Japan's Train Network Is So Good, They Want to Make It Invisible Now

Invisible train design 1 photo
Photo: Kazuyo Sejima
When it comes to transport on rails, few countries can hold a candle to Japan, if any. They're so serious about it that there's even an old anecdote saying the railroad manager resigned because one train had a 20 seconds delay. Only it's no anecdote.
That country has a strong cultural connection with this means of transportation, and if this project pulls through, it's about to get even more astonishing. A well-known Japanese architect has been commissioned by Seibu Group, a transport company, to design a new train for the firm's 100th anniversary.

The woman chosen for the task is Kazuyo Sejima and she will be designing both the interior and the exterior of Seibu Group's Red Arrow commuter train. Right now, contrary to what the name might suggest, the trains are painted in bright yellow and feature contrasting stripes that make the fleet stand out from its surroundings.

Sejima's approach is exactly the opposite. Her proposed design makes the train a very discreet presence by wrapping it in semi-transparent material and reflective surfaces that act almost like a chameleon's skin. The trains will blend in with the environment making them as close to being invisible as possible. Sejima - an architect with no previous experience with vehicle design - says that this has "never been seen before." And, if successful, it won't be seen at all.

But it's not just the wrapping that looks fabulous: the retro-futuristic shape of the train itself is also a gorgeous piece of design that probably owes to Sejima's completely clean approach. There are no interior images, but the author says she tried to replicate the atmosphere of a living room, and since she's an architect, it's safe to assume she nailed it perfectly.

"The limited express travels in a variety of different sceneries, from the mountains of Chichibu to the middle of Tokyo, and I thought it would be good if the train could gently co-exist with this variety of scenery," Sejima is quoted as saying in Seibu's official press release. "I also would like it to be a limited express where large numbers of people can all relax in comfort, in their own way, like a living room, so that they think to themselves 'I look forward to riding that train again," Sejima told

The new design should make it into service by 2018, but only for a limited number of trains. And while it will surely prove to be quite useful for any last-minute hairdo adjustments, you can't help but wonder what it's going to be like to meet this thing on a sunny day. If you forgot your polarized shades at home, you're toast. Quite literally.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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