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Fri, 28 Jun ’13

All Aboard: Inside Japan’s Train Obsession

Are locomotives the new anime?

Packing It In: From the first time a foreigner steps onto a Japanese train, things are definitely different. For starters, they most likely didn’t just step on to the train, but were more likely “politely shoved on to it” by helpful, white-gloved station agents. Trains (especially during rush hour) get so congested that railroad workers physically push people onto waiting trains. It’s efficient, and just a tad bit violent – just how we like it.

Geeking Out – Trainspotting isn’t just for Scottish drug addicts. There are many different kinds of Train Otaku: Nori Tetsu (people who love traveling the lines and taking new trains), Tori-Tetsu (those who enjoy photographing trains), Oto-Tetsu (those strange souls who record audio of train noises) and even Ekiben-Tetsu (those enjoy eating the special food, specific to each train).

Dining Out – Most train stations (and even many trains) offer Ekiben, special indivual bento boxes, to hungry travelers, usually containing ingredients or cuisine specific to that train line or region. The average Ekiben contains some sort of fish or sushi dish, some chicken, a dessert and a handy array of tiny utensils. Either way, it’s a heck of a lot better than what is offered on American rail travel.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet – The undeniable kings of Japan’s railroad culture are the Shinkansen bullet trains, a high speed rail network that traverses the country. Environmentally efficient, asthetically pleasing and faster than you’d expect (200 MPH, anyone?), these high tech trains offer ease and dependability while going really, really, really (super) fast.