A renovation of Hisatsu Orange Railway's Akune Station, the "Nigiwai Community Center - Akune Station" was renovated and opened on May 3rd, 2014. This station building was designed to serve as a reception hall and community center, with its industrial design handled by Eiji Mitooka. The inside of the building uses trees liberally to create a relaxing atmosphere and contains various facilities such as a multipurpose waiting room, book corner, kids' corner, café, cafeteria, and a shop.
In 1922, Akune Station was opened by the Ministry of Railways to accompany the Sendai Line's newly-opened Akune-Nishikata section. It was destroyed once in World War 2, and following that in 1949 the prototype for the current Akune Station was completed. During the era of the National Railroad and JR Kyushu, Akune Station prospered as a special express train stop. However in March of 2004 control of the station was transferred to the Third Sector Hisatsu Orange Railway as part of the development of the Kyushu Shinkansen. During this period of time, changes to the station were gradually added and the 65-year old Akune Station Building was renovated. As a commemoration of 10 years since the opening of the Hisatsu Orange Railway in 2014, the station building was transformed into the Community Center.
This renovation was carried out with a great deal of care given to the city residents' memories and attachment to the station. The new building is a blend of newness and nostalgia; the building's industrial design was handled by Eiji Mitooka, who is well-known for his work in designing the JR Kyushu's cruise train "Nanatsuboshi in Kyushu" as well as the Hisatsu Orange Railway's sightseeing train "Orange Cafeteria."
The Nigiwai Community Center - Akune Station serves two main purposes: it acts as a "city reception hall", a gateway to Akune City where visitors are entertained by city residents. True to its name it also acts as the "city community center" where locals gather, exchange, and relax. The former outer façade of the original station has been left intact, with soothing colors and a calming wooden interior that create a relaxing atmosphere.
The hotel-like waiting room fits the image of a "reception hall" perfectly. This waiting room has been designed to accommodate a variety of events, such as mini-concerts, markets, and gallery exhibitions. There's also a book corner you can check out while you wait for your train. This book corner includes books from many different genres provided by city residents for you to freely peruse, and you can also purchase books from Tokuma Shoten. There is also a fully-equipped kids' corner with wooden toys. The designers of this corner believed that the smiles of children are directly connected to the town's happiness and revitalization. Right next to the children's corner is café that is gently lit with natural light. You can spend time here however you like, whether it's sipping coffee with a book in one hand, or just passing the time.
If you're looking for memorable experiences for your trip, definitely check out Akune's food and shopping. The Nigiwai Community Center - Akune Station is fully-equipped with a shopping area and restaurants that provide prized local specialties. This shop containing only Akune's highest-quality local specialties is called the Akune-ya. They sell "Tabisuru Maruboshi", a product that received the prestigious Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award in the Kagoshima Seafood Product Fair, as well as the brand "Shojiki Chaya" which is a collection of the best items from Hokusatsu.
The "Akune-ya Dining Hall" is beloved by both visitors and locals. They have dishes featuring Akune's fresh fish, and carbonara made using Akune-produced eggs. They also have plenty of sweets and drinks that you can eat in or take out. You'll make new discoveries every time you visit, as their seasonal menu changes all year long.