New Railway Tech Debuts: This Week in Osaka February 9th to February 16th 2024

Each week, here at, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.

Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.

New Revolutionary Rail Line Debuts in Osaka

An older model of the series 115 “pumpkin” train.

Osaka Station showed off some breakthrough technology to passengers this past week.

February 12th saw visitors to JR Osaka station treated to a special tour of the new 115 series train. The trains orange and green paint job has earned it the nickname “The Pumpkin Train”.

However, this new train has a lot more going for it besides just some cutesy décor.

The new series of trains, which will commence full operation between Osaka and Okayama in April, promises to offer a faster and smoother ride for travelers. This is thanks to its revolutionary tilting system. The line will also link up with other services, offering a faster route from Kyoto to Southwestern Japan

New Train Tilts to Align Better with Track

An example of the tilting effect.

The Pumpkin Train, as fans have taken to calling it, actually tilts to match the angle of curves in the track. This tilt is almost imperceptible to passengers, unless they know when to look for it. However, when the new service commences full operation 2 months from now, it will offer a smoother, speedier and safer ride than before. Japan’s shinkansen bullet train system has received global, glowing praise ever since it started operating between Osaka and Tokyo back in the 1960s. However, even now, some 60 years later, the service is still too expensive for routine travel. JR hopes this new technology will offer passengers the chance to experience something akin to the smoothness of the Shinkansen, but at a price regular commuters can afford.

Reception was definitely positive from the members of the public who got a sneak peek earlier this week.

One visitor said: “I had motion sickness the last time I rode a train on this route, so I’m hopeful that this new technology will ease that problem for me.”

Indeed, motion sickness is just one of the many challenges facing rail travelers that this new line design seeks to address. JR hopes that after a successful roll-out in Western Japan, the service can expand nationwide.

New “Food Terrorism” Craze Leads to Jail Time

Yoshinoya, best known for its beef bowls, has branches all over Osaka.

We recently covered the antics of one professional attention seeker, who landed himself in trouble after filming himself committing various acts of vandalism at businesses across Osaka. Well, as if to show that its not just foreigners who seek this kind of trouble, an Osaka-born man landed himself jail time this week. Again, it was an act of sheer stupidity, and once again it was his own video, uploaded to YouTube that sealed his fate.

Ryu Shimazu, a 35 year old construction worker, uploaded a video of himself lifting up to his mouth and then eating from the communal pickled ginger dish at a Yoshinoya restaurant in September 2022. This may seem trivial, but this illegal at the best of times. Back in 2022, restaurants were still trying to attract customers scared away during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, his actions were also extremely harmful to Yoshinoya’s business interests.

And so, it transpired. Shimizu was convicted of obstruction of business operations and damaging private property. With a previous drug conviction also on his rap sheet, prosecutors argued that he showed a pattern of criminal behavior and disrespect.

The judge agreed, handing down a prison term of 2 years and 4 months. He also fined Shimizu 200,000 yen. His accomplice, who filimed the incident was also fined 300,000 yen for his part in the “prank”.

Meanwhile Osaka’s army of salarymen can rest a little easier with their late-night beef bowls tonight.

And Finally…

Cedar pollen, the mortal enemy of the Japanese hay fever sufferer.

The bane of hay fever sufferers across Osaka is back!

Unseasonably warm weather over the past few days has led to early cedar pollen dispersal in Osaka and some other parts of Japan. This, of course, has many hay fever sufferers diving for cover, under the nearest pharmacist’s counter! Stocks of some of the more popular brands of hay fever relief were hard to find in some Osaka drug stores this week.

Thankfully, from Friday onwards, forecasts predict a return to more seasonal temperatures. With the chill winter air, a drop in pollen levels will, hopefully, soon follow. However, the respite for hay fever suffers may only be temporary. Forecasters also predict an early spring, probably starting in just a few weeks.

That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!


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