trains

We try one ekiben shop’s three most popular bento boxes- out of a selection of 170 kinds

On March 14, the new extension of the Nagano Shinkansen line will open, connecting Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures to Tokyo. This is exciting news for Chubu region locals and Tokyoites alike, as the trip from the northern central prefectures to Tokyo will take a mere 2.5 hours, so everyone is preparing for some fun day trips!

What’s the best part of Shinkansen day trips (other than effortlessly speeding through beautiful Japanese countryside)? Ekiben! Ekiben are lunch boxes sold in train stations, specifically to be taken on long train rides. One of our Tokyo-based writers visited a famous ekiben shop, which sells over 170 bento box options and ate the top three kinds. Do they deserve their rankings at the top?

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Here’s what Kyoto’s subway looks like plastered with anime girls

As we recently reported, the bigwigs at the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau got together a while back and had a little brainstorming session regarding how to convince more people to use the subway. So what did they come up with?

Super-kawaii moe anime girls plastered all over the place! All part of the “Let’s ride the subway” advertising campaign, which hopes to bring in an extra 50,000 passengers a day. So how are people reacting to the sudden plethora of brightly colored cuteness all over their train platforms and carriages?

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Cute anime railway girls keep passengers company on Tokyo Skytree train

Japan is no stranger to weird and wonderful product collaborations between companies. We’ve seen Mos burger x Mister Donut creations, a Hello Kitty invasion of The Very Hungry Caterpillar books and even Sailor Moon girls teeing up with sanitary pads.

So when the ten-year anniversary of the Tetsudou Musume (Railway Girls) anime rolled around this year, their new collaboration could have taken them anywhere. Thankfully, the girls have gone the more conventional route – by tying up with an actual train and riding together with you in 2-D form inside the carriages.

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High-speed rail in China just got moe-fied

Taiwan has their cute rail mascot, and now China’s getting in on the act, too. Originally doujinshi characters, these anthropomorphised moe anime versions of high-speed trains have now made their debut at an official rail event. Read on to see the cosplaying cuties and their 2-D counterparts.

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Things left behind on Japanese trains: A sad photographic collection to make you wonder

From the super-efficient bullet train cleaning team that whizzes in and out in a seven-minute turnaround, to stories of entertainingly brilliant station customer service, there are heaps of things to love about Japan’s rail system, which ranks amongst the cleanest and most punctual in the world.

One other cool thing about Japanese trains – or perhaps about Japanese society in general – is that if you lose something, you stand a pretty good chance of getting it back again. Even valuable items like smartphones or wallets often end up handed in to lost property and returned to their original owner.

Today, though, we bring you a collection of some of the more unusual items left on trains around Japan – things that made other commuters go “Huh? Why’d someone have that on the train anyway?”

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Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

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Schoolboy offers elderly man seat on train, gets publicly berated for doing just that

Japanese people have a reputation for being polite and well-mannered, so the frequent sight of so many people, rather than giving up their seat as they should, suddenly becoming engrossed in their smartphones or pretending to sleep when a pregnant woman or elderly person boards always comes as a bit of a surprise to me.

Of course, there are still plenty of kind and courteous people who offer up their seat without fail. On such occasions, the elderly passenger will often decline the offer, either because they will be getting off in a couple stops, or because despite appearances they still feel young and genki enough to stand for the journey. One elderly man in particular, though, took offense at a young boy who kindly offered up his seat recently.

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New app allows commuters to share info on train delays through Twitter

While trains in Japan are revered for their reliability and punctuality, sometimes the inevitable happens, and services become delayed. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands in Japan who depend on the trains to get you to and from work each day, it can really put a damper on things to arrive at the station and find your platform crowded with other commuters, expecting a long wait.

If you had known about the delay beforehand, you could’ve planned a different route, or if that’s not an option, you could have stopped somewhere for some coffee to kill the time. It would be great if there was an app for that, you think.

Well, lucky for you there is!

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Dedicated railroad otaku creates the digital swiss army knife of Tokyo Metro maps

This past year the Tokyo Metro has been brought to life in many different ways, ranging from a spaghetti-alien map to, well, a 3-D spaghetti-alien map. But it’s the latest re-imagining of the Tokyo Metro in the highly versatile SVG format that’s currently causing a lot of commotion online.

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Policewoman’s posterior produces poetic justice as she arrests man she says groped her on train

Police in Hyogo Prefecture are reporting the arrest of a man suspected of being a chikan, Japan’s embarrassing subclass of perverts that grope unsuspecting women on crowded trains. The suspect’s capture wasn’t the result of a sophisticated sting or surveillance operation, though. As a matter of fact, the arresting officer didn’t even have to chase the man down, as the police claim he was caught red, and butt, handed when he grabbed the behind of a fellow passenger who’s also a policewoman.

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Taiwanese subway’s anime mascot wants you to mind your manners, watch out for the Hamburglar

While Japan can boast the most anime girl mascots, both in total and on a per capita basis, the country doesn’t have a monopoly on cute 2-D spokeswomen. Among other neighbors in Asia, Taiwan has shown it’s willing to take a page from Japanese otaku imagery now and again.

Last winter, for instance, McDonald’s workers at one branch in Taiwan dressed up in maid outfits. And if you’re choosing fast food because there’s someplace you’ve got to be, your anime preferences will still be catered to if you choose to get there with the Kaohsiung City subway and its new, doe-eyed, miniskirted mascot.

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Creepy or cute? Feel the Panda Train’s intense gaze before sightseeing in resort town Shirahama

Though the “Panda Train” that runs between Kyōto and the beach resort town of Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture has been around for a few years, Japanese netizens recently have been making quite the hubbub over photos of its panda seats. Online reactions range from “Kawaiiii!” to “It looks like it’ll hug me to death!”, but most agree that they’re simply confused by the presence of polyurethane pandas on a train heading to a former honeymoon Mecca.

While Shirahama (lit. “White Beach”) is famous for its beautiful sand, hot springs, and remarkable rock formations, many in Japan are surprisingly unaware of its other claim to fame: pandas. Read on to learn more about the crowd-pleasing train and a theme park complex called Adventure World, which has a panda-breeding and research facility with an impressive track record that’s second only to mainland China. If you’re already tired of the cold this winter, this article may give you some ideas for next summer!

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Filled to bursting point? Rush-hour crush on Tokyo subway leaves train with broken window

The Tokyo metropolitan subway system is notorious for being incredibly crowded at rush hour, with commuters packed into narrow train carriages like sardines in a can. You’re probably familiar with images of white-gloved train conductors literally pushing people onto trains in an attempt to squeeze just one more body on before departure.

It can be very scary being squished into a mass of people like that, and this particularly holds true in case of sudden incidents such as the one that occurred this week when the window of a train literally broke due to the pressure of all of those heaving bodies. Join us after the jump for images of crushed glass and scenes of utter chaos! Okay, it’s actually only a few cracks, but still…

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1,200 Japanese workers convert above-ground train to subway line in a matter of hours

On March 15, 2013, the Shibuya Station Toyoko Line above-ground train quietly shut down for good, to be replaced with a new section of subway track connecting Shibuya Station and the nearby Daikanyama Station. Converting the line from above-ground to underground was a massive operation, requiring a grand total of 1,200 engineers and countless man-hours.

But, even if you’d been living in Tokyo at the time, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the construction, because it all occurred during the train line’s off-hours… over the course of one single night.

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Giant statue built into station in northern Japan is historical, terrifying, and awesome

The major train stations in urban Japan almost seem like small cities, packed with restaurants, hotels, and shopping space. Things are usually pretty different out in the countryside, though, where many rail stops are little more than an awning with a short bench to sit on while you wait for the trains to roll in.

We say rural stations are “usually” simple, though, because in one town up north in Aomori Prefecture, you’ll find a station guarded by what looks like a massive alien.

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Tokyo Station lists departing train’s destination as…New York?!

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.

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Sit back and enjoy the journey: Japan’s Top 10 local train rides

Nowadays with discount airlines, hybrid cars and night buses, it’s easy to get where you want to go quickly and cheaply. Of course, in Japan trains are probably the most utilized mode of transportation. Some train companies around Japan, however, have really taken to heart the idea that “Life is a journey, not a destination,” as there are many train lines which are designed as sightseeing trains, or just happen to pass through beautiful scenery and let you enjoy the journey – the beautiful forests, the stunning seaside, sometimes even the trains themselves are part of the experience.

Recently Rakuten Travel announced its top 10 list for the best local trains around the country. Let’s take a look at what these train lines have to offer after the jump.

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Tokyo’s Shibuya holds its first Halloween costume contest aboard a train, we ride along

Back before Halloween became as popular in Japan as it is today, Tokyo expats looking to celebrate the holiday would stage impromptu costume parties on the last car of the JR Yamanote loop line. At the time, though, most Japanese people weren’t familiar with Halloween, and this tended to freak the indigenous locals out, leading Japan Railways to eventually crack down on the festivities.

Things have changed a lot in the last 15 years, though. Tokyo is starting to seriously get into the Halloween spirit, so much so that another rail company, Tokyu, actually held a Halloween costume contest onboard one of its trains, and we went to check it out.

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South Korean design company turns subway maps into beautiful artwork you can hang on your wall

The first time I went to Tokyo alone, I got lost within the first five minutes of arriving at Shinjuku Station, unable to comprehend why there were so many transfers to different lines going in different directions. Without mobile data on my phone, I was basically one of the ‘internet-less lost gaijin’ crippled by the lack of Google Maps who ended up befriending the station master at every transfer station because, without them, I would probably have had to spend the night hanging out with the buskers on the streets.

The maps in Japanese subway stations are not only confusing, they also look like multi-colored spaghetti or weird roller coasters, and I can clearly recall thinking how nice it would be to have a better-looking representation of the city’s train lines. Thankfully, it looks like South Korean design company Zero per Zero has fulfilled my wish with their subway map designs, which are becoming a hot topic on Reddit.

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Holiday travelers in China get sleepy, creative and frisky on trains 【Photos】

Here in Japan, we’ve still got a couple of weeks to go until our next public holiday, when Sports Day comes up on October 13. Workers in China, though, can look forward to a day off much sooner with National Day of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.

The holiday marks the founding of the nation, and many people choose to spend their time off by visiting family members. The travel rush seems to have already started, but with a country as large as China, some passengers are in for a long ride back to their home towns. But when you’re spending hours upon hours on a train how do you get some shut-eye without springing for a sleeper car? By being inventive and literally flexible, as these photos show us.

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