Japan’s newly unveiled Train Suite Shiki-shima that travels at a leisurely pace of 110 kph (68 mph) is a bit of an anomaly in a country known for magnetic levitation bullet trains that can traverse at speeds of up to 603 kph (375mph). However, the purpose of the sleeper train, which accommodates just 34 guests, is not to get passengers to their destination rapidly but to allow them to the enjoy the country’s beautiful landscapes while being thoroughly spoiled.
The pampering begins at Tokyo’s Ueno Station when guests are invited to relax and enjoy refreshments inside the “Prologue Shiki-shima” lounge. When it’s time to leave, ticket holders make their way to platform 13 ½, built exclusively for the hybrid electric/diesel train. Similar to platform 9 ¾ used by the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series, it lies between platform 13 and 14. Fortunately, however, the special platform is perfectly visible to Muggles!
Upon boarding, guests are led to one of the 17 rooms that range from standard suites with fold-out sofa beds and private bathrooms to the ultra-luxurious Shiki-shima suite. Occupying one of the train’s ten cars, the two-level loft features a living room on the upper floor, a bedroom on the lower floor, and a bathroom complete with a bathtub made of hinoki, or, Japanese cypress.
All passengers have access to the train’s common areas which include two observatory cars with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for beautiful views of the dramatic landscapes. Equally stunning is the lounge car which has a wall adorned with an Eastern Japan-inspired “quiet forest” motif.
A gorgeous, gold-tinted dining car beckons passengers with exceptional cuisine prepared by celebrated Japanese chef Katsuhiro Nakamura. The Michelin-starred culinary artist delights guests with traditional Japanese cuisine made using French techniques and fresh ingredients collected along the way. The delectable food is served and consumed using nickel silver cutlery designed by Yamazaki Kinzoku Kogyo, best known for supplying silverware for the Nobel Prize award ceremony banquet.
Train Suite Shiki-shima, which made its inaugural journey on May 1, offers different itineraries depending on the time of year. From May to November, guests can select between a two-day trip to Yamanashi, Nagano, and Fukushima, or a four-day excursion through Hokkaido and other areas of northeastern Japan.
As you may have guessed, traveling aboard what is being touted as the world’s “most luxurious” train is not cheap. The fares range from 320,000 yen ($3,000 ) to 450,000 yen ($4,000) per person for a two day/ one night trip, when two guests share a room and the prices increase substantially for solo travelers. However, the exorbitant cost does not appear to be an impediment. According to its operator, East Japan Railway, the Train Suite Shiki-shima is completely booked until 2018 and demand for future trips is so high that potential passengers have to fill out an application and are chosen by lottery.
Resources: telegraph.co.uk, jreast.co.jp,cntraveler.com