Japan’s last “newspaper train” will make its final run in March, ending a long history of Japanese trains serving readers as well as passengers. The JR Sobu Line has carried evening papers from Ryogoku Station to areas in the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture for many years. The March 12 train, however, will be the last. After then, newspapers will be delivered by truck.
Once upon a time, Japan’s newspaper trains were quite numerous. The last two special newspaper trains, which left Ueno and Shiodome Stations, were discontinued several years ago. Those “print-only” trains headed out for areas where roads were rough, weather unpredictable but where readers waited for their daily morning and evening editions. Nowadays, roads have improved and the cost of truck delivery is one-third that of trains.
Despite the end of the newspaper train, newspapers and trains both remain central to Japanese life. Newspapers still provide connections as well as information, just as the railway carries passengers to places where they remain connected to other people. Japan can be proud of its newspapers and railways, whose efficiency and general level of trust serve to hold the country together, even if everyone is not always on the same page or getting off at the same station.
Truck delivery may seem cheaper, but the carbon footprint of gasoline-powered vehicles must be considered. Yet, one cannot long for the past. The thought of a train filled to the brim with news bound for regions outside of Tokyo perhaps no longer stirs up much sense of nostalgia. In this day and age, whatever is cheapest and easiest tends to take precedence.
Still, you can be sure that when Japan’s very last newspaper train departs Ryogoku Station at 1:18 p.m. on March 12, there will be a few people, with cameras in hand, standing near the rail-track to say farewell. Maybe as they photograph the end of an era, they will also be musing on how we deliver and receive news in the next era.
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