Friday, 9 December 2011

The Last of Overnight Sleeper Train on the Tokaido Line

EMU JR West 285 series, overnight sleeper train, "Sunrise Express" arrives at Tokyo Terminal

As we move forward in the twenty-first century, all of the time people manage to save is actually making their lives more hectic. A typical example is the decline of overnight sleeper trains.

In the 1970s, overnight sleepers were star trains on the trunk lines in Japan. Many reputable trains, such as Fuji (the highest mountain in Japan), Sakura (a cherry blossom) and Asakaze (morning breeze), were operated with high occupancy rate. Some of the tickets were called as "platinum tickets" due to the difficulty of reservation.

But now, almost all sleeper trains have been abolished because people have transferred to other transportations such as the Shinkansen or air carriers. Certainly, they are faster and more convenient than those of sleeper trains; however, people are busier than ever. Consequently, there is only one overnight sleeper train on the Tokaido Main Line; "Sunrise Express" (see the top photo).

Sunrise Express is an EMU that has comfortable berthing. Connecting Tokyo, Takamatsu (the gate city of Shikoku Island) and Izumo-shi (a historical city in San-in Region), it travels through the night on the Tokaido and other branch lines. When the train bound for Takamatsu crosses the Seto-oohashi Bridge, which links Honshu and Shikoku islands, the passengers can see the beautiful sunrise on the Sea of Seto-naikai.

Although comfortable and scenic travel is provided, it has not been possible to put a stop to its long-term decline of passengers. I think that it is now literally in danger of being abolished.

Sunrise Express; it should be designated as an endangered species.

Side view of EMU JR West KuHaNe 285-1, the top number car of 285 series at Tokyo Station

More information about Sunrise Express (Interior photos with captions in Japanese):