The Japanese Do Everything Right

It's been many years since I visited Japan. Unfortunately, I've become more reluctant to budge from Somerset, but I'm sure close to nothing has changed in terms of that fine nation's commitment to high standards and civility. Rest assured, a recognisable Japan will be around a thousand years from now. I guess that means there's no real urgency to get over there, though it would be nice to make another trip.

Get me off my leather Chesterfield
One thing that might get me off my high-backed leather Chesterfield and over to Japan is the thought of taking a ride on the E001 train. I do enjoy train travel, but it's generally confined to the better routes of continental Europe. Typical of the Japanese to take things up a level when they seem to be taking things a few levels down elsewhere.

The E001, known as the Train Suite Shiki-shima, was launched last year. The train is operated by the East Japan Railway Company, with two and four-day tours starting from Ueno.

E001 meets 007
The train was designed by Ken Okuyama and built by Kawasaki. According to my (overnight) sleeper cell, the train has six sleeping cars, a lounge car, a dining car and observation cars at either end. How long before it features in a Bond film?

From the Kizashi observation car, you can recline in a swivel chair and watch the scenery go by. A smart glass developed by Research Frontiers of the US and made under license by AGC Asahi Glass controls the light brought into this carriage. The glass is 'electronically tintable' so that light and shade can be applied to the glass at the flick of a switch.

Here we see the Shiki-shima dining car where food made using recipes and ingredients local to eastern Japan is served.

Below we see the Komorebi lounge car, named after the Japanese word for 'sunlight that peeks through tress in a forest'.  If you overdo the saki (served at the correct temperature: 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit), you may find yourself snoozing in the Kizashi car later. That would likely be a no-no in polite Japanese society.

A special mention should also be made to the staff uniforms of the East Japan Railway Company, which were designed by Naoki Takizawa, design director of Uniqlo.

Postmen in ties
The Japanese are excellent practitioners of uniformity, which is something we have neglected in Britain. There's room for wabi-sabi but we need shibui in our aesthetics too, and small details matter — a lot — in that they serve to make a much more satisfying whole. In this respect, is it too much to ask to see our postmen wearing ties again?


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