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.