April 10, 2017

Kengo Kuma’s Railway Dining Car Is Meant to Be Savored

Painted scenery on each car represents a different season in the mountain region. Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen.

At age 10, in 1964, Kengo Kuma got to take a ride on what was then Japan’s most potent symbol of modernity, the Shinkansen bullet train. It was just open to the public. A family friend who worked for the railway had nabbed him a spot.

Kengo Kuma & Associates designed the exterior and interior of the Seibu Railway Co.’s four-car dining train. Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen.

Kengo Kuma & Associates has now designed its own train. This one, however, prioritizes the journey over the destination. The Seibu Railway Co.’s new all-dining train, called 52 Seats of Happiness, serves gourmet meals as it travels three hours from Tokyo to the mountainous city of Chichibu, mostly on weekends and holidays. “There are still farming villages along the route. To complement that setting, I created gentleness and warmth inside a steel box,” Kuma says.

Locally sourced cedar slats meet below the ceiling of one car. Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen.

He paid particular attention to the cars’ ceilings, each unique. “When people are outside, they look at the sky. Inside, it’s the ceiling,” he adds. Or perhaps what’s on their plate.

> See more from the March 2017 issue of Interior Design

Another car’s ceiling features dyed washi paper glued to an aluminum substructure. Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen.

A sign is laser-etched wood. Photography by Jimmy Cohrssen.

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