Foreign visitors and residents who haven’t yet gotten far off the beaten path in Japan might not recognize all of the final destinations of trains that depart Tokyo Station. Some of the various lines that intersect at the rail hub lead to places like Takao, Choshi, and Kurihama, none of which are exactly world-famous (even if the last one does have an awesome Godzilla slide).
The other day, though, one of the platform displays at Tokyo Station announced a train destination plenty of non-Japanese passengers are familiar with: New York.
Thursday afternoon isn’t the busiest time at Tokyo Station. Still, several people passing through the station on November 6 noticed an unusual listing on the board of the Sobu Line platform.
緋巫女 (@wnxvo_m45687) November 06, 2014
▲ “When I got to the platform at Tokyo Station, I found a train headed for New York!”
In the photo, we can clearly see that the final destination of the 1:36 p.m. train is New York, written ニューヨーク in Japanese katakana script. This wasn’t another case of a humorous mix-up in sign programming, either.
So what gives? Well, there’s a hint in the form of the red kanji characters on the far left of the train’s information.
昼寝 (@hirune48) November 06, 2014
Usually, this spot is used to denote whether the train is a local or express, but the New York-bound train is marked 団体. Read as dantai, it means “group,” and not just anyone could hop on the 13:36 departure. The 13:36 intercontinental train was reserved just for the participants in a tour linking Tokyo and New York’s Grand Central Station.
Earlier this year, Grand Central and Tokyo Station entered into a formal relationship as sister stations. As part of the latter’s ongoing 100th birthday celebration (which also included a touching anime short), a group of train and travel-loving individuals signed up for a trip that began with a party and night’s accommodation at the luxurious Tokyo Station Hotel in a room overlooking the Imperial Palace. After a tour of the Stationmaster’s Office, the travelers were whisked off to Narita Airport by their private train. From there, they transferred to a JAL airliner (for which going to the U.S. is pretty routine), before landing in New York for activities including a tour of Tokyo’s sister station, a ride in a vintage 1940s rail car, and a meal at the exclusive Club 101.
So no, sadly, the train didn’t leave Tokyo at 1:36 and run all the way to New York.
At least, that’s the official line from the tour operators. Actually, though, since no one other than the tour group was allowed onboard, we’ve got no way to confirm it didn’t pull out of the capital, head east until it reached the coast of Chiba Prefecture, and just keep on chugging across the ocean.