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Japan's new Series E7 bullet train: Understated, luxurious

If you can afford a first-class seat, this 160 mph bullet train promises a plush ride to Nagano and the Sea of Japan.

Series E7 bullet train
The Series E7 will do up to 160 mph on the Hokuriku Shinkansen railway, which links Tokyo and the Sea of Japan.
JR East

Japan just can't get enough shiny, new trains.

While California is up to its eyeballs in legal battles over its proposed high-speed railway, Japan is adding another branch to its extensive bullet train network, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.

Operator JR East has begun tests of its swishy new Series E7 bullet train, which starts runs from Tokyo to Nagano in the spring, then the Sea of Japan coastal area in 2015, and possibly Osaka after 2025.

With a top speed of only 160 mph, the E7 is far from the fastest in the bullet train fleet, but it tries to make up for that with gorgeous looks.

Crafted by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Ken Okuyama, an industrial designer who recently showed off the retro-futuristic Kode 9 sports car at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the E7 has an aesthetic based on traditional Japanese motifs.

Forgoing the bold design of the Series E6 bullet train to northern Japan, a crimson rocket that we gaped at earlier this year, the E7 is done up in restrained ivory with a blue roof and nose, along with bronze trim.

The color scheme represents various regional crafts such as Kutani porcelain from the Sea of Japan coast.

JR East, a regional operator, put the trainset through its paces on the weekend, running it from Nagano to Karuizawa, a mountain resort northwest of Tokyo on the Nagano Shinkansen Line. It's the first part of the planned Hokuriku Shinkansen Line that may eventually connect Japan's mountainous hinterland with Osaka.

Osaka-based JR West, another regional rail operator, also commissioned new W7 bullet trains, which are identical to the E7.

"We've produced a vivid exterior that's appropriate for a Shinkansen for a new Japan," Okuyama said in a release. "The interiors have elements that reflect the various cultures and seasons along the railway. We hope this design pleases everyone."

The Series E7 is set to debut in March with service from Tokyo to Nagano, then to Kanazawa near the Sea of Japan coast in 2015.