We try a cheaper alternative to Japan’s premium Green Car carriages.

If you’re travelling in Japan by bullet train for business purposes and want to get some work done along the way, many people opt for the Green Car option, a premium carriage with reserved seating that offers more leg room and fewer passengers for a quieter journey more suited to business travel.

However, on a recent Shinkansen trip we discovered a new option called “Train Desk“, which was described on the ticketing screen as “work and study prioritised“.

▼ The options for our trip from Omiya to Kanazawa on the Hokuriku Shinkansen were “一般席” (ippanseki [general seating]) and “Train Desk“.

This was our first time seeing this option, so we selected it and were taken to a new screen that gave us some more information about what the service offers.

“Train Desk is a reserved seat in a regular train that gives priority to customers who work or study on the train. It can also be used by people who do not work or study, but the train desk has an environment that is conducive to working or studying. In order to maintain this, we ask that all customers be considerate of each other.”

This explanation indicates that rather than providing equipment for those wanting to work or study on the train, this seating provides a quieter-than-usual environment. While web conferences and phone calls are permitted, the message in red font on the screen read:

“Please refrain from engaging in activities that may disturb other customers who are working or studying, such as talking loudly, chatting, or making loud noises.”

▼ Talking is fine, as long as it’s done with consideration for other passengers.

The price to purchase a Train Desk seat ticket was the same as a regular reserved seat, so we decided to try it out, paying 14,370 yen (US$93.57) for the journey before taking our seat on the train.

Stepping inside the carriage revealed this was no Green Car experience, with five seats to a row instead of four, just as you’d find in a regular carriage, and bright hues compared to subdued greys.

▼ From this angle, everything looks identical to the general seating on a Shinkansen.

Likewise, the facilities at the seats are also identical to what you get on a general ticket, with a power supply installed under the seat in front and free WiFi available.

So, what’s the difference between regular seating and Train Desk seating?

Well, in short, it’s the environment.

▼ That is, the environment inside the carriage, which is so calm it enhances the environment outside the window.

Being surrounded by like-minded passengers, for whom work, study, or simply some peace and quiet is a priority, made a world of difference to the journey. There was no chatter or noise from tourists admiring the views or families trying to settle young children, because they were all on other carriages, and it created an environment that was much more conducive to getting work done.

▼ Train Desk cars are only available on non-public holiday weekdays on Tohoku, Hokkaido, Joetsu, and Hokuriku Shinkansen services.

If you’re someone who needs a quiet setting to concentrate, Train Desk is definitely worth it, and though it’s only been attracting attention since the service began on 20 March, it’s actually been around before that, under a different and arguably less enticing name: “Shinkansen Office Vehicle“.

However, the previous setup included unreserved seating, depending on the train, which proved to be less effective in ensuring a quiet environment. With users now saying the Train Desk is an improved service, it’s nice to know there’s a more affordable place to get some work done than the relatively pricey Green Car carriages.

Images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]