All aboard Japan's incredible trains

Having revolutionised high-speed rail travel with the bullet train, the Japanese are at it again — launching next-level luxury sleepers and even promising an invisible locomotive.

Published 19 Apr 2017, 09:00 BST, Updated 8 Jul 2021, 14:33 BST


Photograph by Getty

The 'invisible' train
Representing neither a leap forward in particle physics nor the discovery of magic, Seibu is working with Pritzker-winning architect Kazuyo Sejima to deliver, by 2018, a mirrored train that blends into its surroundings by reflecting them.

Head for Hokkaido
Japan's newest cruise train is a luxury hotel on wheels. In May, the 34-passenger Shiki-Shima, with its sleeper suites, dining car and panoramic observation decks, will track northeast from Tokyo, through shrines and hot springs towards the wilds of Hokkaido island.

The Twilight Express
Launching in June is the Twilight Express Mizukaze, the most stylish — and leisurely — way to see the seascapes and historic sights of Japan's southwest. The country's most Michelin-starred chef is even rumoured to have crafted the menus.

Commuting dreams // In Japan, napping on the train on your commute home is commended — it's a sign that you've worked yourself to exhaustion. The word for it is 'inemuri', meaning 'sleeping on duty'

Double speed: Maglev in numbers

Japan's state-of-the-art maglev train, which runs on levitating magnet technology to create an almost-frictionless journey, smashed its own world speed record in 2015 during a test run. It will be getting its first commercial route between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027.

373mph // Its record-breaking top speed — 12mph faster than the one set in 2003

310mph // The average speed of the new route

900 // Number of passengers it will carry

10cm // The height it hovers above the tracks

£54 billion // The cost of the new route

40 minutes // The time it'll take to travel the 178-mile journey between Tokyo and Nagoya

Find out more about Japan at our next Travel Geeks event in association with Intrepid Travel. Our panel will share their tips and stories, and offers the answers to all your Japan-related queries: from when and where to go to how to navigate this famously unique and fascinating culture. All you have to do is come armed with a curious mind, your burning questions and any ideas you'd like to discuss. Book tickets here

Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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