Japan’s Tokyo-Osaka bullet train bids farewell to snack carts

For over 50 years, Japan’s renowned bullet trains, known as shinkansen, have been synonymous with not only rapid transit but also a delightful experience of onboard refreshments.

Passengers travelling on the Tokyo-Osaka route have long been accustomed to the presence of uniformed vendors known as pursers, who push food and beverage carts along the train’s narrow aisles, offering a range of drinks, ice creams, and light snacks with a polite demeanour.
However, this cherished tradition is fading into history, as the Shinkansen is set to bid farewell to onboard refreshment services starting in the fall of 2023.

The decision to discontinue onboard sales of food and beverages is based on evolving consumer preferences. The Nozomi train, renowned for its speed and frequency, experienced a significant 45% decline in onboard food sales in contrast to the retail outlets situated within stations along the route, which witnessed a notable 16% growth in sales over the same period.
As part of this transformation, the beloved food carts will make their final journey on the Nozomi and Hikari trains, culminating in their service at the end of October.
Commencing November 1, the provision of onboard food will be exclusively extended to the first-class “green” cars, presenting a modern approach to catering where passengers can order food using a QR code.
As reported by Reuters, “The online response was despondent, with “Super-Cold Shinkansen Ice Cream” trending 5th on the X platform formerly known as Twitter and “In-Train Service” 6th within hours of the announcement.”

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