With the opening of JR Hakata City and the commencement of full service on the Kyushu Shinkansen in March, the Hakata district has come alive. Not many people are aware of it, but some refer to the Kyushu Shinkansen as the Azuchi Momoyama on wheels.
This is the name given to the period during the 16th century, when warlords Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi were powerful figures in Japan. To demonstrate their strength, they built large castles, lavishly decorated with art and sculpture. A wealthy merchant class arose during this period, creating a culture of ornate luxury. The tea ceremony also became popular, as exemplified by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s “gold tea room,” with its gold foil-covered walls.
Believe it or not, similarly extravagant decoration can be found on parts of the new Kyushu Shinkansen. In addition to gold foil embellishment, there are also displays using the traditional Japanese craft techniques of lacquer and Hakata-ori textiles. Other exclusively Japanese touches, include rope curtains made using rush grass from Yatsushiro, Kumamoto, and wooden rolled blinds which hint at the traditional bamboo style. The Kyushu Shinkansen draws on a wealth of Japanese culture to show their hospitality to both Japanese and foreign passengers alike.
This isn’t a new policy for JR Kyushu. Before the Shinkansen began operation, the railroad was known for its design excellence. In fact, they’ve been won several Brunel Awards for international railway design. The Sonic limited express train has a stunning metallic blue exterior. The Kamome features trains with white bodies and real leather seats. The Yufuin no Mori, another limited express, has a rounded shape and a deep green color that brings forests to mind. The colorful body of the Huis ten Bosch adds to the excitement of a holiday jaunt. All these designs show a rich sense of creativity and individuality.
Now that the Kyushu Shinkansen is in full service, there’s no better time to get on board at Hakata and go exploring!
Originally published online for Fukuoka Now magazine (May. 2011)