[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]wo new luxury cruise trains will begin operations in Japan next year, with the launch of the Twilight Express Mizukaze from JR West, and the Train Suite Shiki-Shima from JR East. They will offer tourists a new way of experiencing the country by rail.
Coming in the spring, the Twilight Express will leave from stations in Kyoto, Osaka and Shimonoseki, journey through west Japan to take in Matsue, Izumo, Miyajima, the Sea of Japan, Mt Daisen and the Seto Inland Sea islands.
Described as “art deco meets 21st century”, the carriages will offer “hotel-style surroundings with haute cuisine by top-class chefs”.
The 30-person-capacity train will have ten coaches, including one dining car, one lounge car, six sleeper cars and the two sightseeing cars. These will come complete with al fresco viewing platforms at each end.
Food will be freshly prepared on board. Japan’s most Michelin-starred chef, Yoshihiro Murata of Kikunoi in Kyoto and now Tokimeitei in London, will be serving washoku (Japanese cuisine), which is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. A statement said: “Guests will be able to enjoy and gain a deeper understanding of washoku and the region’s cuisine through his specially designed menus.”
Meanwhile, Train Suite Shiki-Shima will begin journeys in May, with tickets on sale now. It will depart from Tokyo’s Ueno station before passing through the north-eastern region of Tohoku and up into Hokkaido.
A statement said: “Train Suite Shiki-Shima will offer a prime view of Japan’s rich, beautiful natural scenery, and the local arts, crafts and foods of each region and the unique culture that permeates Japanese people’s daily lives.
“Shiki-Shima passengers will have the opportunity to get off the train and explore local areas along the railway route. Itineraries are to include places such as Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture, the Shirakami-Sanchi mountainous area in Aomori Prefecture, a facility related to the culture of the Ainu in Hokkaido and experiences to get a deeper feel for the local culture, such as a visit to the region’s onsen hot springs and fish markets.”
This luxury cruise train will also feature ten cars, with four being dedicated to relaxation, dining and glass-walled observation sections. The remaining six carriages will house 17 lavish rooms for up to 34 passengers – the top suite will have a bath made of Japanese cypress.
Fares for the four-day/three-night and two-day/one-night train cruises will start from 320,000 yen (£1,979) per person.
Japan is known for leading the way with its rail transport – its shinkansen “bullet” train not only looks space-age but is the fastest in the world, travelling at speeds of up to 320km/ph. In March 2016, a new service began on the Tokyo-Hokkaido route.