Night on the Galactic Railroad

Ever since I watched Spring and Chaos, I wanted to see another animated film based on Kenji Miyazawa’s famous story. 銀河鉄道の夜 was recognized by the Ministry of Education in Japan and inspired Leiji Matsumoto to create Ginga Tetsudo 999

Kenji Miyazawa (宮沢 賢治, 27 August 1896 – 21 September 1933) was a poet, writer, teacher, Buddhist, vegetarian, and a social activist in early Shōwa period. Night on the Galactic Railroad is one of his well-known stories.

After Kenji’s most beloved sister Toshi died in 1922, Kenji, in sorrow, went on a railroad trip to Sakhalin. He started working on this novel soon afterwards in 1924, and this trip is said to be the basis of the story.

Plot Summary: On the night of a festival, Giovanni embarks a train that takes him across the Milky Way. Joining him in this trip is his friend Campanella. Together they meet peculiar passengers as they travel to an uncertain destination.

Director: Gisaburô Sugii

Music Composition: Haruomi Hosono (Yellow Magic Orchestra)



Running time: 105 minutes

Some of the major themes of the story are self-sacrifice, compassion, death, and search for happiness.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the contrast of religions. While most cats and humans leave the train to enter heaven, the protagonists continue their journey to the center of the galaxy.

Sound and music are utilized very well to create mysterious atmosphere. Also silent exchanges of expressions with relatively scarce dialog, focus on symbolic objects, and subtle camera movements are especially pleasant to watch.

Related Works:

Japanese digital artist Kagaya Yutaka released a DVD in 2007 with an animated feature also called 銀河鉄道の夜 (a.k.a. The Celestial Railroad or Fantasy Railroad in the Stars). Kuwashima Houko narrated the story. Thanks to Gaguri for posting about this new work 🙂

Utada Hikaru’s song Take 5 was inspired by Miyazawa’s story 🙂

Further Reading:


2 thoughts on “Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru

  1. I saw both Spring and Chaos and Night on the Galactic Road. Night on the Galactic Road was overall very charming, moving and thoughtful, but it is incredibly slow…would’ve helped if the pacing was faster in sections that weren’t so immersive (so it can be more immersive when needed).

    I think Spring and Chaos I had similar sentiment, although the animation is much more chaotic and immaginative in hallucination sequences.

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