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April 11, 2013

When In Japan, Take The Train…

By Chris Boyle

High-speed trains in Japan.

High-speed trains in Japan.

By Doug Gollan

While private jets may be your favorite choice of transportation, rail and private jets have quite a bit in common. Before the Wright Brothers and even today, private rail cars continue to be an exclusive transportation mode for VIPs, movers and shakers and even heads of state.

Rail has always been a preferred way to explore Japan – famous for its bullet trains – and today a half dozen independent railways offer a variety of trains as interesting for their unique designs as for the places they can take you.

East Japan Railway Company, known as JR-East, is used by many visitors as the operator of Narita Express and Tokyo Monorail serving Haneda Airport.

Among its most interesting looking train is the Tohoku Shinkansen with its fluted nose that gives it a snake like appearance. Reaching speeds of over 300 kilometers per hour it connects Tokyo to Shin-Aomori.

Company Chairman Satoshi Seino was on hand for the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Forum with a large high-level tourism delegation from Japan to both thank the council for its post-tragedy support and report that tourism is back to record levels.

Serving some of Japan’s most devastated areas, the line had no fatalities and miraculously had restored service on its main line within two weeks after the tandem quake-tsunami. With its tracks and bridges having been built to the highest safety standards, Seino said damage was limited mainly to electrical wires.

Next year JR East will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Tokyo Central Station. With five different high speed trains, it offers a variety of options for elite travelers, and to ensure you will be pampered book GranClass with dedicated cabin attendants, private jet style leather seats and wool carpet (limited to 18 seats per car). Seats have individual reading lights, a cocktail tray, dining table, climate control panel and there are meals and beverages. Amenities even include slippers.

Trains in Japan are big business. The company generates over $2.5 billion in annual revenue and also operates shopping malls at its various stations and even hotels.

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