On a Sunday night almost 30 years ago, Hiroshi Suda, then a senior official at the former Japan National Railways (JNR), was aboard the day's last Hikari super express on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line, waiting for the train to depart from Tokyo Station.
Sitting in the window seat in his row was a young woman. As the train began pulling out of the station, she waved to a man running along the platform, tears in her eyes. The tears didn't stop until they'd reached Shizuoka Station. The seat between Suda and the woman was empty, so he saw the entire miniature drama unfold.
"What a sight," he thought, suddenly realizing that train stations were often the settings for couples' tearful partings.
A TV ad depicting a similar situation -- in which a couple in a long-distance relationship who spent the weekend together bid farewell to each other at a station -- became a sensation in the late 1980s, along with the catchphrase "Cinderella Express." That ad was the first installment in a series of commercials launched by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) in June 1987 under the title "Express Campaign." JR Tokai is one of the several regional firms that took the place of JNR, privatized in April that year.
Suda, the first president of JR Tokai, threw his support behind the TV ad plan proposed by his employees. The image of a couple's emotional parting on a Hikari super express platform became a social phenomenon. He ordered that the day's last Hikari trains departing from Tokyo on Sundays be switched from the 0-series to the latest 100-series model.