A Foot Spa Aboard A Bullet Train

  • The newly designed trains feature cherry reliefs, indicative of Yamagata's cherry trees.

    The newly designed trains feature cherry reliefs, indicative of Yamagata's cherry trees.

  • Tatami mats cover the floors in traditional style.

    Tatami mats cover the floors in traditional style.

  • The JR East train will make daily round-trips from Fukushima to Shinjo on weekends.

    The JR East train will make daily round-trips from Fukushima to Shinjo on weekends.

  • The bar car is interconnected to that of the foot spa.

    The bar car is interconnected to that of the foot spa.

  • The window-facing tubs let riders relax while looking out at the Yamagata countryside.

    The window-facing tubs let riders relax while looking out at the Yamagata countryside.

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There are few more popular relaxation rituals in Japan than soaking in hot water (hot springs, bath houses, soaking tubs) and few better ways of traversing across the country than with its hyper-efficient network of trains. In a pairing of the two, the JR East railway company has launched Toreiyu, a bullet train with on-board foot spas—the country’s first. The nearly US$4 million project brought on car designer Ken Okuyama, best known for his sleek work on the aerodynamic Enzo Ferrari, to reimagine the former bare-bones “Komachi” shinkansen cars of the E3-series bullet train into this 143-passenger traveling spa. The window-facing, 2.4-meter-long foot tubs set on raised stone platforms are found in the spa car; a bar, cherrywood tables, and tatami-matted floors in the interconnected “after bath lounge car”; reliefs of cherries decorate the ceilings and backs of chairs throughout. Making the one two-hour round-trip between Fukushima, the capital of its namesake Prefecture, and Shinjo in Yamagata Prefecture daily on weekends, the train is part of a campaign to boost tourism in Yamagata, known for its beautiful countryside filled with rice paddies, cattle farms, and cherry and pear trees. Now, perhaps there’s no better way to see it than with two of your extremities submerged in hot water and a glass of sake awaiting one car away.

For more information, visit JR East.

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