Butter-flavored Kit Kats come to Japan as new specialty store opens in Hokkaido

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RocketNews 24:

In the year since it opened in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro, we’ve become big fans of the Kit Kat Chocolatory, the specialty store for the chocolate-covered wafers that’re especially popular in Japan. As a matter of fact, somewhere in the course of our multiple visits to procure the latest and greatest Kit Kat flavors, we’ve forgotten what life was like before the shop opened.

But while we’re living in the land of plenty with two different Chocolatory locations in Tokyo (the second is near Tokyo Station), not all of Japan is so fortunate. Until now, only residents of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya could claim their town had its own Kit Kat paradise.

That’s about to change, though, as a new Kit Kat Chocolatory is opening soon in Hokkaido, and bringing a new flavor with it: butter.

Part of the reason Kit Kats have rocketed to popularity in Japan is the way parent company Nestle has wholeheartedly embraced the Japanese practice of making limited-edition sweets that pay tribute to local culinary traditions. As one of the few regions of Japan with ample pasture space, Hokkaido is home to a large number of the country’s dairies. That’s why when the newest Chocolatory opens March 7 in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city, shoppers will be able to purchase not only more orthodox chocolate Kit Kats, but also the Chocolatory Special Butter flavor.

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The flavor was picked as the winner in a contest organized by the Tsuji Group culinary school, likely beating out other foodstuffs associated with Hokkaido such as milk, cheese, and melon (the region is also famous for its salmon and sea urchin, but we’re assuming no one was quite adventurous enough to seriously propose them as Kit Kat flavors).

The Special Butter flavor will be available in packs of 12 (seen above) for 1,200 yen (US $10.20), or in four-piece boxes (pictured below) for 400 yen.

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While the Special Butter Kit Kats will initially be sold only at the Sapporo Chocolatory, located in the Daimaru department store, they’re expected to make their way to other branches in due time. On the other hand, the Sapporo location will remain the only place where you can buy the 1,350-yen Kit Kat Chocolatory Special Sapporo Assortment, a 12-piece collection of four flavors, including Special Butter.

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Also, to celebrate the new store’s grand opening, all Chocolatory branches in Japan will once again be selling Chocolatory Special Sakura Green Tea Kit Kats, made with Uji matcha green tea, white chocolate, and edible cherry blossom leaves.

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The Sapporo Chocolatory is expected to, as always, draw large crowds, especially on opening day. If you’re hoping to get your hands on some of the buttery goodness the store is offering, we recommend getting to the Sapporo Daimaru no later than 10 a.m., when the doors open, and preferably sooner.

 

Shop information:
Kit Kat Chocolatory Daimaru Sappor Branch / キットカット ショコラトリー大丸札幌店
Address: Sapporo-shi, Chuo-ku, Kita 5-jo, Nishi 4-chome, 7 Banchi Daimary Sapporo basement level 1 (inside Hoppe Town section)
札幌市中央区北5条西4丁目7番地大丸札幌店B1 ほっぺタウン内
Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Website

Narita Airport shuttle buses – Cheaper than the train, but which bus is best?

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RocketNews 24:

Most tourists to Japan will come in and out through Tokyo’s Narita Airport. But like many international airports, Narita is not exactly on the doorstep of a major destination city, and travellers headed for Tokyo will usually make the 60-kilometer (36-mile) journey to the metropolis via the Narita Express, a high-speed rail service with a single-trip fare of 3020 yen (US $25.34).

What’s perhaps less well-known is there are two budget bus services that take you from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station for as little as 900 yen. Tokyo Shuttle and The Access Narita seem to offer similar airport shuttle services, but which is the better option?  And can they match the Narita Express in comfort and convenience? We sent one of our Japanese reporters to test out both services and find out!

First things first, let’s have a look at the vital statistics for each service.

1) Fares and times

Tokyo Shuttle: Reserved seats for all services cost 900 yen ($7.55) and can be booked online in English. The walk-up fare is 1,000 yen, or 2,000 yen on early morning services (before 5 a.m.).

The Access Narita: Tickets cost a flat rate of 1,000 yen ($8.38); you can also book online, but the website is in Japanese only.

Both services run approximately every 15-20 minutes (except services before 5 a.m. which are less frequent), with journey times of 60 to 80 minutes. By comparison, the Narita Express leaves every 30 minutes, with a journey time of just 53 minutes, although it doesn’t run as early in the morning as these buses.

2) Routes

Tokyo Shuttle operates between Narita Airport and locations in Tokyo: Ginza Station, Tokyo Station, Shinonome Shako, and the Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.

▼ That’s right, you can get a shuttle bus direct from the airport to the retro wonderland that is arguably Tokyo’s coolest hot spring!

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The Access Narita, meanwhile, runs between the airport, Ginza, and Tokyo Station, and also runs a service between Tokyo and the major hotels at Narita airport. So if you’re staying near Narita Airport before flying home, The Access Narita is a good bet.

▼ They also get a bonus point for that unnecessary “The” in their name, although we immediately docked that point again because “The Access Narita” isn’t actually written on their buses anywhere.

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3) Location of Tokyo bus stops

When heading to the airport on your way home, you’ll need to be able to find the bus stop. Tokyo Shuttle’s stand was a little way away from Tokyo Station, and our reporter had a hard time finding it. The Access Narita, however, was close to the station exit and easy to find. He felt this gave it the edge in terms of convenience.

Tokyo Shuttle buses, operated by Keisei, are easily identifiable, unlike The Access Narita which is operated by different bus companies depending on the time of day.

▼ What bus company is this? We’re sure you’ll figure it out.

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 4) Onboard facilities

With tickets purchased and bus stops located, it was time to ride to Narita Airport! Next up, our reporter wanted to check out the facilities available on each service.

Tokyo Shuttle’s buses have electrical sockets and Wi-Fi which could be very handy if you’ve just arrived in the country (don’t forget your adapter!). The Access Narita, on the other hand, has more leg-room and an onboard toilet.

▼ Tokyo Shuttle gets a bonus point this time though, for those lacy seat covers.

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▼ Although there are still some Tokyo Shuttle services that don’t have Wi-Fi and electrical outlets yet, ours did, as marked on the exterior of the bus.

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▼ The Access Narita looks pretty similar, but boasts “wide seats” for extra comfort.

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 ▼ A choice between charging your electrical devices, and having access to a bathroom? It’s the ultimate 21st-century dilemma…

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We think this contest is almost a tie, to be honest, but our Japanese reporter felt that the extra leg-room and onboard restroom made The Access Narita the winner in his book. He offered the following words of advice for new riders:

  • When you ride the bus from Tokyo to the airport, an official comes onboard and checks tickets and ID. So keep your ticket and passport accessible, not buried in the bottom of your bag under all those souvenirs.
  • If you don’t make a reservation, it’s possible the bus might be full and you might have to wait for the next one. So we recommend either booking in advance online, or leaving a little extra time to get to the airport on your return journey.

With these points in mind, you should be able to enjoy a cheap and easy trip from Narita to Tokyo!

Osaka 3-D Mapping Super Illumination

Japan Times:

In the last couple of years, 3-D projection mapping has rapidly gained popularity, especially after the Tokyo Station show in 2012, which lit up and manipulated the entire facade of the station.

This year, the Osaka Government Tourism Bureau and Nagasaki Huis Ten Bosch theme park have planned what they promise will be another must-see display. The show will be projected on one of city’s most famous landmark’s — Osaka Castle. Last year, a similar performance attracted 600,000 visitors, and this year the display of sound, music and colorful images has evolved even further.

You will see the castle burn, collapse, rotate and even disappear in a vibrant form of entertainment that you could never see in the daylight.

Date Dec 13, 2014 -> Mar 01, 2015
Time Between 6-10:30 p.m., the show is approximately 30 minutes.
Price ¥1,700 for standard seats and ¥3,100 for premium seats
Website http://www.tenka1hikari.jp/

Celebrate Christmas with Kit Kat themed gift set and cake from the Kit Kat Chocolaterie

Kit Kat gift

RocketNews 24:

Remember the Kit Kat Chocolaterie, the world’s first Kit Kat specialty store that opened in the Ikebukuro Seibu Department Store back in January this year? The shop sells limited edition Kit Kats produced by celebrity patissier Yasumasa Takagi, so it’s not surprising that huge crowds of Kit Kat fans have been making their pilgrimage to the store in search of unique Kit Kat products.

Since then, the Kit Kat bandwagon has apparently been going strong, as two more Chocolaterie shops have opened in Japan, one in the Daimaru Department Store at Tokyo Station and another at the Matsuya Department Store in Nagoya. And now, they’ve announced that they’ll be coming out with a special “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Patissier Gift” set for Christmas, and we can’t wait to see what goodies it contains. Plus, there’s even a Kit Kat inspired Christmas cake created by chef Takagi that they’re now taking orders for — who knew that Christmas could be so much fun for Kit Kat lovers?

The gift set, which contains special Kit Kat Chocolaterie products and chef Takagi’s original baked confections, is a dream collaboration for any sweets fan.

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For 4,500 yen (US$37.92), the set contains one piece each of the “Kit Kat Sublime Bitter” and “Kit Kat Sublime Raspberry“, a box of the “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Special Strawberry Maple” and also the “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Special Ginger“, plus five madeleines and four cookies from chef Takagi. A delightful added touch is that the madeleines have a whole Kit Kat baked into them, giving them a crunchy texture, and the cookies also contain crunched Kit Kat bits — they definitely aren’t your ordinary baked treats!

You can now also pre-order this delectable looking “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Noel” cake covered in shiny chocolate, available for 5,000 yen ($42.13).

Kit Kat cake

The cake too is the work of chef Takagi and was created as an homage to the well-loved Kit Kat snack. The cake, made from layers of caramel butter cream, crispy fiantine cookie and biscuit, is designed to recreate the look and texture of Kit Kats without actually using the snack as an ingredient. Now, that certainly makes for a unique Christmas cake!

Chef Takagi commented that he wanted to include items in the gift package that would offer a sense of genuine surprise, which is why he came up with the idea of baking an entire Kit Kat into the madeleines, and as for the cake, he made an effort to create his own rendition of a Kit Kat using original ingredients, resulting in what he hopes is a delightfully surprising and fulling cake.

The “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Patissier Gift” will be available at all three Kit Kat Chocolaterie stores for just one week from December 19 to 25, but they’ll be selling only 20 sets each day, so they may very well sell out. You can also place orders now for the “Kit Kat Chocolaterie Noel” cake at the Ikebukuro Seibu store and the Tokyo Daimaru Store until December 20 for pick-up on December 24, but these are also limited to a total of 75 cakes, so anyone intending to order one may want to hurry.

So, if you’re celebrating the Holiday Season this year in Japan with someone with a fondness for Kit Kats, these could be the perfect treat. Here’s to a chocolatey, crunchy Christmas!

The top 10 sweet souvenirs in Tokyo

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RocketNews 24:

 

If you’re lucky enough to take a trip over to Tokyo, it’s best to bring a little slice of Japan’s capital back home for those who missed out on your trip. But with all the delectable sweets and beautifully packaged treats, it can be a little overwhelming to choose the right one. So before you leave, be sure to take a look at this list of the top 10 omiyage you can only buy at Tokyo Station.

 

#10 : Brown Sugar Baumkuchen – Kuroichiya

bamchuhenKuroichiya

Although this sweet baumkuchen pastry is made with Okinawan brown sugar, you can only get this specific one at Tokyo Station, dressed to impress with limited edition Tokyo Station wrapping for 1,080 yen (US$10.57).

 

#9 : Tokyo Nicorin – Nicorin

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The symbolic silver bells of Tokyo Station are recreated with butter and sugar in these delightfully fluffy pastries. Get eight for 1,080 yen ($10.57)!

 

#8 : Imperial Hotel cookie assortment – Lohaco

lohacoLohaco

The most sophisticated souvenir on our list! You can only find this cookie set at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. Enjoy the sweets in a limited edition package for 1,080 yen ($10.57).

 

#7 : Edo Musubisen Assortment – Tokyo Fumiyu

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These traditional crispy crackers come in three different flavors: soy sauce, salt, and miso and we’re sure you’ll enjoy all three! Purchase 18 for 1,080 yen ($10.57).

 

#6 : “In the midst of the station”- Gransta Dining

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A crispy casing made of domestic rise resembles Tokyo Station and also hides a filling of red bean and butter cream. Buy five Tokyo Stations for just 1,300 yen ($12.73).

 

#5 : Tokyo Renga bread- ECU Tokyo

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Modeled after the red bricks of Tokyo Station, these Renga Pan are a great way to commemorate your trip to the capital city. The sweet bean paste and custard whipped cream in the middle doesn’t hurt either! Get one for 257 yen ($2.51).

 

#4 : Tokyo Waffle Cake – R.L. Waffle

waffle cakeRL Waffle

It doesn’t get any better than waffle cake filled with seasonal fruits and cream! Get 10 for 1,134 yen ($11.10) and have enough to share with friends, or eat them all yourself.

 

#3 : Marshmallow Elegance – Ginnobudo Chocolate Sandwich (Almond)

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The cutest cookie on our list, this heart-infused wafer cookie is as adorable as it is delicious and comes with chocolate or vanilla cream. Get a heartful box for 1,080 yen ($10.57)!

 

#2 : Maple Butter Cookie – The Maple Mania 

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A seemingly simple crispy cookie loaded with sweet flavor, these Maple Butter Cookies are sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth. The dough is made with maple sugar and high quality butter and baked to a golden crisp. Get nine of them for 810 yen ($7.93)!

 

#1 : Tokyo Honey Sugar – Yokumoku 

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There’s a reason these sweet treats have come out on top. Infused with honey syrup and made using a longstanding recipe, the Tokyo Honey Sugar are part cookie, part waffle, and all delicious. Be sure to pick up a box of six for only 594 yen ($5.81)!

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Tokyo Station’s top 5 breakfast spots

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

As one of Japan’s largest train stations, Tokyo Station is the central hub for many of the JR lines as well as the Shinkansen (bullet train). You can expect some standard grub in most stations, but Tokyo Station has plenty of food places that go beyond the basics. Before setting out on a trip, why not arrive a bit early and enjoy a delicious breakfast before boarding your train? It’s the perfect start to your adventure.

Here we introduce five of the best breakfast spots within the station itself:

 

  • Juicy fruit at Senbikiya

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For anyone who loves fruit for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Senbikiya’s breakfast waffle set (600 yen/US$6).

Senbikiya is a specialist luxury fruit store, and it can get pretty pricey with one parfait setting you back over 2,000 yen ($20). But with the breakfast set you can experience the store’s sense of luxury without breaking the bank.

The waffle set includes fruit, yogurt, waffles, salad, and a drink. All this for only 600 yen! Unbelievable!

If you ask a Senbikiya fan what their favourite fruit is, a lot of people will probably reply with the cantaloupe (musk melon), and the waffle set comes with beautifully prepared slices of this delicious fruit. It’s sweet and juicy, and perfectly complemented by the rest of the light foods – recommended for anyone with a sweet tooth in the mornings!

<Kyobashi Senbikiya Tokyo Station  First Avenue Store>

■Breakfast time 8:30~11:00(Open until 20:30)
■Address Tokyo Station First Avenue B1F North Street
■TEL 03-3212-2517
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Hearty noodles at Japan’s leading tsukemen restaurant

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Rokurinsha is one of Japan’s most famous tsukemen (noodles with separate dipping sauce) restaurants. Since opening on Tokyo Station’s Ramen Street in 2009, it has become one of the most popular stores and is always overflowing with people.

The best time to get into Rokurinsha is during the breakfast period between 7:30 and 10:00 a.m. (last orders at 9:45). You usually need to be prepared to wait for around an hour before getting a seat, but in the mornings you can enter in less than 30 minutes, or straight away if you’re really lucky.

There are two choices of ramen for breakfast: Morning Tsukemen (630 yen) and Deluxe Morning Tsukemen. The shop’s speciality is its noodle soup, a rich, thick concoction made from boiling tonkatsu (pork cutlet), katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes), and other ingredients together for 13 hours. The Morning Tsukemen soup is lighter and easy on the stomach, while still retaining its rich flavor, making it perfect for breakfast. Recommended for those needing a stamina boost before setting out on a grand adventure.

<Rokurinsha TOKYO>

■Breakfast time 7:30~10:00 (Last orders 9:45) ※Opening hours 11:00~22:30(Last orders 22:00)
■Address Tokyo Station First Avenue B1 Tokyo Ramen Street 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3286-0166
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Traditional Japanese breakfast at Yaesu Hatsufuji

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Opening at 7am, Yaesu Hatsufuji is an izakaya (Japanese pub) that serves traditional Japanese breakfast sets.

They offer seven different kinds including fried salmon (550 yen), pork miso soup (500 yen), omelette (500 yen), and meat & tofu (530 yen). With so much choice it can be difficult to make up your mind, but the meat & tofu and fried ginger sets are popular with particularly hungry folks, while the fried salmon and omelette options are more popular with girls with smaller appetites.

Yaesu Hatsufuji uses the best ingredients, and uses them in abundance. Of course it’s also delicious, and the chef who skillfully prepares it will bring it to you himself, so you can enjoy it freshly made and piping hot.

It may be an izakaya, but the interior is bright and clean rather than dark and smoky, and girls don’t need to worry about going there on their own. Recommended for anyone wanting a traditional Japanese-style breakfast.

<Yaesu Hatsufuji Yaesu chikagai Store>

■Breakfast time 7:00~10:00 ※Opening hours 7:00~22:00(Last orders 21:30)
■Address Yaesu chikagai, 1-9-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3275-1676
■Holidays None
■Breakfast is also available on weekends

 

  • Hotdogs for breakfast?!

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Right next to the ticket gates for the Tohoku Joetsu Shinkansen, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants and bars. The Gransta North Court zone hosts 16 stores mostly sellingobento (Japanese lunch boxes) and sweets to take with you on the train. Standing out in the midst of them is Tokyo DOG, proudly displaying its range of hotdogs.

The hotdog you see in the photo above is the “Iwate Prefecture fried chicken cross hotdog”, released in commemoration of the renovation of Tokyo Station’s red brick station building in October 2012. Stamped into the bun are the Japanese characters for “Tokyo Station”. The meaty filling is drizzled with ponzu sauce (citrus-based soy sauce) and topped with grated daikon radish – sounds like an incredibly delicious creation! A hotdog may not sound like much, but they don’t skimp on the fillings here!

After purchase you can enjoy your hotdog in the communal North Court eat-in space.

Products except for the hotdogs are served cold for take-out, so for those who want something warm for breakfast we recommend the “Tokyo Grill Hotdog” with a hot grilled wiener sandwiched between the bread (420 yen).

<Tokyo DOG>

■Opening hours 6:30~22:30
■Address North Court, Tokyo Station Gransta Dining, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3217-4144
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Specialist soups at Misogen

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The above photo might look like cloudy coffee, but it’s actually shijimi clam soup!

This is the shijimi espresso (250 yen), served at Misogen, a specialist miso soup store found in KITTE which opened in Tokyo Station in March 2013.

If you want the clam espresso then you’d better get their early, because this delicacy is limited to only 30 cups per day. It’s very popular and sells out early, so arriving at opening time (10 am) is probably your best bet. According to the store, it’s the dark-brown miso paste that really draws out the flavour of the shijimi clams which come from Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture. The deliciousness of the shijimi is concentrated into a 70ml espresso cup, so take your time savouring it.

Anyone who loves miso soup has to visit Misogen, and try and get their hands on theshijimi espresso!

<Misogen KITTE GRANCHE Store>

■Opening times (eat-in) 10:00~20:30(Monday – Saturday)、10:00~19:30(Sundays & holidays)
■Address KITTE B1F, 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-6256-0831
■Holidays January 1st only
■Breakfast also available on weekends

All the above shops are open on weekends as well as weekdays, so whatever day you’re travelling you can be sure of somewhere to full up in the morning. No need to wander aimlessly around the station in search of something more palatable than cold combini food – any of these five restaurants will set you up with a delicious start to your trip.

 

Check out this link:

Tokyo Station’s top 5 breakfast spots

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Race against the clock: Shinkansen staff have just 7 minutes to get bullet train ready to ride

Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet train in the West, was the world’s first high-speed train running at 200km per hour, and today the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s most used high-speed rail line. Impressively, even with over 120,000 trains running on the line each year, the average delay time is a mere 36 seconds!

Part of the reason the bullet train system can run as smoothly as it does is thanks to the ‘hospitality group’ working behind the scenes of the sleek, futuristic facades of these famous trains. These cleaning crews are charged with covering every inch of a train’s interior when it arrives at its final stop and preparing it for the next wave of customers–and they have just seven minutes to do it.

JR East’s rail service company is known as TESSEI, and it is responsible for the cleaning of the bullet trains when they have come to a stop at Tokyo Station. There are around 820 staff members including full-time staff and part-timers known as ‘partners’. The average employee age is 52, and around 50 percent of them are women, so people often talk affectionately of the TESSEI ‘obaa-sans’ or ‘grannies’.

Bullet trains shuttle in and out of the platforms at Tokyo station 210 times each day. TESSEI staff are divided into teams composed of 22 people, and with 11 teams of cleaners taking turns on the platform, which translates into each TESSEI employee cleaning around 20 trains per day.

Despite not being particularly glamorous work, the group has received a lot of media attention over the years, and have been called Japan’s ‘strongest team’ by the Nikkei Business magazine.

Trains spend only 12 minutes at the station in Tokyo. That includes two minutes for passengers to disembark and two more for the next to get on, leaving only seven minutes for cleaning.

One person is in charge of one car with around 100 seats, and the whole car must be made spotlessly clean during those crucial seven minutes. It’s the same for the toilet cleaning staff – no matter how dirty it is, they have to have it sparkling again within the time limit. And lest we forget, the shinkansen aren’t like inner-city trains — passengers often travel for hours at a time, getting settled for the long ride, eating meals, snacking, reading newspapers, and generally making a bit of a mess.

The strict seven-minute deadline means that the work is broken down into smaller blocks that have to be completed in record time: 1.5 minutes spent picking up trash, 30 seconds rotating the seats (some can be swivelled around so that larger groups can face one another), four minutes sweeping and cleaning, and a one-minute check.

Those crucial seven minutes

0:00~1:30 First check the luggage racks on both sides, then look down the gaps between the seats for any forgotten items. As the seats are being turned to face the direction of travel, run down to the door at the other end sweeping out dropped trash into the aisle along the way.

1:30~4:30 On the way back up the aisle, pull down and check the blinds, and at the same time pull out the seat-back trays and wipe everything down, and change the seat covers if they’re dirty.

4:30~6:30 There’s now only two minutes left. Take a broom and sweep up all the trash brought out into the aisle in one go.

Everything above is expected to be completed in about six minutes. The official time limit is seven minutes, but it’s often crowded and takes longer for passengers to disembark, so they rarely have the luxury of using the full seven. This almost superhuman feat is known in Japanese as the ’7-minute shinkansen theatre’.