shinkansen, bullet train
Photo: Vacclav/Dreamstime

Japan’s last double decker shinkansen to be retired on October 1

JR East will be bidding farewell to its E4 series after 24 years in service

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

While some parts of the world may have double decker buses, Japan has double decker shinkansen – well, for the rest of the month at least. On October 1, JR East will be retiring the E4 series, which happens to be Japan’s only double decker bullet trains

News of JR’s plans to stop running the trains have been circulating for years, but still, it’s a hard pill to swallow when the news was finally confirmed. Over 24 years in service, the E4 series trains – nicknamed ‘Max’ – had shuttled millions of travellers between the regions of Tokyo, Nagano and Niigata. The Max Toki and Max Tanigawa trains ran along the Joetsu and Tohoku Shinkansen lines before they were pulled from the latter in 2012.

Once praised for having the world’s highest passenger capacity for a high-speed train, the double deckers were unable to keep up with more recent models that can reach speeds of up to 320km per hour. 

Max’s final run on October 1 will be bittersweet. However, JR East is honouring the E4 Series with a proper farewell, which includes a dedicated website as well as an exclusive collection of E4 Series merchandise for trainspotters to collect. 

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