Five Incredible Trains to Look Forward to in Japan

News & Views Travel - August 5th, 2016
Shiki-Shima

Trainspotter or not, you can’t deny there’s a certain fascination that comes with Japan’s trains. And just in case the shinkansen is no longer enough to turn your head, railway companies have a few surprises up their sleeves. Here are five new and upcoming attention-grabbing trains to hop aboard.

Seibu KPP Train

These kawaii-themed trains have already been running on the Ikebukuro line since June, and will be running on the Shinjuku line as from July 30 to September 29, 2016. KPP stands for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the J-pop singer who’s collaborating with Seibu Railway on the campaign, which celebrates the fifth year of Kyary’s career as well as the 100th anniversary of Seibu Railway. The signature yellow body of the Seibu 9000 series train has been painted bright pink and is colorfully decorated based on Kyary’s five best-known songs. As expected, the masses have flocked.

More information at seibukpptrain.com

Seibu “Invisible” Train

To conclude their ongoing 100th anniversary celebrations, Seibu Railway plans to unveil an “invisible” train in 2018. Famous for their high-speed bullet trains, the group is stepping up their game by collaborating with Pritzker award-winning architect Kazuyo Sejima on this new design.

Interestingly, the “invisibility” of the train doesn’t come from its speed, but rather from its design. Known for incorporating shiny, reflective surfaces such as glass and marble in her designs, Sejima plans to create an express train that will blend into the passing scenery by effectively mirroring it. The architect has been given permission by Seibu to remodel their existing Red Arrow commuter train, including the interior, and the outcome will be something not unlike a speeding silver bullet. 

“Being an architect, I want to take the advantage of this design that will be moving through spaces. I’d like for it to be like a living room; somewhere you could relax and would want to come back to,” says Sejima.

seibu train

Train Suite Shiki-Shima

JR East is set to launch a brand-new luxury train in May 2017.  Passengers can board at Ueno Station and travel through the Tohoku region, all the way to Hokkaido. The luxury train’s design is a mixture of innovative, futuristic styles and traditional, delicate decor to create the concept of “a train where you can feel the transition in time and space.” The train’s designer, Ken Okayama, known for designing the Ferrari Enzo, says: “We are aiming for a sense of hotel hospitality and heightening the passenger’s travel spirit.”

Shiki-Shima can carry 34 passengers in its 10 cars, six of which feature private suite bedrooms complete with ensuite bathrooms. Designed with traditional Japanese aesthetics and a futuristic spatial design, the bedrooms are spacious and luxurious. Two cars are dedicated to the dining and lounge areas, while the remaining two cars serve as observatory rooms with glass walls and ceilings for optimum views (pictured top).

Shiki-Shima has three travel plans coming up next year. From spring to fall 2017, you can choose between a three-night or one-night package, both of which include stop-offs along the way for sightseeing, and meals by a Michelin-starred chef. The winter two-night package is also worth considering as you’ll get to discover northern Japan at its best: during its white winter.

Package prices range from ¥320,000 to ¥950,000, and reservations are now open for trips departing in July and August 2017. Book before September 30 via www.v-travels.co.jp/shiki-shima/application.html (in Japanese only).

More information in English at www.jreast.co.jp/shiki-shima/en

Twilight Express Mizukaze

Launching in spring 2017, JR West’s new luxury sleeper excursion train, “Mizukaze” (“fresh wind”), is a 10-car train that will run along the gorgeous coastline of western Japan. Expectations for Mizukaze are high as it succeeds JR West’s original sleeper train, the Twilight Express, which was the first of its kind in Japan and ran between Osaka and Sapporo from 1989 to 2015.

The structure and allocations of the facilitates are similar to Shiki-Shima (above), as it carries up to around 30 passengers and offers suite bedrooms, an exquisite lounge, a spacious dining area, and observatory rooms that all contribute to an unforgettable journey.

Departing from Kyoto, Osaka, or Shimonoseki stations, the train will take passengers either on a one-way trip or roundabout tour to discover the Sanin and Sanyo areas. Not only can you relax and absorb the scenery from inside the comfort of the Mizukaze, you’ll also have the chance to explore the various sites including the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine with its “floating” torii gate, and Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture. The packages will also include exclusive experiences designed to let you explore the hidden treasures of Japan.

At the time of writing, exact schedules and prices hadn’t been announced, but you can find more information at twilightexpress-mizukaze.jp/en.

Linear Chuo Shinkansen

You’ve probably already heard about this one, but it’s too good to leave off the list. Having recorded the world’s highest speed of manned traveling at 603 km/h last year, the Linear Chuo Shinkansen is expected to run at 500 km/h, cutting travel time from Tokyo to Osaka to 67 minutes, and Tokyo to Nagoya to 40 minutes. This is twice the speed of current shinkansens, and will make it the fastest bullet train in the world.

The technology used is called Maglev – short for “magnetic levitation” ― where the bullet trains float 10 cm above rail tracks supported by electrically charged magnets. The Tokyo-Nagoya line is already under construction and is planned to open in 2027. And although the Tokyo-Osaka leg was originally planned to only start running in 2045, government officials and Central Japan Railway (JR Tokai) held a press conference in May 2016 to announce their hopes of bringing this date forward to 2027.

Linear Chuo Shinkansen