department at Odakyu to learn more:

We wanted to create a railway that is kid-friendly, and also deepen the communication with kids. So we held this contest, which also encouraged the involvement of the kids’ families, says the Odakyu spokesperson.

A poster in a train announcing the contest…

… and more info in the train station.

Then, the contest started this July: Designs were collected from children elementary school age and younger, under the theme of “Our Dream Train”. Submissions were accepted during students’ summer holidays, and lots of creative works by ‘young and upcoming artists’ were sent in. Within two months, 2,511 submissions made their way to Odakyu!

Oh! I want to ride that train – such a natural mood enhancer.

Yuichi Kimura, an illustrator of children’s books, was the special guest judge for the contest.

Judges for the contest included university professors – and children’s books illustrator Yuichi Kimura – to go through all these amazing colourful creations. In the end, eighty designs were short-listed, and among these, awards were given to eight:

One of the awarded works: Kanae Aoki’s “Jungle Train”. What a sweet idea!
This one makes clever use of the windows as glasses: Satsuko Arai’s “We’re all friends”.
Another cheerful motif – about trains: Hajime Ebisawa’s “Summer’s Rainbow-coloured Train.”
Hiroki Ueda’s “Let’s All Ride the Train We Love:” How cute with all these smiling faces!

Finally, two drawings were selected to be applied onto actual wagons: Nanako Kato’s drawing of many happy animals on a bright yellow background, and Kazutera Maehira’s colourful and dynamic picture of Mount Fuji.

Commuters who get to ride this colorful train will be happy all day! Nanako Kato’s “Let’s All Ride Together” got awarded.
What an imagination! Award-winning Kazutera Maehira’s bright landscape with an interesting pattern featuring Mount Fuji.

On the 17th of last month, Odakyu held an awards ceremony and also unveiled the newly decorated trains (and cheering them with lots of bubbles.) Ten children, including the two winners, were honourably mentioned by judges, Yuichi Kimura and Masanori Mizunuma of Takaratomy, and all the parents joined proudly.

The little winners: Kazutera Maehira and Nanako Kato.

Winner Nanako Kato said that she drew her design to express the fun of riding trains with others, and Kazutera Maehira explained that he drew some scenes of the town around Ebina Station. Children’s book illustrator Yuichi Kimura commented:
There were so many wonderful designs that the judges really had a difficult task. These two were especially attractive and uplifting designs. The drawings express their feelings in a direct way and, by looking at them, it makes me wish to draw like that!”

The final unveiling of the train. Watch out for all these little spots – it’s a shower of bubbles. How festive!

At the unveiling ceremony, the train, which was decorated on both sides with the winning designs, slowly pulled out from a large garage into a shower of bubbles that was activated by the children’s signal. When the little designers finally got to see their work up close, they were beaming with excitement and pride.

Group photo: all of the winners, their families, and the judges.

And the train is not only decorated on the outside: Inside, you can see many of the other submitted works on display. If passengers look at these bright drawings on their way to work, it puts instantly a smile on their faces. Since so many use this train every day, word is spreading quickly.

Two submitted drawings displayed in the train: a mild design (left) and a bright turquoise one (right.)
Stunning motif – a friendly whale shark in blue and yellow!
Again, the vibrant Mount Fuji! Who wouldn’t like to ride with that train!

Simply lovely! The kid’s train designs will be on the Odakyu Line between Shinjuku and Shin-Matsuda and the Tama Line between Shin-Jiyugaoka and Karakida until the end of March, 2008. Watch out for these!

  • plue

    simply stunning!

  • Mike

    This is so great, we usually associate the train with so many negative things (gropers/drunks/crowding), wonderful the kids can give us a break from all that :)

  • Eirua

    Beautiful idea

  • MaryAnne

    This is one of many reasons u miss Japan

  • yu:

    i love pingmag!!!
    from China…

  • Shawn

    New York city transit has a similar program – but instead of children with crayons they have urban gangsters with spray paint cans. Very cool idea and great pics!!


    What a lovely idea, I want to see more trains like this…. and like the last commentor, would love to see some graffiti trains….

  • monohate

    That’s just amazing! Don’t know what to say more :-) .

  • may

    i want to ride on this train! :3

  • shermeen

    This really brought a smile to my face, it’s great to remember that design doesn’t always have to be about perfectly-rendered visuals! This sounds sappy, but the happiness of the drawings is just so contagious!

    Thanks Ryoko and Kevin for featuring this!

  • Michael

    I just saw one of these train in Machida station. They are very cute

  • angellesmell

    dang those kids are good


    On the look out for these trains, those kids are super stylin’.
    Bringing brightness and joy to the city through creativity is always amazing no matter what age the creators.
    Thanks Ping!

  • JMSV

    Is like a graffiti but more cool and made it by kids that is amazing

  • Dwayne Charrington

    Wow, maybe they should paint our trains next, because our trains are UGLY.

  • ben

    wow! supercool!
    …almost as good as NYC transit in the eighties.
    nah, better!

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  • Siggy

    I like this idea. Very refreshing from the norm.

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  • Joanne

    thats wonderful, great job =]

  • Klim


    check out our trains

    Great stuff


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  • tayaru

    its a nice encouragement for the with work.

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