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An E4 series Shinkansen train is seen at JR Niigata Station. --Photo the Yomiuri Shimbun

Double-decker Shinkansen cars to be retired

JAPAN (The Japan News/ANN) -- The E4 series of Shinkansen trains known for their Max Toki and Max Tanigawa services on the Joetsu Shinkansen line will retire after their final run on October 1.
The E4 are the only double-decker Shinkansen trains in Japan. Social media accounts operated by East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) have been flooded with messages from passengers and fans, describing their memories of trips and expressing their appreciation.
JR East is planning events and selling commemorative goods on an unusually large scale. Fans and the railway company are united in their desire to send the trains off in style.
“My first solo trip was in a first-class Green Car of the E4 series; I saved up my New Year’s gift money,” said a message posted on the official Instagram account of the Niigata branch of JR East. Another post there read: “E4 was the best and nicest Shinkansen train, and I liked it very much. I will never forget it.”
Many messages like these, as well as photos and illustrations, were sent to the branch’s Instagram account.
The E4 series Shinkansen trains were first introduced to the Tohoku Shinkansen line in 1997 and to the Joetsu Shinkansen line in 2001. The 16-car trains had a seating capacity of 1,634, the most of any high speed train in the world.
However, in addition to aging, speed has become an issue with the E4. There are now trains that can travel at 320 kph on the Tohoku Shinkansen line, so maintaining operational efficiency has become a challenge due to the E4 trains’ maximum speed of 240 kph.
JR East has been replacing E4 series trains with new single-decker models. The E4 trains on the Tohoku Shinkansen line ended their service in September 2012.
In response to people saying they will miss the train, JR East launched a special website with a variety of content, including an image of the view from the driver’s seat and trivia such as “the E4 cars have two types of arm rests.” Sixty-five commemorative items have been introduced. A double-decker bento meal in a box resembling an E4 train car sells for ¥1,634, and has been popular as a decoration after the meal is consumed.

(Latest Update September 7, 2021)

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