Train travel is one of the most enjoyable experiences in Japan, and because the country is serviced by an intricate and convenient train network, rail travel is one of the most common means of transportation for travellers. When it comes to Shinkansen travel, enjoying a specially prepared lunchbox is all part of the experience. JR East has taken the railway dining experience up a notch with a fleet of trains offering speciality meals for passengers to enjoy onboard.
Operating in the Tohoku area in northern Japan, JR East’s ‘Joyful Trains’ are exactly what they sound like – trains that were created to make the journey as enjoyable as possible. With an exciting variety of services on the Joyful Train line-up from a Pikachu themed train to trains with onboard planetariums and foot baths – these trains echo the concept that the ride should not focus only on the destination, but on the journey too (including delicious meals). From fruity cakes to sake paired lunch boxes, we have comprised a list of the three best meals you can have on JR East’s Joyful Trains to inspire you for your next Japan trip.
Sip locally brewed Sake onboard
The Koshino Shu*Kura operates in Niigata Prefecture – a local legend in the production of rice and sake. This train was built with the idea of serving locally made sake to people who might not have the chance to visit a brewery on their journey to Niigata. Onboard travellers can sample carefully selected Niigata sake and meals made from local ingredients.
There are three lines the train runs on through Niigata, and although the services are the same, each line has a different name.
Meals served on these trains feature Niigata specialities including freshly caught seafood and of course – Niigata rice. The trains have a variety of, from the regular booth seating to sake cask standing tables – giving you a truly unique drinking experience.
Tip: The Koshino Shu*Kura trains mainly operate on weekends (and the occasional weekday), so be sure to check the train schedules when planning your ride!
All the best elements of the Tohoku Region in one place
A train that is a true visual delight inside and out is the TOHOKU EMOTION. This train features a unique exterior monochrome look while the interior is elaborately decorated with traditional crafts sourced from areas around the Touhoku region.
The interior designs include elements of Aomori Prefecture’s signature Kogin-Sashi embroidery and lighting including elements of Iwate Prefecture’s Kohaku amber. However, the fun of riding on the TOHOKU EMOTION doesn’t end there – this train also offers its passengers a seasonal menu designed by celebrity chefs made onboard the train. Every six months, a new chef takes over the train’s kitchens, each creating their own seasonal course menus that incorporate some of the best Tohoku sourced produce. All of the meals are served on traditional dining ware, from locally made ceramics to lacquer plates and square cedar wood boxes. The TOHOKU EMOTION runs along the coast between two port cities – Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture’s Kuji City, allowing guests to gaze at the Sanriku coastline as they travel and enjoy the delectable delights along the way!
Tip: The TOHOKU EMOTION runs on most Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year.
Sweets on the run
The FruiTea Fukushima is a unique two-car train with a sole focus on sweet things – created with a concept of providing an elegant space for passengers to enjoy uniquely crafted sweets made from local produce. Onboard travellers can experience a travelling café serving a seasonal menu of cakes, jellies, tarts and pastries made with Fukushima’s delicious seasonal fruits such as grapes, peaches, apples and Asian pears from Fukushima’s locally famous fruit farms.
The first car of the FruiTea Fukushima is the café cart, equipped with a café counter running almost the entire length of the car and an open seating area, while the second cart is a dedicated area for table seating. Sit back and take a bite of a strawberry tart with a warm cup of tea as you travel through the scenic countryside of Fukushima Prefecture.
Tip: The train runs on two lines in Fukushima Prefecture, mostly on weekends (and some weekdays) throughout the year, so it is best to plan your journey after checking the trains schedule on the website.