Travelers can once again enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while zooming across northeastern Japan.

The Shinkansen is a testament to the great things mankind can accomplish. It’s an incredibly fast, safe, and reliable high-speed rail network that enables us to go farther and do more than our ancestors ever could have hoped to.

And yet, for the last three years, you couldn’t get a cup of hot coffee on the Tohoku and Hokuriku Shinkansen lines. Thankfully for java fans, though, that coffee-less period is coming to a close, as the Hokuriku Kagayaki and Hakutaka Shinkansen trains are once again brewing and pouring coffee onboard, and the Tohoku Hayabusa will follow suit soon.

The mention of a three-year suspension of service in the travel industry might have you thinking this was a coronavirus-related absence, but the actual reason was changing consumer behavior patterns. JR East, which operates the Tohoku and Hokuriku Shinkansen, noticed that more and more people were buying canned and bottled coffees before getting on the bullet train. That meant lower sales for the coffee brewed on the train and poured from drink carts pushed down the aisles, with the coffee left over in the pots getting dumped out when it went unsold.

So in June of 2019, JR East stopped selling hot coffee onboard its Tohoku, Hokuriku, and Joetsu Shinkansen, which cover much of the northern and northeastern part of the country’s main island of Hokkaido. But even if onboard coffee sales had slipped, there were still passengers who missed the beverage option, and after looking at customer feedback, JR East decided to bring it back. Hot coffee returned first to the Jotetstu Toki Shinkansen last summer, and to the Hokuriku Kagayaki and Hakutaka on October 7. Finally, on November 1 hot coffee will be back on the menu for the Tohoku Hayabusa, JR East announced this week, to the joy of online commenters who’ve reacted with:

“Great news!”
“I’m taking the Shinkansen later today, and I’M so happy that I’ll finally be able to buy coffee onboard again.”
“Nice to see JR East listen to customer feedback and rethink the decision.”
“Really looking forward to sipping some nice coffee while looking out the window at the scenery.”
“I loved pairing Shinkansen coffee with that crazy-hard Shinkansen ice cream, so I’m really glad to see this coming back.”

The famously firm ice cream sold on the Shinkansen, placed atop a cup of piping hot Shinkansen coffee

The complete schedule of Tohoku, Hokuriku, and Jotetsu Shinkansen offering hot coffee can be found here.

So how is JR East dealing with the problem of having to dump out leftover coffee? In the simplest way possible: by making less to begin with. The goal is for the carts to sell every drop that’s brewed, so the company asks for passengers’ understanding if/when a cart is sold out.

Source: JR East (1, 2), FNN Prime Online via Otakomu, Twitter
Top image: JR East

Insert images: JR East
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