JR East announced its JR East Group Management Vision
V – Ever Onward (GVV) in October 2012. Since then, the
company has debuted individually customized trains, such
as TOHOKU EMOTION, SL Ginga, Koshino Shu*Kura,
and Toreiyu Tsubasa, the likes of which have never been
seen before. More recently, plans for a ‘luxury cruise train’
have been published with a scheduled operation start in
Subsequently, in recent years, other operators have
started running appealing trains, which are gaining people’s
attention. This article describes the background to their
introduction and introduces some examples at JR East.
The GVV catchphrase is ‘Thriving with Communities,
Growing Globally’, demonstrating JR East’s mission of
coming together as part of the community and building
vibrant communities. This mission can be accomplished only
because railway business functions as a network. It is based
on the concept that railway business growth depends on
both vigorous regional areas and the huge market of Greater
Tokyo, as well as movement of people between the two.
Seen from this viewpoint, we introduced TOHOKU
EMOTION and other trains as new-concept trains to promote
riding on regional lines as the objective.
This revolutionary idea reverses how we think about
the train. Conventionally, a train is seen as a means of
moving from one point to another, so the focus has been
on physical aspects, such as improving convenience and
comfort, or increasing travel expectations if the destination
was a resort. However, these new trains focus on creating
tourism by operating as local resources running only on
regional lines. When developing the concept for each
individual train, we tried to infuse regional characteristics
into the design, so the trains would become a loved and
supported part of the local community. Some specific
examples are described in this article.
Unlike ‘luxury cruise trains’, instead of promoting Japan
as a travel destination, the objective of these regional
trains is to show the intrinsic enjoyment of rail compared
to other modes while improving the corporate brand of the JR East group of companies. The train specifications are
|Positioning in Management Strategy
As previously mentioned, the background to introduction
of appealing trains was not only to secure operation
revenues, but was also to deploy measures embodying
the JR East management philosophy. Although diverging
from the main topic, I would like to explain how we are
positioning appealing trains after reviewing JR East’s current
Japan faces a severe problem of falling birth rates and
an aging population. According to the National Institute
of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s
population will drop by 4.1% from 128.06 million in 2010 to
124.1 million by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Moreover, the
working population (aged 15 to 64 years) making up the bulk
of railway users is expected to decrease by 9.4% from 81.03
million to 73.41 million.
The railway business is an infrastructure industry
with high fixed charges; it has less flexibility than other
industries that can cut costs as demand declines. As a
countermeasure, JR East’s management strategy is securing
revenue in an aging society while also making cost-cutting
Traditionally, measures to increase revenues have
included large-scale demand-stimulating travel promotions
in populous areas such as Greater Tokyo, discounts such as
special-plan tickets, and external sales using the customerattracting
abilities of travel agents. Although these measures
still continue, even more radical measures matching the
current market conditions are needed and some are
Enhancing yield management to increase per-train revenue
• Introduce world-first railway yield management system controlling seat sales and discounts using big data trends from previous seat reservations and results.
• Discontinue conventional special tickets with no sales control and shift to limited-seat special ticket sales coupled with yield management system.
Enhancing target growth
• Develop usage analysis engine and enhance web
communication interface to attract senior generation over
next 20 years and increase repeat usage.
• Grow sales to foreign visitors expected to reach 10
million people annually over next 10 years in response to
national policy promoting Japan as travel destination.
Creating new demand
• Develop and refine new tourism resources in JR East
operations area and enhance commercialization
• Deploy measures to promote decentralization from
Greater Tokyo to regional areas
• Introduce appealing trains in response to boom in railway
I will leave explanations of individual measures to a
future opportunity, but introduction of appealing trains as
an all-new tool for creating demand in an aging society
occupies a key position in terms of management strategy.
The concept of the TOHOKU EMOTION running on the
Hachinohe Line mainly at weekends and holidays since
October 2013 is a restaurant space with an emphasis on
‘discovering/experiencing a new Tohoku region’ in terms of
design, food, and art.
It is formed from just three carriages for only 48
passengers. The first car is composed of private dining
compartments; the second car is a kitchen viewing space;
and the third is an open restaurant.
The décor is extravagant and presents an image of
being in a ‘moving restaurant’. French gourmet main courses
are served on the outbound run followed by a dessert
buffet on the return. Passengers enjoy elegant meals while
watching the scenic seashore on a trip lasting about 1 hour
Relationship with local community
The TOHOKU EMOTION was introduced to help revitalize
local communities and support restoration after the 2011
Great East Japan Earthquake.
The meals use locally sourced ingredients and the
restaurant spaces are decorated with art exhibits from local
museums to showcase traditions, crafts, and materials from
across the Tohoku region.
The chefs supervising the meals are rotated periodically
to ensure staff have local connections whenever possible.
Local volunteers undertake community measures to liven-up the trip; locals ensure the seashore
vistas are kept clean and greet trains
arriving at stations by waving large flags and
banners symbolizing a large catch of fish.
The concept of SL Ginga running on the
Kamaishi Line most weekends and holidays
from April 2014 is to evoke the feel of Tohoku
culture, nature, and scenery. The train
is hauled by a restored Class C58 steam
locomotive and the carriage interiors feature
themes from Kenji Miyazawa’s (1896-1933)
Night on the Galactic Railroad. Miyazawa
was a famous Japanese poet and author
of children’s literature and a journey on SL
Ginga shares the atmosphere of his story world.
The livery of the four-car train with a planetarium in the
first car features constellations and animals from Night on the
Galactic Railroad against an azure background, symbolizing
the night sky. The train carries 176 passengers on a one-way
trip lasting 4.5 hours.
Relationship with local community
The SL Ginga is a restoration of the C58239 locomotive
that had been on static display in a public park in Tohoku.
The idea for the restoration was to help revitalize the local community after the damage caused by the 2011 Great East
Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Stories for a picture book featuring steam locomotives
were collected mainly from the Tohoku area, and copies
of the completed book were donated to trackside primary
schools, kindergartens, libraries, etc.
In conjunction with the start of operations, a facility for
experiencing a real steam locomotive was created at the
Kamaishi terminal, enhancing the attraction of Kamaishi
and giving children an opportunity to come into contact
The concept of the Koshino Shu*Kura running mainly on
weekends and holidays on the Shin’etsu and Iiyama lines
since May 2014 is to allow up to 70 passengers to enjoy
Niigata’s famous sake (rice wine) and Japanese cuisine. The
train interior features motifs of a Japanese sake brewery. The
first carriage has a special seating arrangement with paired
observation seats next to large windows where exclusive vintages and fine meals can be enjoyed. The second
carriage has an event space with bar tables made from
barrels for tasting local brews, and enjoying jazz concerts
and other events. The third car has reclining seats. A oneway
trip lasts about 3 hours.
Relationship with local community
The Koshino Shu*Kura was introduced to revitalize the local
community by providing an opportunity to run a large-scale campaign promoting the Niigata area. Celebrities promote
menus using local specialties such as local sake, while
others perform jazz. One brand named after the Koshino
Shu*Kura is served only on the train. Other specialists serve
local sake on some days.
The concept of the Toreiyu Tsubasa running mainly on
weekends and holidays on the Ou Line since July 2014 is
to offer its 143 passengers a way to enjoy local delicacies,history, and nature while visiting a hot-spring resort. The
train livery features a motif of Mt Gassan, the region’s
The six modified shinkansen cars with relaxing foot spas
make it ‘fun to ride’ the train; passengers can watch the
passing scenery as they soak their tired feet. A bar counter,
brunch sets, etc., serve local foods produced by celebrity
chefs from the local area.
Relationship with local community
The Toreiyu Tsubasa was introduced to invigorate the
local community by promoting the Yamagata area, and an
onboard exhibition space displays traditional crafts from the
Mogami, Murakami, Okitama, and Shonai districts of Niigata.
|Future ‘Luxury Cruise’ Trains
The concept of these future train operations scheduled to
start in spring 2017 is enjoyment of the passing of time and space in a quality and refined space not yet experienced
in trains. The trains will travel throughout the Japanese
archipelago centred on east Japan, depending on the
season and journey theme.
The trains will use newly developed electric/diesel cars
for running over both electrified and non-electrified sections
with high performance and backup redundancy.
Each 10-car set for 34 passengers is composed of a
motor car with observation lounge and curved panoramic
windows at each end, a lounge car, a dining car, a deluxe
suite car (with two cabins), and five suite cars (each with
The lounge car will have a high ceiling and a design
creating the impression of a forest for an elating out-of-theordinary
travel experience. The dining car will be a relaxing
space where passengers can enjoy local fresh in-season
foods while watching the passing scenery.
The deluxe suite cabins will be one maisonette type
and one apartment type while the suite cabins will be all
apartment type. They will be quality spaces combining
Japanese aesthetics with modern design.
Details of travel plans and service contents are to be
Table 1: August 2014 Results and Sales Area Ratio
Photo: Exterior of TOHOKU EMOTION (JR East)
Photo: Interior design of TOHOKU EMOTION (JR East)
Photo: Local volunteers welcoming TOHOKU EMOTION passengers (JR East)
Photo: Exterior of SL Ginga (JR East)
Photo: Interior of SL Ginga (JR East)
Photo: Koshino Shu*Kura introduced to revitalize local community (JR East)
Photo: Interior of Koshino Shu*Kura (JR East)
Photo: Toreiyu Tsubasa introduced in July 2014 (JR East)
Photo: Interior of Toreiyu Tsubasa (JR East)
Photo: Exterior design image of JR East Cruise Train (JR East)
Photo: Interior design image of JR East Cruise Train (JR East)
|Current Situation and Future Outlook
The sales for the currently running trains are all good (Table 1).
The percentage of reserved seats sold outside the
areas where the trains run vary between 47% and 66%,
demonstrating that the trains themselves have become
tourism resources as planned.
These trains are attracting attention from overseas too
and recent TOHOKU EMOTION passengers from Hong
Kong said they also wanted to ride the Toreiyu Tsubasa.
We are studying deployment of these types of trains in future overseas markets and are promoting ‘wholesale
sales’ combining train trips with onboard food and drinks
via travel agencies.
Most important is promoting and deepening the idea
of ‘valuing community connections’. Our experiences so
far show that trackside communities support these trains.
Unlike other transport modes, trains appeal to people as
social capital and can be ‘symbols for regional unity’. If local
operators combine their efforts to enliven trains, it can lead
to cooperation in other activities too. The JR East group
is aiming at revitalizing communities as well as increased
revenues by promoting train rejuvenation based on its
slogan of ‘Thriving with Communities’.
National Institute of Population and Social Security Research Population
Projections for Japan (January 2012)
This article was contributed by JR East Marketing Department.