back to article Japan's bullet trains replace smoking rooms with Zooming rooms

The Central Japan Railway Company will replace smoking rooms on some of its Shinkansen bullet trains with Zooming cars. The company already offers on-train WiFi, but recognizes that a certain viral pandemic has made video conferencing rather more popular. It feels its trains should not be Zoom-free zones that inconvenience …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lagging

    I was on a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto five years ago and couldn't believe it didn't have wifi or power sockets in the carriages. I guess it depends where on the repidly moving tech cycle major infrastructure lands, but it was a bit weird coming from Scotland with our commuter infrastructure so-equipped for years to find it a bit stuck in the dark ages. I suspect their offering now beats ours.

    1. Adam Trickett
      WTF?

      Re: Lagging

      Ditto in France. The TGV service is fantastic, fast and reliable, but no WiFI or at seat power in most of the rolling stock. The regional TER trains do mostly have at seat power now but not WifI (at least on the ones I've used), and I think the refurbished TGV and most recent TGVs may now have at seat power and WifI.

      We forget that some countries have already started to decommission their first and second generation high speed trains, and are replacing them with third and fourth generations, while the old BR IC125/HST still soldier on and the UK doesn't really have any actual high speed rail at all (other than a HS1).

    2. Ken Y-N
      Go

      Re: Lagging

      Which train were you on - the most expensive Nozomi (N700) class has had them for ages, although up to now it's been one plug shared between the two or three seats in the row.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lagging

      Why bother with wifi? The Shinkansen are so fucking fast, you'll almost be at your destination by the time you've unpacked the laptop, found the right power adapter, plugged in your mouse, got past the captive portal, etc, etc.

      The Japanese offering has always beaten ours. With or without wi-fi. Their trains are fast, comfortable, punctual, clean, have civil staff, etc, etc. I'd choose a Shunkansen over Scotrail every time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lagging

        Well, yeah, of course I'd much rather have the Shinkansen but the point was I was surprised it didn't have a couple of wee things I've got used to. Anything to make the journey through Airdrie and Bathgate quicker would get my vote.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lagging

        > The Japanese offering has always beaten ours. With or without wi-fi. Their trains are fast, comfortable, punctual, clean, have civil staff, etc, etc. I'd choose a Shunkansen over Scotrail every time.

        ^^^^ THIS !

        Forget creature comforts such as plugs or WiFi. Just give me a damn Shinkansen quality service any day of the week !

        Infact *all* Japanese rail beats anything in the UK. Even small local routes are punctual, clean and have civil staff. Compared to say the horrors of Northern Rail in the UK.

        Oh and there's one other great thing about Japanese Rail. The food malls at the stations ! You can actually get decent food, not the sort of weird,claggy,greasy, mildly-damp and generally unhealthy specimen you find at UK stations.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lagging

        > Why bother with wifi? The Shinkansen are so fucking fast, you'll almost be at

        > your destination by the time you've unpacked the laptop

        I'm a "shinkansen commuter" which meant before the pandemic I travelled into Tokyo on a daily basis by Shinkansen. The morning trains are pretty packed so you barely have space to get a laptop out.

        But if you were doing the ~3 hour trip from Tokyo to Osaka in the middle of the day when the trains have one or two people in each carriage you might actually want to get your laptop out and do something.

      4. EricB123 Bronze badge

        Re: Lagging

        Don't even think about Amtrak!

    4. elwe

      Re: Lagging

      All the ones I have taken in the last four years have had power. Not always one outlet per seat, but enough. And I am always on a JR rail pass that doesn't include the super fast premium trains.

      Not sure about wifi, in Japan I always have a cellular hot spot on me with unlimited data, so it isn't work faffing about changing wifi networks.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Lagging

      a decade or so ago I was using a commute train in southern CA to avoid traffic (went up to 75MPH in spots, but mostly under 40). Unfortunately the trip time kept increasing (due to inconvenient bus re-scheduling at the destination, mostly) so I stopped doing it. But while i was using the train many of us train riders wanted wifi. A laptop made it possible to do work, but I usually just played music and had an "alarm" go off 5 minutes before my stop in case I nodded off...

      Trains being used as off-site work zones could mean shorter actual work days, recovering time while commuting, but at the expensive of inconvenience and bad scheduling practices. Unfortunately the trade-off got SO bad I withstood the traffic that I HATE to save over an HOUR each way...

      (bus arrives too early, leaves too late, inconvenient "everyone on one or two for-the-train buses" and their convenient-for-the-politicians schedules, buses slowed down in traffic and hence picks up earlier and earlier, drop you off later and later, and they leave you at the station longer and longer, etc. etc. - not a good thing after initially being pretty cool)

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    So you get on the train, hold the meeting with your colleague via Zoom, turn round and come back?

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Yes, this is the future. Now they have to figure out how not to hop on a train in the first place.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      So you get on the train, hold the meeting with your colleague via Zoom, turn round and come zoom back?

      FTFY ;)

    3. Alpharious

      I assumed that it was so that they can harass you with work while you are on vacation abroad, but then it occurs to me that if i am fully remote then i can become a IT nomad, and travel the world while still keeping my job so long as i have wifi.

      IT nomads sound like a future i want to be a part of.

  3. sbt
    Happy

    "zzz..."

    TIL that Japanese folks snore in english.

  4. Howard Sway Silver badge

    its trains should not be Zoom-free zones that inconvenience business travellers

    No, the trains should be full of people talking loudly to their laptops that annoy the hell out of other passengers!

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: its trains should not be Zoom-free zones that inconvenience business travellers

      we need a portable "cone of silence"

      (see 'Get Smart' TV show from the 60's, which was co-written by Mel Brooks, if you haven't heard of that before. "Sorry about that, Chief")

  5. cyberdemon Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Fast WiFi, Zoom Booth, 300km/h train Tokaido to Sanyo

    ... and I bet it's cheaper than chugging along from Reading to Oxford.

    1. Alpharious

      Re: Fast WiFi, Zoom Booth, 300km/h train Tokaido to Sanyo

      I think a ticket from Tokyo to Osaka is like 300 dollars? It's been a long time since i rode it. My father in law was in a wheelchair after his stroke, so it was a far more comfortable, and accessible option for him then flying.

      Japans a weird place, it walks a razors edge between being a Utopia and a Dystopia.

      1. albaleo

        Re: Fast WiFi, Zoom Booth, 300km/h train Tokaido to Sanyo

        Not quite so expensive. Currently it's about £100 from Osaka to Tokyo (one way - ¥14500).

        The last time I rode it (about two years ago) was also with my father-in-law in a wheelchair. The disabled toilets on the train were impressive.

  6. PhilipN Silver badge

    manga-style illustrations

    which say “coming soon” (sic) more than once. Ran it through G**** Translate from Japanese and - hey - it’s the same in English! How about that?

    Strange, unless the same expression in Japanese means something else, like, oh I dunno, some kind of advance warning to your girlfriend? We know how polite the Japanese are.

    1. albaleo

      Re: manga-style illustrations

      That advance warning would translate as "going soon" in English. But as I never know whether I'm coming or going, I guess it makes little difference.

  7. Tron

    The many joys of Japanese trains.

    JP trains have taken a bit of a hit from the pandemic, but the shinkansen, which arrive on time to the minute, run every 10 minutes or so at peak times on the Tokaido line from Tokyo to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and on down the country. Most of mine had power. They are all well staffed. The staff wear immaculate uniforms and white gloves, and bow to the passengers when they enter and leave carriages. The platforms are well staffed too, and all rail staff use 'shisa kanko' - hand movements, that go with specific tasks, so that they do them properly each time. The shinkansen are just beautiful. You may find yourself stroking the 'nose cone' of one.

    Another joy of the Japanese rail system is that almost everyone that isn't napping on the metro is staring at their smartphones. But making calls whilst on the rail network is frowned upon. You might get some loud, inebriated salarymen if you are unlucky, but in general, passengers behave well and carriages can be very quiet. The chikan (gropers) on the metro usually avoid Westerners. One the bigger lines, the electronic signs and announcements are usually in Japanese and English, sometimes in Korean and Chinese too. Just remember to wear layers on longer journeys, as shinkansen and other fast trains can be quite warm in cold weather.

    The standard trains get very full during commuter periods, although some trains/lines can be a bit less crowded. On the fullest, you don't even need to hang on to anything. You can stand there, wedged in on all sides, everyone keeping everyone else up, swaying with the train. It's not as claustrophobic as you might expect as crowd behaviour in Japan is good and they are experts at it. People do seem to be able to get on and off, no matter how full the train.

    There are so many different services, including monorails, tourist trains with viewing windows, sleeper trains, small rural and private services, driverless trains and ones that travel down the middle of the street. Visit Japan and you may return a trainspotter. If you are a trainspotter, Japan might be considered the centre of your universe.

    I was there (masked) in February 2020 and coughed up an extra £400 to BA to get home early (masked, for the whole flight) on a packed 'last chopper out of Saigon' 777, fearing flights would be suspended. I would happily have been trapped there but for family commitments. I do miss it. Bumping along late out of King's Cross, someone with a whiny voice yelling down a phone nearby for most of the journey, worrying if my luggage is going to get nicked, the culture shock on getting back to the UK is fearsome.

  8. jobst

    Australia's NBN sucks

    Japan has faster WIFI on a vehicle moving at 300 clicks/hour than Australia's NBN (cable connection) in home standing still.

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