Japan bullet trains host wrestling, dining events in new travel trend

Wrestlers face off on the Shinkansen bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Nagoya in central Japan, and cheers erupt throughout the crowded car as they exchange kicks and kicks.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of a new trend in travel experiences post-pandemic, where bullet trains are being transformed into lively entertainment venues, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

The shinkansen wrestling event held last September was organized by Tokyo-based DDT Pro-Wrestling by utilizing Central Japan Railway Co.’s charter train service.

Japan bullet trains host wrestling, dining events in new travel trend

A professional wrestling event was held aboard a bullet train in September 2023. (Photo courtesy of Central Japan Railway) (Kyodo)

All 75 premium seats at 25,000 yen ($161) and reserved seats at 17,700 yen sold out in about 30 minutes.

Sanshiro Takagi, president of DDT Pro-Wrestling, said he organized the event to enable people to have an “extraordinary experience on the Shinkansen.”

“I want to hold such events again because they left an impact on many fans,” the 54-year-old wrestler said, adding that they also attracted interest from abroad via social media.

In March, about 60 people were able to enjoy sushi and sake from an upscale Tokyo restaurant while boarding a first-class green charter car on the Kodama train of the Tokaido Shinkansen line from Tokyo to Nagoya.

Although tickets were priced at 55,000 yen, they also sold out quickly.

The railway operator, known as JR Central, began leasing shinkansen cars in 2022 during the coronavirus pandemic to encourage people to use its trains.

Japan bullet trains host wrestling, dining events in new travel trend

Participants at a luxury sushi and sake event held aboard a bullet train in March 2024. (Photo courtesy of Central Japan Railway) (Kyodo)

While the cars were initially rented for special events such as weddings and corporate presentations, the company said it is now receiving more interesting requests as the pandemic eases.

“We want to continue creating experiences that meet customer expectations,” a JR Central executive quipped, playing on the name of the fastest shinkansen train service on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, Nozomi.

Travel analyst Kotaro Toriumi said bullet trains, previously just a means of transportation, now have the additional function of serving as an entertainment platform.

“Enjoying the trip itself seems to fill the void left by waning enthusiasm for travel during the pandemic,” he said.

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