An interesting bit of news, courtesy of a well-informed chap in a Japanese railway forum I happen to be a member of: JR West are breathing new life into their ageing 500 series shinkansen fleet by giving it an Eva-themed makeover.
The exact launch date hasn’t been announced yet, but as per JR West’s official press release, the refurbished train is expected to enter service sometime this autumn and will stay on the tracks until the third month of Heisei 29 (or March 2017 to those of us who don’t use imperial years).
I’m not a fan of the Evangelion franchise, or of robot anime in general … but I do love trains and I’m more than a little interested in this project. The sleek, sharp-nosed, futuristic form factor of the 500 series is quite unique amongst Japan’s high-speed trains, and probably makes it better suited for a mecha transformation than some of the newer equipment that has now displaced it on the fastest shinkansen services.
I’ve only ever ridden this class of train once, since I normally travel on speedier services that rely on more recent shinkansen models (such as the N700 series), but I do see it from time to time when I travel in Japan – most recently a couple of weeks ago at Shin-Ōsaka Station:
Quite a looker, this beast. Not bad for a train that’s about two decades old.
One important caveat: the 500 series shinkansen is only regularly operated these days on Kodama runs, which are the slowest of the 5 service classes running on the Sanyō Shinkansen line (mainly because trains on Kodama duty stop at all stations whereas faster services tend to skip less major cities). According to the 500 Type Eva Project’s official site, the special Eva-liveried trains will be operated on two specific services:
–> Kodama # 730, departing Hakata Station (Fukuoka) 06:36 and arriving at Shin-Ōsaka Station (Ōsaka) 11:14
–> Kodama # 741, departing Shin-Ōsaka Station (Ōsaka) 11:32 and arriving at Hakata Station (Fukuoka) 16:07
That’s a whopping 4.5 hours for a one way trip, compared with just 2.5 hours for a station-skipping Nozomi service between the same points.
Then again, if you’re an anime enthusiast, I suspect you’d actually appreciate the longer trip as it will give you more time to enjoy the experience.