Train geeks are in for a treat next year. From March 2011 it will be possible to ride in splendid style from Shin-Osaka to Kagoshima in a new N700-7000 series of Sakura shinkansen created especially for the route.
The plush new carriages of the new Sakura trains are the work of designer Eiji Mitooka, who has a long track record for creating sumptuous, award-winning train designs. The video above gives a sneak peak inside the new rolling stock of the Sakura, showing just how much care and attention has been put into this new line. One of the most striking features is the use of real wood throughout the train, which gives the carriages a lovely warm, natural feel. Nikkei Trendy reports that the feeling of luxury goes up a notch in the Green Car (the Japanese equivalent of first class), where the carpet and seat coverings are decorated with a traditional leaf pattern.
Last year Mitooka unveiled an even more elegant carriage design for the 800 series Kyushu shinkansen. As with the Sakura project, the materials used were not cheap: leather-covered seats; gold-leaf partitions between carriages; and real wooden armrests and tray tables. My favorite, though, is the phone booth, which has a noren hanging in the entrance for privacy. Mitooka clearly loves traditional Japanese arts and crafts and tries to weave these elements into modern design as much as possible.
Mitooka is also responsible for the redesigning of Kishi Station, which was completed this summer. The Wakayama Pref. station became famous throughout Japan due to its feline station master. Tourists flock there to catch a glimpse of the calico cat Tama, who greets visitors wearing her special cat-size station master’s hat. Mitooka has run with the cat theme by creating a new thatched roof that resembles a cat’s head, with two stained-glass windows for eyes. Local craftsmen were employed at considerable expense to create an authentic thatched roof, which is usually seen in shrines and temples. It is indeed the cat’s meow.