Japan's Famous Bullet Train Snack Service Will End After Almost 60 Years

Long before audiences saw the trolley witch offering Hogwarts students sweets and goodies on the Hogwarts Express, Japan's bullet trains, called shinkansen, were doling out drinks, ice creams, and light snacks to the many passengers who climbed aboard these trains. For almost 60 years, travelers on board the lines that traveled from Tokyo to Osaka were accustomed to being offered refreshments from friendly, uniformed vendors called pursers who would push food and beverage carts down the narrow aisles. But the practice is about to become a precious thing of the past on the route as the shinkansen will discontinue the offerings in the fall of 2023.

According to Nikkei Asia, more and more passengers in recent years have opted to bring their own food aboard, which is readily available at the train stations, thus decreasing demand for food trolleys. This combined with a worker shortage has caused Central Japan Railway to make the difficult decision, which is proving unpopular among many who saw the food and drinks as enjoyable and nostalgic. While one Tokyo-Osaka shinkansen train (named the Kodama) ended its food and beverage services in 2012, the two remaining (Nozomi and Hikari) continued their trolley services, however, they, too, will be phased out completely by the end of October 2023.

How you can still get food on the train

The Shinkansen have become a very popular mode of transportation for travelers, commuters, and tourists due to their speed and convenience (the trains reach up to a top speed of 199 miles per hour). So, will passengers simply have to suffer through their hunger during their travels? Not necessarily. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of stores offering food at or near train stations grew by 16%, giving travelers the opportunity to load up on snacks and drinks before boarding. As the onboard food trolleys phase out, Central Japan Railway also plans to install more vending machines on railway station platforms which will sell things like coffee and ice cream, two of the most popular trolley offerings.

First-class passengers, or those with green passes, will have the opportunity to order food and drinks onboard the trains beginning November 1. Doing so will require them to scan QR codes on their smartphones to select items from menus. Unless you're boarding a bullet train connecting Tokyo to Osaka simply because you're "there for the food," the change shouldn't affect travel too much. And just think, you'll no longer have to tuck in those elbows when the trolley rolls by.