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All Aboard the Fireworks Train!

Trains Tokyo Niigata

Back in October 2015, Japan Railway announced its plans for what the company bills as the world’s fastest form of art appreciation: a special Shinkansen (bullet train) decorated both inside and out with artwork from contemporary painters, sculptors and photographers.

Dubbed Genbi (meaning “Contemporary Beauty”), the unique bullet train will be going into service on the Joetsu Shinkansen Line, which connects Niigata Prefecture with Tokyo.

The town of Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture, also has a Shinkansen station, but it’s on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, a completely different leg of the high-speed transportation network. Nevertheless, rail fans in the city got a special treat in January 2016 when the Genbi pulled into Sendai Station.

The Genbi is currently undergoing testing on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line between Sendai and Kitakami Station in Iwate Prefecture. The choice of location gives JR the opportunity to drum up a little publicity in other parts of Japan for the train, which, in contrast to Japan’s ordinarily white Shinkansen carriages, sports a stylishly sophisticated coat of black paint.

However, while the nose and tail of the Genbi are solid black, its sides are much more colorful.

Along the cars’ flanks are gigantic photographs taken at the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, which is held annually in Niigata and is one of Japan’s premier displays of aerial pyrotechnics. And in order to provide both a bigger canvas and a bit of fashionable asymmetry, the special cars have windows on only one side.

Trainspotters along the Tohoku Shinkansen Line are encouraged to keep a close eye out for the Genbi, since not only is it scheduled to move to the Joetsu Line to start service in spring 2016—being a bullet train means that if you blink, you just might miss it!

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