The Shinkansen, Japan’s super-speedy bullet trains are already a pretty fast and efficient way to get around Japan, as they whisk travellers from the country’s cosmopolitan urban centres to its more traditional rural locales.
But what if you want to experience a bit of authentic Japanese culture while you’re zipping across Japan at 200 miles per hour? Fear not, Japan Railway has just the thing: a bullet train with tatami reed flooring and a Japanese-style foot bath.
JR East will soon launch the service, with at least one carriage on the shinkansen bullet train having two 2.4-metre-long (8-foot) tubs facing windows.
The train will run on a 148-kilometre (92-mile) route between Fukushima and Shinjo City in Yamagata prefecture mostly on weekends. It is part of a campaign to promote tourism in Yamagata, a farming area known for rice, beef, cherries and pears.
This area is known as the Tohoku region and in a country that loves its nostalgia, the Tohoku region is particularly traditional, where many people still lead the bucolic lifestyles that were the norm in Japan before the surges of urbanization that came in the early and mid-20th century.
The designer of the new carriages is Kiyoyuki Okuyama who also has experience designing for Ferrari, so he has a good reputation for style.
Shinankansen lines offering new experiences is nothing new. The train to the northern prefecture of Akita offers its own special micro-brew beer. Super Komachi Beer has more going for it than just its novelty, though, as it’s also a two-time World Beer Award winner. This great drop is available only on shinkansen trains and stations in Akita Prefecture.
Bathing is a ritualised and highly-prized activity in Japan and so the footbaths on the Tohoku trains are intended as places for passengers to relax rather than to clean their feet.
The train, named Toreiyu, will also have a car with a bar counter and tatami-mat flooring with tables made from cherrywood.
The inland city of Fukushima is more than 60 kilometres northwest of the tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant on the Pacific coast.