This is the future of Japanese train travel. And boy, it doesn't get much faster -- or interesting -- than this.
The bullet train (新幹線 or shinkansen) typically isn't that fancy -- though, the first-class "Green Car" carriages are certainly nice. However, the really fancy Japanese trains, such as the Twilight Express or the Seven Star, aren't bullet trains but sleeper cars. Courtesy of The Japan Times and Kyodo, you can see a look inside the Seven Star, which was unveiled last year:
According to Yomiuri Online, the East Japan Rail Company recently announced that the Yamagata Shinkansen, a bullet train that runs a short route between the Shinjo Station in Yamagata and Fukushima Station in Fukushima, is getting a new, special bullet train called "Toreiyu" (とれいゆ).
As pointed out by AP, the train's name is a mash-up of the English word "train," the French word "soleil," and the Japanese "yu" (湯) which refers to "hot water" or "hot bath." Bathing activities, whether that means hot springs or foot baths, are popular in Japan and tourists flock to regions famous for their baths.
The train will have several cars that are covered with tatami mats as well as an area where passengers can dip their toes in foot baths as they gaze out the windows at the beautiful scenery flying by. Here are artist renditions:
The Japan Times reports that the six-car train's two foot baths measure 2.4 meters by 0.5 meters. JR East President Tetsuro Tomita said this is the first "omotenashi," or hospitality, bullet train. It will be the only train of its kind on this line.
However, the train itself is a complete redesign. Other bullet trains for the Yamagata Shinkansen will also get total overhauls, but unlike the light blue Toreiyu, they will be purple and won't feature footbaths and tatami. Famed car designer Ken Okuyama, who was born in Yamagata, designed these new bullet trains. Okuyama is perhaps best known for designing the Enzo Ferrari and the Ferrari 599.
The train will be service in July. As Asahi noted last year, many Japanese tourists are reluctant to visit northeastern Japan, including Yamagata Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture, because of the nuclear disaster. Perhaps this fancy train and some good old fashioned Japanese hospitality will lure them back.
Picture: The Japan Times