Promoting Direct Service to Aomori and Shorter Travel Times
The entire Tohoku Shinkansen was opened between Tokyo and Shin Aomori on 4 December 2010 following the
completion of the extension to Shin Aomori. At the opening,
Series E2 Hayate trains currently making 15 daily returns
between Tokyo and Hachinohe will run on to Shin Aomori,
completing the entire trip in 3 hours and 20 minutes (39
minutes shorter than the current travel time). In addition,
other Hayate services will make one return trip each day between Sendai and Shin Aomori and between Morioka and Shin Aomori, for a total of 17 daily arrivals and departures at/ from Shin Aomori. With through travel on one shinkansen, the Aomori area instantly becomes more accessible from Tokyo as well as from Sendai and other cities in almost the same time as by air (including travel time to and from airports).
As a result, rail is expected to become the predominant
transport mode for access to the Aomori area where air has
held the advantage until now.
In line with the extension to Shin Aomori, JR East is
promoting the reduced travel time to take market share from
airlines. The company is also going forward with systematic
development of tourism, advertising, and product planning
with the aim of increasing tourist numbers. To promote the
attractiveness of the Aomori brand and northern Tohoku
region as a whole, tourism materials focussing on local
gourmet foods and experiences available only in Aomori are being developed. This is in addition to standard tourism
events (cherry blossom viewing, summer festivals, autumn
leaves viewing) promoted so far.
We are also expanding travel products to Tsugaru,
Shimokita, Towada, and other locations to spread the
shinkansen effect through the Aomori area as a whole. This
includes establishing counters to promote rental car use,
deploying only environmentally compatible rental cars, such as hybrids (Shichinohe-Towada office), and establishing and expanding tourist taxis that can be used directly from the station.
New resort trains with hybrid systems will be introduced
on conventional lines connecting with the shinkansen, such
as the Ominato Line, Tsugaru Line, and Gono Line. We are
also broadening the menu of tourism choices along those
lines and enhancing the tourist environment with other
modes of transport for further onward travel, such as buses and taxis.
Marketing Strategy in Line with Introduction of Series E5 Cars in March 2011
Strategy at start of Series E5 300 km/h operation
The Series E5 new high–speed shinkansen carriages are
being introduced between Tokyo and Shin Aomori in spring
of 2011 when Hayabusa services running at the initial
maximum speed of 300 km/h (compared to 275 km/h for
current Hayate) will link Tokyo and Shin Aomori in 3 hours
and 10 minutes. The speed is scheduled to increase to 320
km/h by the end of FY2012, reducing travel time to 3 hours
and 5 minutes. In addition to high–speed performance,
the Series E5 carriages have greatly improved amenities, such as upgraded furnishings and service equipment. The reduced travel time due to higher speeds is an excellent opportunity to boost shinkansen use. Specific measures include events to publicize the attractiveness of the Series
E5 and gain media and public attention, as well as promoting
the Hayabusa high–speed performance and amenities to foster a desire to travel by train.
|Photo: Interior of luxury E5 GranClass car (JR East)
More leg room and better comfort
To improve ride comfort all Series E5 carriages feature fully
active suspension that reduces left and right sway as well
as body tilt devices alleviating centrifugal force in curves.
Attention is also being paid to interior designs, walls and
seat patterns with colours evoking an image of nature to give
a warm, relaxed feel. Seat spacing is wider and barrier-free
measures are ongoing in an effort to provide a comfortable space to as many passengers as possible.
GranClass marketing strategy
In addition to standard and Green (first class) cars, a
‘GranClass’ car exceeding Green cars in quiet and comfort
will provide some of the best services on any railway
worldwide. GranClass will have 18 seats per car, and the
space per person will be 1.4 times that of Green cars. We
are aiming for seat specifications on a par with first class
in international flights, featuring a pitch of 1300 mm and
reclining angle of 45 degrees.
The air-conditioning system will have anti-odour and
anti-bacteria functions using bacteria-removing ions.
Attention to detail extends even to reading lights, foot lights,
interior lighting, power outlets, and other equipment. Special
attendants will provide drinks and light meals. Other services
are also being considered from a variety of perspectives to
make time spent onboard more pleasant.
With the introduction of GranClass, we aim to capture
new customer segments, such as business executives and
wealthy seniors. In targeting these segments, we will run
advertisements featuring TV personalities and carry out promotions at stations using actual GranClass seats.
JR East’s shinkansen network extends from Tokyo in five
directions to Tohoku, Akita, Yamagata, Joetsu, and Nagano.
The network will be almost complete with the extension
to Shin Aomori. Further expanding and enhancing the
network improves the transport convenience and stimulates
interaction between regions.
Regional economies are facing severe
conditions due to economic hollowing out
and the effects of the recent recession,
which is affecting JR East regional lines,
so rejuvenating regional economies is an
important issue for us.
The extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen
to Shin Aomori provides great opportunities
for local communities as well as JR East.
Consequently, we are making major efforts in regional development through the broad
tourism industry, so large economic effects
are expected. It is important for JR East
and people in regional communities to work
together on ideas to get the Tokyo travel
market to consider the Tohoku area and
travel there, so we are teaming with regional
communities to discover the local attractions.
Aomori Prefecture is home to the ancient Sannai
Maruyama site dating from the Jomon period (12,000 to 2500
BP) as well as the Shimokita peninsula famous for
and the Hotokegaura rock formations, the Tsugaru peninsula
with Cape Tappi and Lake Jusan, Mt Hakkoda, and Lake
Towada. It is a treasure trove of attractive tourism resources,
such as the hidden hot springs that dot the prefecture.
Tourism today is undergoing a change from traditional
day excursions to places of historic interest and scenic beauty to come into closer contact with the region and gain
an understanding of it. For example, demand for long-stay
trips where one can experience local life and culture are
on the rise. Meeting the needs for such tourism requires
partnership with the local community.
To help develop tourism, JR East is holding a campaign
from December 2010 to March 2011 followed by The Aomori
Destination Campaign of the six JR passenger companies
from April 2011. These campaigns tie up with local
governments and community members to discover new
Aomori attractions, and will work to create excursion routes
within Aomori Prefecture as well as to Akita and Iwate. For
example, new resort-type hybrid carriages were introduced
in autumn 2010 on the Tsugaru, Gono, and Ominato lines.
We are also working to provide station rental cars, JR group
buses, regularly scheduled tour buses, route buses, tourist
taxis, and other modes of transport in partnership with the
local community at Shichinohe-Towada Station and Shin Aomori Station, so passengers can take excursions to the
Tsugaru and Shimokita peninsulas, Lake Towada, and
As part of a project to stimulate communities, JR East is
deploying ‘Tabi Ichi’ travel products based on the concepts
of ‘customs and culture tied to the community,’ ‘local
production and local consumption,’ and ‘human interaction.’
To create new tourism routes, we will be working in
partnership with local people who have close knowledge of
the area’s attractiveness such as the history, culture, nature,
and food. To build up momentum, we are going forward
steadily in working with the local community to discover
tourism materials and promoting connections with other modes of transport for onward travel.
Measures for Inbound Travellers
JR East’s area in eastern Japan is still less recognized by travellers from abroad than the so-called ‘golden route’ (Tokyo–Mt Fuji–Kyoto/Osaka), and overseas travellers
are unaware of the attractiveness of the eastern area. To
help overcome this problem, JR East sells the regional JR
EAST PASS to encourage visitors from abroad to enjoy
the area. We also present information via websites and
overseas media to promote the area. We are certain that
the extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin Aomori
provides an opportunity to accelerate promotion of the area to foreign visitors.
The beautiful seasons of the Aomori area typified by
the Hirosaki cherry blossoms and local culture, such as the Nebuta festival, provide opportunities for travellers seeking
the out-of-the-ordinary not found in their own countries to
discover the appeal of Japan. While fully communicating the
start of direct services from Tokyo and the short travel time
of just 3 hours and 20 minutes, we are promoting sales of
new products during the Aomori Destination Campaign held in conjunction with the melting of winter snows.
|Photo: Regional JR EAST PASS (JR East)
Advertising in three phases
Unlike past shinkansen launches (December 2002 opening
of Tohoku Shinkansen between Morioka and Hachinohe,
October 1997 opening of Nagano Shinkansen, etc.), the
introduction of new carriages is separate from the opening
of the shinkansen extension to Shin Aomori. To capitalize on
this separation, large campaigns are scheduled after the two
events, with unified long-range advertising used dynamically in each of the following three phases.
Phase 1 Opening of Tohoku Shinkansen extension to
Shin Aomori on 4 December 2010
Phase 2 Start of Series E5 Hayabusa operation and introduction of GranClass in March 2011
Phase 3 Aomori Destination Campaign for 3 months from 23 April 2011.
Each phase has its own promotional content and targets, so advertising is planned to meet those objectives.
Previous advertising in conjunction with the opening of
new lines was deployed from Tokyo based on a Tokyo
perspective. However, this time the community and JR
East will work together to present locally based information
under a co-creation strategy of brainstorming with the local
community. The plan is to first create momentum within
Aomori Prefecture, and then propagate the excitement to the
Tokyo metropolitan area to create even greater momentum.
The first action was deciding a name for the campaign around which everything else revolves and an overall scheme. ‘MY FIRST AOMORI’ was chosen based on expectations of the local people that Aomori Prefecture will be newly discovered following the opening of the
extension to Shin Aomori. The campaign used a series of TV
commercials with story elements just in Aomori Prefecture.
The ‘heroine’ was chosen from 2500 candidates living in the
prefecture. Seven commercials aired in Aomori Prefecture until September and then in Tokyo from October.
|Photo: ‘MY FIRST AOMORI’ Campaign Poster (JR East)
Phase 2 and later advertising
Phase 2 advertising started in January 2011. It features the
Series E5 carriage in a dynamic manner coinciding with
the start of E5 operations. The greater luxury in a relaxing
transport space along with associated services will be
promoted for GranClass deployed for the first time on a domestic shinkansen.
With Phase 3—the Aomori Destination Campaign—Aomori Prefecture and the six JR passenger operators will
deploy unified advertising. Commercials for JR East’s ‘Otonano Kyujitsu’ (Holiday for Adults) Club targeting active seniors
are also scheduled to be filmed in Aomori Prefecture and broadcast from March 2011.