And no, this doesn’t have anything to do with Elon Musk.
The letter “X” has been a topic of discussion in recent days due to the Twitter rebrand, but for train lovers in Japan, the mention of “X” can only mean one thing — a limited express train called SPACIA X.
Tobu Railway’s sparkling new limited express train connects Tokyo’s Tobu Asakusa Station with Tobu Nikko and Kinugawa-Onsen stations in Tochigi Prefecture. The train — the latest in the railway’s Spacia series, which first appeared in 1990 — made its grand debut on 15 July, and it’s been so popular that our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was only able to book a seat in its stunning “Cockpit Lounge” a few days ago.
▼ He was up in Tochigi Prefecture at the time, so he was able to take the train from Tochigi Station to Tokyo’s Kita-Senju Station.
The cost of the trip worked out to be 1,470 yen (US$10.28) for the standard express fare, plus a 200 yen seat charge for one person’s use of the cockpit lounge, bringing the total to 1,670 yen.
Masanuki’s train departed at 12:37 p.m. and was due to arrive at his destination at 1:32 p.m., which meant he had less than an hour to soak up all the splendour of the Spacia X. So he made sure to be ready with camera in hand to capture every moment of this special train experience, which began as soon as the train pulled up at the platform.
According to Tobu Railway, the white of the train is designed to match gofun, a traditional white pigment made from certain shells, which has been used to paint parts of the Yomeimon Gate at Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
▼ This traditional Japanese pigment is white like porcelain.
As the six-car train came to a stop, Masanuki could see that the windows on the end carriages were shaped like giant Xs. While these are in keeping with the “X” theme, they’re also said to mimic the geometric designs seen in kumiko, a nail-free woodworking craft that’s particularly famous in Tochigi’s Kanuma City.
The train contains a total of 212 seats in a variety of formations. In addition to standard and premium front-facing seats, which take up three carriages, there are semi-private “box seats” and “compartments” that can be enjoyed by families and groups, and a 7-person capacity “cockpit suite” at the end of Car 6, inspired by private jets.
▼ As Masanuki followed the sign to the Cockpit Lounge in Car 1, he couldn’t help but feel as if he’d stepped onto an aircraft instead of a train.
Opening the door to the lounge revealed a beautiful, spacious area that took Masanuki’s breath away. It was bright and plush, with motifs from Tochigi’s famous Nikko Kanaya Hotel, a place loved by local and international dignitaries in Japan, which gave it an extra air of class.
The Cockpit Lounge is home to Goen Cafe Spacia X, a cafe counter that offers beer, coffee, snacks, sweets and souvenirs. Masanuki ordered an iced coffee, which was from Nikko Coffee, a well-known local brand that’s famous amongst coffee connoisseurs for the strong bitterness and richness of its roasts.
▼ There are plenty of drinks and light snacks on the menu to keep you entertained.
Masanuki popped his drink in the holder on his table and sat back in his roomy one-seat sofa to enjoy the scenery as it sped by his hexagonal window.
The windows were wider than he’d expected, and their unusual shape allowed him to admire the landscape from a different point of view.
Another surprising aspect of the journey was just how comfortable the seating was. The one-seater was well-cushioned and so comfy that Masanuki wished he’d booked a ticket to Asakusa, the last stop on the line, as it wouldn’t have cost any extra, given its proximity to Kita-Senju.
Masanuki’s seat was right behind the “cockpit” so he had a great view of things. On the journey to Tokyo, Car 1 is at the tail end of the train so Masanuki was travelling backwards for this trip, but it was so luxurious he didn’t mind at all.
If you do get to travel on this special luxury train, Masanuki recommends spending a minute or two on the deck admiring the gorgeous rooftop view. Being able to see the blue sky and green canopy above like this was a rare experience and yet another highlight of the journey.
Masanuki would also recommend taking the two-hour trip all the way from Asakusa to Kinugawa Onsen to fully enjoy the experience, because by the time he alighted at Kita-Senju, he felt his short time on the train just wasn’t enough.
It was a fantastic way to travel, and Masanuki is keen to do it all again, only next time he’ll get some of his family members together so they can all travel in the luxury cockpit suite, for an even extra level of class.
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[ Read in Japanese ]