On September 4th last year it was #ForceFriday and the journey towards ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ (2015) began. From that date onwards, all manner of marketing promotions and tie-ins relating to the saga were introduced in the run up to the much anticipated December release.
Among the thousands of promotions in Japan were the ANA R2D2 and BB8 airplanes and, continuing the transport theme, there was also the Star Wars Rapi:it train. However, this was an Osaka-based one with it running from Namba station to Kansai Airport. As much as my fandom goes I was never going to go to Osaka just to see the train but with my parents coming to visit and a trip to that part of Japan on the horizon I thought there might be a chance.
One of my train otaku students gave me the time schedule of the Star Wars trains for the days I was in town. Sadly they weren’t as frequent as I had hoped so I had to wake early on my first day in Osaka and make my way to Namba station ready for 7:30am. This train, which is similar to the Skyliner in Tokyo going to Narita Airport, has been operating since November 21st last year and was due to end on May 8th so I was cutting it quite fine to experience it. By chance the only day I could really see it was on Star Wars Day itself – “May the 4th be with you” and all that.
I was actually on the platform just after 7am which has a convenience store (above) at the end of it selling special Star Wars rapi:it goodies. The train pulled in about ten minutes before it was set to depart which was very welcome news for me as it gave me the chance to explore it’s full length and photograph it both externally and internally.
Each of the six carriages features some of the main characters (none of the legacy characters – Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker – are included though) from ‘The Force Awakens‘ as well as C-3P0 and R2D2 who basically only had cameo roles in episode VII. For those people new to Japan and arriving at the airport it must have been quite an interesting welcoming sight.
Cars 1 and 6 featured Rey, Kylo Ren and BB-8, Cars 2 and 5 had Fin and Captain Phasma. Car 3 had Po Dameron and a Stormtrooper, whilst Car 4 displayed C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca.
By the time the train was set to depart I was even thinking of not actually riding it as I was already pretty satisfied. I needed to get back to the hotel for breakfast with my family but thought I may as well use the 770 yen ticket that I had paid for in its proper way. I was glad I did so as I was only riding it for nine minutes to Sakai (rather than the airport) and whilst in motion the car doors were closed thereby giving me better shots.
This collaboration between Nankai Electric Railway Co.,Ltd and the Star Wars franchise was born out of the concepts of “journey” and “adventure”, which have always been a major part of the Star Wars universe.
It may have only been a short ride but it was well worth it for me. I don’t think I actually sat down for more than a minute and spent most the journey hanging out with the sizeable R2-D2 figure standing guard in the final carriage.
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Japanese Star Wars snacks’
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Click here to read ‘#ForceFriday – The Journey Towards The New Star Wars Movie Has Begun’
Click here to read ‘Star Wars Visions Exhibition In Roppongi’