All About Japan

4 Fun & Weird Ways to Use the Train

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Japan is known for its fast and efficient trains. But once in a while, rail operators let their hair down and do something really surprising. Here are three fun things you can do with a Japanese train—if you're a major institution looking for some serious promotion.

4. Make Yourself at Home

In April 2014, Ikea gave an entire monorail line a makeover with a fresh look, including mismatched couch patterns, throw pillows, colorful carpets, curtains, paper lamps and coffee tables. The pop-up “commuting showroom” was set up to celebrate the opening of a new Ikea near Tachikawa Station in western Tokyo, complete with food and drinks to resemble a party.

The “Ikea Party Train” ran through the Tama Monorail Line in western Tokyo for just two days before it went back to its usual interior. According to Japanese site Ryutsuu, Ikea family members were selected via raffle to get seats on the train.

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3. Have a High-Speed Concert

In July 2015, chart-topping J-pop group Dreams Come True took over the Kyushu Shinkansen for a special live concert for fans—at 260 kilometers per hour (162 mph)!

Lucky passengers applied for a limited number of seats on a train decorated with images of band members Masato Nakamura and Miwa Yoshida, and were treated to performances of campaign song “Kyushu wo Doko Made mo” ("Take Kyushu as Far You Can," above) and DCT hits spanning three decades: “Ureshii! Tanoshii! Daisuki!” ("Happy! Fun! Love!"), “Thank you,” and “Nando Demo” ("Every Time").

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2. Make a Club on Wheels

Tokyo's Seibu Railway hosted a "Nightclub Train" event for two nights in June 2015, refurbishing a Seibu Line train with a DJ booth and speakers for a non-stop trip from Nerima to Shin-Kiba. Organized in partnership with Shin-Kiba mega-club Ageha, the train was specially allowed to transfer onto the Yurakucho Line just to get to its final destination.

The 40-minute ride featured thumping music courtesy of DJ Alisa Ueno and even dancers from CyberJapan. But before you start thinking this is the wave of the future, take a quick look at the price: men had to shell out ¥7,000, and women got to ride the train at a somewhat more affordable ¥3,000.

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1. Get Married

October 14, 2013 brought two important dates together: Health and Sports Day, a national public holiday, and Train Day. Health and Sports Day is held on the second Monday in October, and commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. October 14, on the other hand, marks the beginning of railway service between Shinbashi and Yokohama Stations in 1872.

2013 was also the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Yamanote Line's lime green cars in 1963, and while those particular cars are no longer in service, the color remains a symbol of Tokyo's iconic circular line. In celebration, Japan Railways took applications from couples wishing to exchange their vows on the Yamanote. One lucky pair was selected, and as the special train coursed its loop out of Ikebukuro Station and back again, it featured an event-appropriate reworking of its interior displays, indicating upcoming stations and transfers including "Happiness" and "Children."

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