Luxury train travel onboard the Shiki shima

Tour Japan in a luxury sleeper train

Japan has a love affair with trains, and why not, they are impeccably on time, clean and regular. Japan also boasts more than four luxury train travel services spanning the length of the country.

Launched in 2017 the Shiki Shima operated by East Japan railway is the latest train to take to the scenic tracks of Japan, offering chic modern carriages, designer comfort and Michelin quality dining services. The ten carriage train can accommodate just 34 passengers in 17 immaculate suites, priced up to 7500 USD for the most expensive suite.

Luxury travel Japan

Luxury train design

This train is a hybrid electric/diesel deluxe sleeping car excursion train, built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and J-TREC. Ken Okuyama, a Japanese Industrial designer, was responsible for the interior design and has managed to combine Japanese aesthetics with a futuristic Western feel.

The train comprises ten carriages, two observatory platforms at each end of the train, lounge and dining room carriages—five suite carriages and finally a split level maisonette suite in carriage seven. Perfect for intimate luxury train travel.

luxurious train fittings

The design of the sleeping cars is a mix of traditional Japanese and modern Western style. The maisonette type car has a conventional Japanese kotatsu table with a heater underneath, and the bathtub is made of cyprus wood, next to the large window for the guest to enjoy the landscape and views.

Each sleeping car is beautifully furnished with a unique Joboji lacquer woodwork panels from Iwate prefecture, famous for its designs, whilst the closets have been designed to look like traditional Japanese chests.

The lounge car or Komorebi (It is a Japanese expression for the sunlight as it filters through the trees), is designed to look like trees in the middle of the lounge. A pianist is on hand throughout the evening to keep guests entertained whilst a dedicated barman ensures guests are kept happy with signature cocktails. The lounge is furnished throughout with artwork and crafts from Japan’s eastern coast.

Dining on the Shiki shima

The dining car serves French cuisine but uses locally sourced produce. Meals are served in a warm and relaxed atmosphere, with specially designed lighting systems to help guests feel at ease.
All the tables and chairs have been built by the railway companies own carpenters and artisans. The attention to detail is faultless.

Probably the most futuristic-looking part of the train are the twin observation carriages found at each end of the train. Made mainly from glass, each deck offers guests incredible views of the Japanese landscape. Large comfortable chairs sit on top of handwoven Yamagata carpets.

observatory carriage
observatory carriage
Japanese luxury train
observatory carriage

Luxury Train travel

During spring, summer and autumn, East Japan railway offers a choice of either two or four days.

Two days, one night (Eastern route)

The train departs Ueno station in Tokyo in the morning, on the way the train stops at a few stations for sightseeing, the train will bring you back to Ueno in the late afternoon on the following day. The trip takes in small villages, mountains and vineyards.
Full itinerary and prices

Four days, three nights (North Route):
Day one, the train leaves Ueno station just before lunch and stops at Nikko Station for sightseeing at Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a world heritage site.

Day two features breakfast in Hakodate, Hokkaido and a visit to Ainu cultural centre an ethnic group indigenous to Japan.

Day three, Niseko an area famous for onsen or hot springs and spend a day at the Niseko Sahima Campground where you can sample local produce. The last stop of the day is at Aomori, to visit The Aomori Museum of art followed by dinner at a local restaurant at the foot of Mount Hakkoda.

Day four, stop at Yamagata for sightseeing at Kamo Aquarium and enjoy hot springs at Atsumi. Last stop before heading back to Tokyo, the small town of Tsubame, famous for silverware.
Full itinerary and prices

Photo: Logan Schmitt

The winter route
Three days and two nights.

Three days and two nights (North Route): Leave Ueno Station in the late morning the train stops at Shiroishi Station for lunch and sightseeing, next to a traditional Japanese Performing Art Hall, Samurai village and a traditional Japanese dinner in Sendai, where guests can also enjoy a tea ceremony. After dinner, you would be stopping at Matsushima Bay for a night cruise. The next day before heading back to Tokyo, the train will stop at Naruko-onsen and arrive at Ueno Station in the afternoon.

Full Itinerary and prices

At the time of writing, bookings are available via the website. Covid 19 can also affect travel, so please check before booking. We don’t think you’ll find a better luxury train travel experience anywhere in the world.

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