The only two-level shinkansen train in Japan, the E4 Series — also known as “Max Toki” and “Max Tanigawa” — currently used on the Joetsu shinkansen, is scheduled to end its regular service on Oct 1.
Once it’s off the rails, there will be no more shinkansen double-decker trains in operation.
▼ The Max Toki has been looking after passengers for 24 years.
This is a pretty momentous moment for the rail industry, and to send the train off with a fitting farewell, East Japan Rail, who operates the train, has arranged a number of special happenings in the lead-up to its final run.
One of the final farewells involves a special E4 Series Escalator at Tokyo Station, which has become a hot topic online. It’s not every day you get to take a ride on a Shinkansen escalator, so we took a trip out to Tokyo Station to find it for ourselves.
According to the information we’d received, the escalator we were looking for was located inside the ticket gate, somewhere around the middle of the passage that connects the Marunouchi Underground Central Exit and the Yaesu Underground Central Exit in the basement of Tokyo Station.
As we headed to that area, we came across posters on the walls announcing the train’s upcoming departure from the network, with messages encouraging passengers to take a final ride on the train so they can enjoy the view from the top one last time.
▼ The posters include a special “Thank you! Max!” farewell slogan.
It didn’t take long for us to arrive at the escalator, and there was no missing it, as it looked… like the front of a shinkansen.
▼ An “E4 Series Escalator”
The curve of the escalator resembled the nose of a Shinkansen so perfectly we couldn’t help but wonder if it had been specially designed this way.
Taking a closer look, we could see that the design details on the escalator had been lovingly handmade. This was more touching than if they’d used ready-made materials, as it showed a level of care for the train that indicated it was more than just an inanimate object.
The details resembled the side of the train perfectly, only with added messages announcing its end date and expressing thanks to people for their patronage over the past 24 years.
We didn’t come all this way just to look at the shinkansen escalator, though, we were here to ride it and so that’s what we did.
▼ Even upon ‘boarding’ the escalator, it still looked like the nose of the legendary bullet train.
As soon as we got to the top, we brushed aside our self-consciousness and turned right around to descend on the other side. That’s when we noticed we weren’t the only ones doing that, so it’s clear that the Max Toki has a lot of diehard fans.
Seeing the escalator standing strong while commuters rushed off to their destinations around it reminded us of the many passengers it’s served over the years. The 16-car train has a capacity for 1,634 passengers, and is unique in its design as it has both a lower and upper deck.
However, because the maximum speed of the train is 240 kilometers per hour, it’s said to be less efficient compared to other models like the E5, which is used on the Tohoku shinkansen where it hits maximum speeds of 320 kilometers per hour.
Because of this, and the aging of the vehicle, it will soon be time to say sayonara to Max, which stands for Multi Amenity Express.
JR East has set up a special site to pay homage to the train in the lead-up to its last run, where you can find out more about the train’s history, purchase merchandise, and print out fun activities for children.
▼ There’s also a touching video, entitled Joetsu shinkansen E4 Series Max Model Last Run, which will bring tears to the eyes of railway enthusiasts.
If you’d like to say farewell to Max in person, you’ve still got a few weeks left to book a ticket on the train before it sets out on its last run. And of course, you can take a ride on the E4 Series escalator, which will also be decked out in its special wrapping until then.
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