An East Japan Railway Co employee demonstrates how she works remotely on a running Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train on Monday. Photo: KYODO
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JR East launches bullet train 'office cars' for teleworking

76 Comments

East Japan Railway Co (JR East) on Monday launched onboard "office cars" on certain shinkansen (bullet trains) on lines connecting Tokyo and the country's northern and central parts to meet growing demand for a new work style amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For no additional charge and only on weekdays, passengers on the No. 8 cars on the Tohoku, Joetsu, and Hokuriku lines can now talk on the phone and participate in online meetings from their seats -- activities that are discouraged on the rest of the train.

"We want to support a new way of working that is not bound by time and place," said an official of JR East, which finally began the service in earnest after successful trial runs.

Media were granted access inside a running Hokuriku bullet train on Monday, where a sticker saying "office car" had been put on a door of the No. 8 car and leaflets explaining the service were placed at the seats.

A JR East staff demonstrated to the media how she works remotely, using a noise-canceling headphone.

Passengers will also be able to borrow "smart glasses" that project the content of their laptop screens before their eyes. On bullet trains on the Tohoku line, they will also be able to use free of charge small dividers to put around their seat tables, with a similar measure being considered for the Hokuriku and Joetsu lines.

The remote work spaces onboard the shinkansen are also available on a different railway operator's shinkansen line in Hokkaido, which connects directly to the Tohoku line.

JR East hopes the new service will help people go on "workation" trips in which they combine working online with travel, while also stimulating demand for business trips, which has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To avoid congestion, the work spaces will not be available on weekends, public holidays and in the New Year holiday period, among others.

For the time being, the exterior appearance of the office cars and seats will not change, although JR East said that they would consider remodeling them in the future.

Central Japan Railway Co and West Japan Railway Co have also been trialing the introduction of onboard work spaces since October on the Nozomi superexpress trains on Sanyo Shinkansen and Tokaido Shinkansen lines that run through the major Japanese cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.

© KYODO

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

76 Comments
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Ridiculous because then safety is not ensured.

4 ( +13 / -9 )

Just can't get away from work in Japan

31 ( +37 / -6 )

stop

working

30 ( +36 / -6 )

workation? No such word, it's called exploitation.

you need laws in Japan so that when work is over or when you're on vacation, the company cannot contact you and make you work more. This is ridiculous.

28 ( +36 / -8 )

Just stay home

15 ( +21 / -6 )

No one needs to do an online meeting on a speeding bullet train unless it's an absolute life-or-death emergency. Just tell your colleagues to wait til you arrive or schedule your trip earlier.

28 ( +32 / -4 )

Close your eyes, have a drink and chill-no need to work…

21 ( +27 / -6 )

hi-tech Japan

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

No one needs to do an online meeting on a speeding bullet train unless it's an absolute life-or-death emergency.

Maybe not "need" to, but it sure helps with time efficiency. My time is worth a lot of money, and I prefer to use it as effectively and efficiently as possible. Being able to do meetings on the train will be beneficial for me.

-15 ( +11 / -26 )

… passengers on the No. 8 cars on the Tohoku, Joetsu, and Hokuriku lines can now talk on the phone and participate in online meetings from their seats -- activities that are discouraged on the rest of the train.

Oh, I hope that the only available Shinkansen seat is not on the No. 8 car!

8 ( +11 / -3 )

The picture is ridiculous

All that just for an hour or two extra

19 ( +25 / -6 )

If being able to do videoconferencing on the train means that I can spend an extra half an hour in bed, I’ll take it.

-13 ( +9 / -22 )

Don't assume everyone is a "company employee" and they are being forced to work on the train.

There are plenty of business owners, entrepreneurs, and sole proprietors that think this is a very efficient and helpful service.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

Is not all dark and gloom. Who said they have to work using that office? You can practically chat online with someone or play with your laptop to pass the time. What this offer is merely some privacy to allow people to do their own things while sitting in a train. I doubt anyone is that eager to do work unless it's some emergencies or they are in behind with their work. For all we know, people could watch movies sitting in that office.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The thing on her head (with twisted strap) doesn't look comfortable nor does the little green wall around her laptop.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

What is the point of that thing around her head?

Can’t imagine what that looks like to another person a screen.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

No downtime for train travel. You have to work 24/7 for the glory of Japan.

9 ( +17 / -8 )

I can’t tell you how many people I have known in the past decade that died either on the way TO Work or on the way HOME :|

Take a freakin’ REST for Christ’s’ sake

9 ( +15 / -6 )

if you can't stop working for an hour or two that's a serious problem. If you're self employed youtuber and you work anywhere or if people are bored they can just open their laptop, you still don't need a hazmat suit.

If this is just putting all the hopless workers all in one car that would improve things for other passengers but I don't see why you'd need a special car for that. Just have wifi

7 ( +11 / -4 )

That thing on her head reminds me of horse blinders they put on horses pulling carriages to keep them from being distracted. Tells you where workers stand in the business hierarchy.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

if you can't stop working for an hour or two that's a serious problem.

I prefer to stop working, which is why I would rather get work done on the train, then have to do it afterwards somewhere else.

If you're self employed youtuber and you work anywhere or if people are bored they can just open their laptop, you still don't need a hazmat suit.

I think the point is to provide some semblance of privacy from a person who is only a few cm away .

-11 ( +5 / -16 )

That thing on her head reminds me of horse blinders they put on horses pulling carriages to keep them from being distracted. Tells you where workers stand in the business hierarchy.

Does it? I'm at the top of the hierarchy, and I'd be using it. Would it tell you that?

-16 ( +5 / -21 )

IMO, just too weird.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

When I am on business trips inside Japan, all my collegues are working in the shinkansen.

Open immediately their PCs and start doing something, even basically there is nothing to do.

Except me.

I buy my coffee from the Coffee Cart-Girl in the shinkansen, eat my Eki-ben and relax.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

"Labor above Life...the ultimate experience" And the insipid propaganda continues.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

With all of the recent, calculated attacks on trains in Japan, is it smart to be completely oblivious to one’s surroundings?

10 ( +12 / -2 )

I guess all the big time, top-notch, high caliber global business folk do their work on the Shinkansen.

After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, you know! Who needs sleep!

1 ( +7 / -6 )

honestly dunno what to say,just to stay honest and polite same way...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The shinkansen has always been a great place to get some work done. You don't need any of these ridiculous contraptions in the photo. The only real difference is the ability to make phone calls. But good luck with that with all the lengthy tunnels on these lines.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Only in Japan or in some other east asian countries can this work.

Imagine if they try to come with such system in Spain or Italy.

I’m very sceptic about this.

An already very rigid society with a lot of pressure on competition of work need relaxation not this.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

already promoting workaholism that Japan is known to suffer from work having no life balance.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

When I am on business trips inside Japan, all my collegues are working in the shinkansen.

Open immediately their PCs and start doing something, even basically there is nothing to do.

My favorite, the middelo's who get on public transport, open their laptops and just click around looking at Excel spreadsheets but not doing anything. Bless, they're so used to pretending to work that they do it when the boss isn't even around.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

I had an international business trip and my boss suggested we sit beside each other to discuss the case over the 9 hours. At separate check-in I used my own miles for an upgrade. I hope he enjoyed the trip.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

What on earth is that ridiculous thing on her head?? Does she float in an isolation tank at her regular work environment?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

ClippetyClopToday  10:33 am JST

Can't be that valuable. You sure seem to waste a lot of it posting here.

It's not healthy to become obsessed with the lifestyles of other posters and how they utilize their time.

Observation does not equal obsession.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Hello Children,

today we will be making our own office, so you will need an old cardboard box, some sticky tape and some sticky back plastic. Make sure an adult helps you with the scissors when you cut the box.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

A business obsessed work culture. Yuck yuck yuck. Get a life.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

With the declining birth rate, a love car with private rooms would be appropriate.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I had an international business trip and my boss suggested we sit beside each other to discuss the case over the 9 hours. At separate check-in I used my own miles for an upgrade. I hope he enjoyed the trip.

God, that sounds an absolute nightmare.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

She looks aero dynamic. I bet if she moves her head left to right she may pick up radar.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

StrangerlandToday  08:48 am JST

That thing on her head reminds me of horse blinders they put on horses pulling carriages to keep them from being distracted. Tells you where workers stand in the business hierarchy.

Does it? I'm at the top of the hierarchy, and I'd be using it. Would it tell you that?

They are called "blinders" like it or not, they were invented and user for a single purpose, that is to get horses and mules to do things that even their own limited equine brains tell them it is not good or safe.

So now progress is bringing such great advances to to the new pack animal humans and some are going to blindly accept, how appropriate as they are now human blinders.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I wouldn't schedule a meeting with one of these things... Not that reliable in terms of privacy.

The need for telework exist with or without this abomination.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Time to unplug from the grid, tear off the blinders and live cheaply and simply.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I really hope some thrash metal bands decide to hold their album meetings ‘remote’. The singer trying out various lyrics, or the guitarist trying out various riffs on the train would be hilarious. ‘I’m just doing my job!’.

What? This new service is only available for salaryman jobs?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

On one hand, this looks absolutely ridiculous and I don't want to work even during my commute. If I have to travel for business, I want those hours to relax. It's better for the business too if I show up to my destination well-rested.

For non-work purposes, like reading or even playing games, this seems pretty nice though honestly. I wouldn't mind this on trains or planes to keep out the people who try to talk to you during long travels.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Apologies@Strangerland if you found my earlier observations “impolite” or if you felt “offended”. You’ve consistently demonstrated by your daily comments & work ethic that you’re made of stronger stuff than most and ‘can hold your own’. -

-@9:02am: “Joking, right?[My time is worth a lot of money, and I prefer to use it as effectively and efficiently as possible.] 

writes one, renowned for 12am-6am DAILY overnight reviews & rebukes of individual, thread commentary?:

*- [“Being able to do meetings on the train will be beneficial for me.”] - *

If not joking, then ‘Yes’, the ability to pursue more profitable work on the Shinkansen the next day would be beneficial. 

However, when would one make up their equally valuable, lost ‘sleep time’ if they’re busy reviewing threads in their ‘off hours’ ?

I took away your answer and subsequent question as cordial, hence, my sincere “Best Wishes” @10am.

- @10:00am: “Laudable. [“I deal with a lot of overseas clients these days. It's kept us going through the pandemic.”]

Don’t have today’s exact timetable but “Nozomi”, N700 near home, seems to consistently run around 6am-9pm daily.

[“How few hours of the day do you think the shinkansen runs?!”] -

“Best Wishes” for your continued business success and the continued health of yourself and family. Get some rest, when you can.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This is a promising start, but we still have the problem of salarymen sleeping 4-5 hours a night when they could be doing additional pointless tasks for the company. Perhaps some kind of 'office beds' could also be created so they can continue to work whilst sleeping, and then our dream of a 24 hour working day can finally be realised?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Apologies@Strangerland if you found my earlier observations “impolite” or if you felt “offended”.

Oh, I don't throw stones labeled impolite from my glass house. And I don't get offended by much of anything anyone says here or anywhere. So you're fine, no need to apologize.

You’ve consistently demonstrated by your daily comments & work ethic that you’re made of stronger stuff than most and ‘can hold your own’. -

Thank you!

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

The number of users will be limited but no mention of a time limit by the user. No mention if prebooking is the procedure.

When travelling I prefer to listen to music or a podcast and sleep if the journey is a long one.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

All work and no play makes Taro a dull boy, hence the decline in birth rate and good mental health.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Absurd, I’ve yet to see any work catastrophe that requires accessories to solve.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Anything to keep working huh? They can't even take a break during the trip. I'd rather they refurbish the Shinkansen carriages with adequate luggage storage space.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I thought after reading the headline that there are private small rooms to conduce business much like an internet cafe style. The image looks cheap and trashy.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

That photo is one of the saddest things I have ever seen.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Things are bleak, productivity can’t get lower but work lifestyle can apparently.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The story and comments have failed to mention the long-established Japanese salaryman Shinkansen tradition of a frothy, cold beer at 8:00 AM followed by a nap.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Ive noticed that when you put on a set of headphones that person then starts shouting, because they cant hear them selfs. haha, can you imagaine this on a train where 20 people or more start raising there voices, (unknowingly) they other people on video call probably can hear them as well, may be a breach of data could be broken, by someone over hearing a conversation. one of my friends is a CEO of a company and everywhere he goes hes always on the dam phone, texting etc, even when him and his wife went on holiday he took his dam laptop, if that was me, laptop stays at home, phone is on block calling, if not its not a Holliday its just an office on a beach somewhere. and are these screens going to sanitised on each journey?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Once the bosses catch on, they will make the working stiffs take the slower milk run train to try and get a few extra hours work out of them.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

And next all public toilets also equipped? lol Obviously, all that self-exploitation sold under ‘comfort’ or ‘convenience’ is already rather weird and widespread, and soon will be found everywhere.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

dystopian

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Orwellian !!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Good For industrial spying

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Workation" will be listed under reference to "karoshi" before long, since they seem to only want people to work and never relax and enjoy life.

I do think the blinders are incredibly apt, though.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

JR East hopes the new service will help people go on "workation" trips in which they combine working online with travel...

A lack of planning on your part, does not consitute an emergency on mine.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In 2018 I travelled from Tokyo to Akita in a single day, a journey of several hours each way. While I preferred to enjoy the scenery and relax during the daytime, it was diverting as well as time-saving to be able to use the return trip through the blackness outside to work at my computer. However, the warnings on the Internet connection were clear. Privacy was at risk on connections which were not secure. Therefore, you might as well take off the flimsy paraphernalia and be comfortable as the so-called privacy is a fiction.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lack of planning on your part, does not consitute an emergency on mine.

How does planning to work on the train equate to a lack of planning? And what is this emergency you're speaking of?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

However, the warnings on the Internet connection were clear. Privacy was at risk on connections which were not secure. Therefore, you might as well take off the flimsy paraphernalia and be comfortable as the so-called privacy is a fiction.

Time to google "VPN" mate. Privacy is there if you take it.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Yet another way to squeeze more work for the same pay lol

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

on the train work

on the bus work

in a taxi work

plane work

sleeping? work

day off work

working? good work

walking dog, work

finished work? what is that?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I’m not usually super self-conscious but I think I would be embarrassed using sn elementary school desk with that ridiculous thing on my head. I am fine with my laptop on my lap.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The only work I do on the train is working my way through a bag of beers. I guess this is a good idea for people that need it, but it shouldn't turn into the expected method of travel.

Once borders open up I'd like to see a loud gaijin car. They can put their skis and bags all over the place, have arguments and loudly talk about their plans without bothering anyone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'd like to see a loud gaijin car. 

Me too, for obvious reasons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Vreth

I said 'they' like I don't do that. I'm probably loud too when I'm with my friends on the train.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow, just can't have a break huh?

This also wasn't very well thought out, if 5 to 10 people are talking on their phones, it's gonna be hard to concentrate on anything. Could I just bring my laptop, talk to my friends in America and say its business?

Once borders open up I'd like to see a loud gaijin car. 

That was the Halloween Yamanote line car back in the day. Was all fun n games till someone yakked on a (cloth) seat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

reckless:

I had an international business trip and my boss suggested we sit beside each other to discuss the case over the 9 hours. At separate check-in I used my own miles for an upgrade. I hope he enjoyed the trip.

I had no such luck :(

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Back on topic please.

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