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 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.
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.