Christian Stan, at 2 May. 17, in Hot right now, News

From JR East, ‘Train Suite Shiki-Shima’ will offer luxury journeys departing from Tokyo’s Ueno station through the north-eastern region of Tohoku and up into Hokkaido. 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. See the diverse seasonal beauty of Japan from the vantage point of a luxury train.

The new 10-car sleeper train, which embarked on its inaugural voyage on the 1st of May, is an exercise in luxury travel on wheels: from its champagne-gold exterior, opulent suites, Michelin-starred chefs and uniformed butlers to its futuristic observation cars, lacquerware latticework and, in one suite, an aromatic cypress wood bath.

The JR East-operated train – whose name means “Island of Four Seasons” – will carry up to 34 passengers a time from Tokyo across the northern Tohoku region (the worst-hit area in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami) as well as the northernmost island Hokkaido, for trips of between one and three nights’ duration.

Train Suite Shiki-Shima will be made up of 10 cars, with four being dedicated to lounge, dining and viewing areas. A maximum of 34 passengers will stay in 17 lavish rooms in the remaining six cars.  The highest-grade suite on the train will have a bath made of Japanese cypress. Fares for the 4 day/3 night and 2 day/1night train cruises will start from 320,000 yen (£1,979) per person. Despite the hefty price-tag for travelling, there is clearly a market for such a luxury: it is already sold out until March 2018.

In addition to a luxury interior to rival a top five-star hotel – created by Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama, a designer famed for his work with Porsche, Ferrari and several bullet trains – Shiki-shima also showcases cutting-edge rail technology, with an ultra-modern motor that can be used both on diesel engine and electric train lines.

Perhaps the only thing Shiki-shima isn’t about is speed: it travels up to a modest 110 kph – nearly three times slower than the 320 kph top speed of the nation’s fastest bullet train.

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 visit to the region’s onsen hot springs and fish markets.

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