The Change of Drinking on Shinkansen, COVID style.

Freddie Mercury on one of Queen’s Japan tour, having a Suntory beer with his Ekiben bento box.

It takes some getting used to in the COVID New Normal. For instance, purchasing alcohol going away from JR Shinkansen trains.

This opinion piece is about the suspension of sales for alcohol on JR East and West Shinkansen trains, beginning in the last two weeks. The suspension is temporary and is responding to COVID, but who knows how long it might take or if it is permanent? You only have to look at JR Hokkaido (JR FAQ in Japanese) and Kyushu (news report in Japanese), both had stopped all food and beverage sales in 2019.

Commentaries cited lack of sales, shortage of staff, and shops inside stations as the main reasons for such suspensions. Bringing your own food and drink is still okay, though attendants would remind you to keep masks on as soon as your food consumption is over. Also, on tour trains, you can still get food. Some of those trains even offer freshly cooked meals with your ride.

Yet with COVID as the New Normal, I wonder if Japanese train companies would finally give in-car food and drink consumption the boot.

Back in the days when Shinkansen was still new, there were buffet cars serving light meals and drinks. I was too young to see them in action, but one of those cars were preserved in Kyoto Railway Museum. It’s sad that those trains got left behind in the river of history. And it would be equally sad to see eating and drinking on trains go away, too.


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