National

Seibu to debut dinner trains featuring local fare on its scenic Chichibu Line from spring

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Seibu Railway Co. will debut a dining train service in spring 2016 that offers gourmet meals to passengers traveling the scenic Seibu Chichibu Line.

Starting April 17, passengers will be able to board a newly introduced train dubbed “52 seats of happiness,” so named because it can accommodate up to 52 passengers bound for Chichibu from Tokyo, and enjoy fare from the region as they head toward it.

The mountainous Chichibu region in Saitama Prefecture is famous for flower-viewing spots, including the Shibazakura phlox with its pink petals that bloom between mid-April and early May.

The train will connect Tokyo’s Seibu Ikebukuro and Shinjuku stations with Seibu Chichibu Station. The service will also be available between Seibu Shinjuku and Honkawagoe stations.

“While attracting customers to the region is one of our goals, we also want to offer our customers a new experience aboard the train,” said Yumi Nakajima of the company’s PR division. “Train services have until now been perceived mostly as a means to a destination. We wanted to change it so that people will enjoy the journey itself.”

The interior and exterior of the trains have been designed by architect Kengo Kuma, whose greenery-rich design was selected last week for the new National Stadium that will serve as the centerpiece of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The train will be specially refurbished with local crafts, including Japanese washi paper and wood in the cars’ ceilings.

The four coaches will be adorned with seasonal scenes on their outside and will have open dining and multipurpose spaces that can be used for weddings and other events.

“We hope the train will be enjoyed in various different ways,” Nakajima said. “We want to respond to the needs of all customers from Japan and overseas.”

According to the company, the dining train is part of its project to mark the 100th anniversary of the operation of the Seibu Railway Line.

The railway plans to operate the cars on about 100 days of the year, mostly on weekends and holidays.

The menu and prices have yet to be announced.

Reservations can be made starting from Feb. 1 via the company’s website at www.seibu-group.co.jp/railways/seibu52-shifuku/index.html