Railway travel is increasingly being rediscovered as a sustainable way to sightsee in style and comfort. Worldwide, rail journeys emit up to 70% less greenhouse gasses per passenger per kilometer compared to travel by airplane, cruise ship or car.
Japan’s famously punctual, high-tech, bullet-fast trains are a national source of pride and fascination, beginning with the very first Shimbashi-Yokohama line launched in 1872. Japanese railways have since developed into an extensive and efficient network covering the archipelago. Beyond a mere means of transport, luxury trains and sightseeing trains offer many other original ways to enjoy the journey. Here are some noteworthy lines to give you a taste of riding the rails through lesser-known regions of Japan.
TRAIN SUITE SHIKI-SHIMA – Natural wonders and gourmet luxury
Embark on the ultimate Japanese adventure aboard the TRAIN SUITE SHIKI- SHIMA, a luxury train that travels through the natural landscapes of Eastern Japan. Dedicated and ever-evolving sightseeing journeys from two to four days in duration depart from Tokyo’s bustling Ueno station and reach out to the Pacific coastlines, home to ancient shrines, historical buildings, contemporary art galleries and regional handicrafts.
Although the journeys highlight some of Japan’s most breathtaking natural sceneries in their seasonal glory, riding the SHIKI-SHIMA is an experience in itself. Making full use of the region’s traditional wood, metal, and textiles handicrafts, the interiors of the train cradle the riders in luxury. Dine using cutlery made by artisans from Niigata or feel the soft comfort of moss-colored Yamagata Dantsu rugs beneath your feet, to name just a couple of the luxurious details you’ll find aboard the train.
Most of your gourmet meals are served on board the train, where local chefs create seasonal dishes using seasonal ingredients from the various regions along the route. Even the tableware is tailored by region; venture up to Iwate prefecture, and awake to a traditional breakfast served in dishware made with local Johoji lacquer and Kokuji-yaki ceramics.
The SHIKI-SHIMA is a perfect experience for those seeking views of the best seasonal scenery while experiencing Japan uniquely with every journey.
SHIKOKU MANNAKA SENNEN MONOGATARI – Original outings to extraordinary sites
Discover the hidden charms and rich history of Shikoku’s Tokushima and Kagawa prefectures aboard the SHIKOKU MANNAKA SENNEN MONOGATARI. This friendly sightseeing train guides you through adventures to some of Japan’s most naturally secluded and historically relevant destinations, conjuring the excitement of a childhood trip, yet tailored for adults.
The train’s interior design is based on an old Japanese-style house, with color motifs representing the four seasons, which you can enjoy in real life outside the train’s huge windows as the train passes through rice paddies, over clear rivers, and through steep valleys. Onboard meals are specially prepared using ingredients from Tokushima and Kagawa prefecture as both Western and local Shikoku styles of cuisines.
The train stops at five of the island’s unique attractions where riders can disembark to explore the area. Among them is Oboke Gorge, where the emerald colored Yoshino River cuts through the rugged mountains of Tokushima Prefecture. The area is famous for outdoor adventurers who brave the world-class whitewater rapids as well as those who prefer a more idyllic journey on a sightseeing boat cruise. Although breathtaking year round, Oboke Gorge is particularly gorgeous during autumn when the vivid fall foliage creates a perfect contrast with the green-blue water of the river.
Meet Pikachu on the POKÉMON with YOU Train
The POKÉMON with YOU Train is for you if you love anime or are traveling with children!
Originally conceived as a project to aid in the regional recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the train runs from Ichinoseki (Iwate) through to Kesennuma (Miyagi) and is designed to showcase the various natural locations that are scattered along the train line. But the Pokémon-themed journey is much like an amusement park ride on rails in the great outdoors, where nature lovers will also find their thrills.
The train itself is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, with Pikachus waiting around every corner. Reserve your place to sit with Pikachu in the car up front, or take a step back to the Playroom Car where kids can try their hand at being the conductor in the driver’s cab or engine room. The Playroom Car features a reclining Pikachu and loads of other gadgets to keep the little ones entertained on the journey.
Passengers receive a Souvenir Notebook, as well as a Commemorative Boarding pass, where you can collect stamps from stations along the journey and create the ultimate memento of your trip. Collect enough stamps and you’ll even receive a paper model of the new POKÉMON with YOU Train!
Supported by Japan National Tourism Organization
- The above details are correct as of the time of publication, and are subject to change.
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