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JR News: Double-decker shinkansen E4 series Max to retire in autumn 2021

JR News: Double-decker shinkansen E4 series Max to retire in autumn 2021

Update: The E4 series Max had its final run of regular operations on 1 October 2021, which you can read more about here


Do you remember the excitement you felt when you first rode the E4 series Max, holding your 2nd floor seat ticket, climbing the stairs, and eagerly searching for your seat? Surely you can’t forget the wonderful travel memories of gazing at the scenery from the 2nd floor, feasting on a delicious ekiben…But alas, it’s time to bid farewell to this beloved train.


Posters have been put up at major JR East stations announcing the E4 series Max’s retirement. (Image credit: JR East)


East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has announced that the iconic double-decker bullet train (新幹線 shinkansen) E4 series Max will be retiring in autumn 2021, with farewell preparations underway. Running on the Joetsu Shinkansen Line (上越新幹線 Jо̄etsu Shinkansen), the E4 series Max is the only double-decker shinkansen still in operation, and many passengers—local and foreign, young and old—have fond memories of riding it since its debut in 1997.


An E4 series train sporting Last Run livery. (Image credit: Japanmase)


As part of the lead up to farewell celebrations, selected E4 series trains have been decorated with special Last Run livery, which will be up from mid-March until the train retires.


For the uninitiated, a Last Run refers to the final run of a train before it is retired. The actual Last Run is usually an exclusive event that requires special tickets to ride. While the exact date of the actual Last Run for the E4 series Max has yet to be announced, selected E4 series trains with the Last Run livery can be ridden by the public.


Last Run logo

The Last Run logo. (Image credit: Japanmase)


A specially-designed Last Run logo was created in commemoration of the retirement, featuring the silhouette of a train car, with the shape of an upward graph representing the future of the ever-evolving shinkansen technology. Two distinctive colours in the shape of an equal sign represents the company’s desire to continue to provide answers to the ever-changing future.


Limited edition capsule toys

Capsule toy machine and Thank you Max! bottle cap standee. (Image credit: Japanmase)


When you ride one of the trains decorated with the Last Run livery, be sure to head over to the sales counter, where there is a gachapon (ガチャポン capsule toy) machine that dispenses limited edition collectible toys for ¥400 a turn. The capsule toys are Thank you Max! bottle cap standees featuring designs of various trains which have run on the Joetsu Shinkansen.


Capsule toy designs. (Image credit: JR East)


There are a total of 10 designs, including a secret design, ranging from the 200 series—the first train series to run on the Joetsu Shinkansen when it opened in 1982—to the E7 series, which will replace the E4 series Max when it retires.


The E4's replacement was originally scheduled to be completed in the fiscal year of 2020, but the flooding of the Nagano depot due to Typhoon Hagibis in 2019 destroyed eight E7 series trains on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The E7 series trains meant to replace the E4 series Max (and the E2 series which also runs on the Joetsu Shinkansen) were instead deployed to replace the flood-damaged trains while more E7 series trains are being built.


The Joetsu Shinkansen is currently serviced by E2, E4, and E7 series trains. (Image credit: JR East)


Currently, E2, E4, and E7 series trains run on the Joetsu Shinkansen. It is planned that eventually, all E2 and E4 series trains will be replaced with E7 series trains, which can reach higher speeds and have more luggage racks for large baggage.


Limited edition memorabilia

Want more souvenirs? In commemoration of the train's retirement, limited edition E4 series MAX merchandise with Last Run livery will be sold on board the train, at stations in Niigata Prefecture that the E4 series MAX stops at, and at stations that the E4 series MAX stops at (including stations not in Niigata Prefecture).


The most difficult to get are the items which can only be bought on board the trains, which include masking tapes, eco-bags, and towels. Slightly easier to obtain are the Niigata-limited items, which are sold at NewDays convenience stores at the stations in Niigata Prefecture which the E4 series MAX stops at. These include clothing like hoodies and T-shirts, as well as sake, canvas bags, and mugs. Finally, the most widely available ones will be available at NewDays convenience stores at all stations along the Joetsu Shinkansen that the E4 series MAX stops at, including Tokyo Station. Items include face masks, card holders, badges, and more. You can check the full list of items here.


Charging station

Charging stations and rental powerbank. (Image credit: JR East)


Worried that your phone might run out of juice while taking photos of this special train? No worries, Max has got you covered. Another special feature for passengers is the charging stations at the sales counter. Other than power outlets and USB outlets for charging your electronics, there are also powerbanks with E4 designs available for rental (limited quantities). Thank you Max!


Farewell video

Video credit: JR East


JR East has made a short but sweet farewell video for the E4 series Max, which you can have a look at above. A special website for the E4 series Max Last Run has also been launched, which you can check out here. You can also follow the official Max Last Run Twitter account here.


Last Run livery train timetable

Schedule for E4 series Max trains with Last Run livery. (As at May 2021.) (Image credit: JR East)


The Last Run livery is featured on selected Max Toki (running between Tokyo and Niigata) and Max Tanigawa (running between Tokyo and Echigo-Yuzawa) trains. If you would like to ride the E4 series Max with Last Run livery, you can refer to the current timings in the table above, which is slated to operate until the E4 series retires. Do note that the schedule is subject to change, so do check before boarding.


Ride the E4 series Max for free with JR East rail passes

Travelling with a rail pass? The JR TOKYO Wide Pass and JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) covers the Max Tanigawa, while the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) covers both the Max Toki and the Max Tanigawa. Holders of these passes can make online seat reservations up to one month before their travel date here. These three rail passes can be used for automatic ticket gates, and holders of non-Japanese passports living in Japan are also eligible to use these rail passes.


Header image credit: JR East


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