New Narita Express Coming 2009

I came to Japan in July 1997, arriving at Narita airport late in the afternoon, with the intention of getting to Nagoya by nightfall. The first challenge was to get to Tokyo so I could somehow board a Shinkansen bullet train and head west.

The NEX welcomes you to Tokyo

With signs in English, it wasn’t too hard getting a ticket and boarding the Tokyo-bound Narita Express. Although I was looking forward to riding the Shinkansen, I hadn’t given much thought to the train that would take me from the airport to the capital. Even in 1997, trains in my part of the U.K were rather primitive, so old, in fact, that to get off the train, you had to pull down the window, reach out and open the door from the outside! Not the Narita Express.

The N’EX was ever-so high tech, it had sliding doors, air conditioning, room to put your luggage, a map with flashing lights to show you where you were, and a news ticker streaming the latest world affairs. Peering out the window as I hurtled along at speeds that couldn’t explain the smoothness and quietness of the ride, I remember seeing pictures on the tunnel walls made of colorful little lights. The Narita Express tilted to its side as it weaved its way through the increasing number of buildings on its approach to Tokyo.

An even better welcome with the new N’EX

The Narita Express that whisked me into Tokyo on my first day in Japan is 17-years-old this year, and while that would probably be considered “new” in England, the Japanese are ready to retire the N’EX 253 series, and roll out an even flashier model in autumn, 2009.

The E259 series brings a number of improvements. There will be improved safety features, security cameras, and even lockers in the cargo area so someone whose luggage was left in Rome won’t be tempted to steal your suitcase. Other changes include more spacious “green” cars for first class passengers, toilet facilities with wheelchair access, better bilingual guidance and an even smoother and quieter ride, despite speeds of up to 130 km/hour.

Making a good first impression

Since the theme of this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri is “First Impressions of Tokyo“, I couldn’t think of a better first impression than that offered by Japan Rail’s Narita Express. Whether you ride the new or the old N’EX, I hope its an experience you’ll remember long after you step off the train and enter Tokyo station – another unforgettable experience, if a little less welcoming.

11 comments

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  2. Mum

    Do you know, Nick, the British trains haven’t changed much, though I think they have sliding doors now. They are still noisy, crowded, dirty and invariably late and do not make a good impression on visitors froms other countries. I avoid travelling by train and even the buses seem to have come from last century. They are getting very cramped with no legroom and the tiniest of seats. Anyone over 5 feet tall has to sit sideways. It’s ridiculous.

  3. Mike

    I had a pretty similar experience riding the Narita train! Actually I remember just taking the train in 1996 within the airport and thinking that Japan was soooooooooo advanced!

  4. David Vasta

    The trains in Japan are soo nice. I also found out that being late according to JR is anything after 6 seconds from the posted time. Trains are never early, they are only on-time.

    In the UK and EU I think it’s 15 minutes is late and in the US I think we measure that in hours or weeks……horah to Japan and JR!

    I always enjoyed riding the trains in Japan. from Sasebo to Nagasaki or Fukaoka….looking forward to it again.

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  6. Jordan

    I’ve never taken the NEX. I always ride the Skyliner to Keisei Ueno. That train looks brilliant though. Always something new happening in Tokyo, that’s for sure!

  7. allrite

    I’m going to miss the old N’EX! It was my very first impression of Japan post immigration and I have always looked forward to the train ride between Narita Airport and Shinjuku. A chance to relax after a long flight or the last minute rush of shopping that accompanies a final day in Tokyo.

  8. Alex Balfour

    Stop complaining about British trains. At least you can buy a ticket with a foreign credit card, the last train leaves well after 9.43pm and they aren’t heated to 33 degrees in the winter. The Narita Express could be great but it crawls at an average of 60kms per hour and is still locked in the era where foreigners were just not welcome.