Japan to offer bullet train with footbath

TOKYO - Japan's super-speedy bullet train is to offer passengers a chance to soothe their tired feet as they zip through the countryside, in a carriage equipped with footbaths.

JR East will launch the service in July, with one carriage on the "shinkansen" bullet train having two 2.4-metre-long (8-foot) tubs facing windows.

Bathing is a ritualised and highly-prized activity in Japan and the footbaths are intended as places for passengers to relax rather than to clean their feet.

The train, named Toreiyu -- a rather tortured combination of the English "train", the French "soleil" and "yu", the Japanese word for hot water -- will also have a car with a bar counter and tatami-mat flooring with tables made from cherrywood.

"We are trying to offer services in which getting on the train itself is the purpose of the travel," said JR East spokesman Ryosuke Akaya.

The train will run on a 148-kilometre (92-mile) route between Fukushima and Shinjo City in Yamagata prefecture mostly on weekends. It is part of a campaign to promote tourism in Yamagata, a farming area known for rice, beef, cherries and pears.

The inland city of Fukushima is more than 60 kilometres northwest of the tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant on the Pacific coast.