JR News: Zipangu train (485 series) to retire in October 2021
East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has announced that the Zipangu train will retire in October 2021, after almost 10 years of operation.
Running in Iwate Prefecture on the Tohoku Main Line between Morioka Station and Ichinoseki Station, the Zipangu (ジパング) debuted in April 2012 during the Iwate Destination Campaign, and is a sightseeing train repurposed from old 485 series trains.
485 series trains were originally built in the 1960s and 1970s, but have since been phased out from commuter service nationwide, and the only chance to ride them is on refurbished sightseeing trains like the Zipangu. After the retirement of the Zipangu, the only remaining 485 series trains in operation will be the Resort Yamadori (リゾートやまどり) and the Hana (華), but these currently only operate for seasonal routes or as chartered trains for groups.
Exterior and interior of the Zipangu. (Image credit: JR East Morioka Branch and Japanmase)
The Zipangu train has a ink-black exterior to evoke the image of a traditional Japanese ink painting, and features window-facing seats for passengers to easily enjoy the beautiful views out the window.
Gold-coloured accents decorate the train, to symbolise the inspiration from Hiraizumi’s Golden Hall. In the front and back ends of the car are display spaces where riders can enjoy short shows of light and photos that showcase Hiraizumi’s charms.
Hiraizumi is best known for Chusonji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its Golden Hall (金色堂Konjikidо̄), a small hall opulently coated in gold leaf. It is said that this Golden Hall was one of the reasons that the Venetian merchant Marco Polo referred to Japan as “Zipangu, the Land of Gold”, and this is where the train’s name comes from.
Sample of special souvenirs for farewell event participants. (Image credit: JR East Morioka Branch)
The Zipangu’s final day of regular service will be on 26 September 2021. To thank the long-time supporters and fans of the Zipangu, a special farewell event train—Arigato Zipangu (ありがとうジパング)—will be held on 10 October 2021. This event requires the purchase of a special package/ticket, but due to the limited seats available on the train, participants will be chosen by lottery. As souvenirs, participants of the event will receive a commemorative boarding certificate and limited edition signboard replica. Note: Images are for illustration purposes and the actual items may differ.
Header image credit: JR East Morioka Branch