Full Steam Ahead: Romantic Railway Rides around the World (Japan)

While train travel is usually a means of getting from one place to another, you don’t have to be a rail enthusiast to appreciate a great rail journey – it could be for its scenery along the route, its historic value, or even its feat of engineering. There are hundreds of classic railway journeys around the world, ranging from short rides of a couple of hours to multi-day journeys that span countries and even continents. There are hundreds more that tackle inaccessible landscapes to provide essential transport
to locals.

Rail travel is an eco-friendly mode of travel, and also beats driving and even flying as a faster or cheaper way of getting around in some countries. Best of all, there’s no need to worry about traffic, unfamiliar roads, or missed connections. All you need to do is sit down and enjoy the ride. Instead of opting for the next flight or holiday destination, rediscover travelling by taking a journey on some of the world’s most luxurious scenic railways tucked away in various corners of the world – it’s a great way to relax and enjoy the company of your partner.


Japan may be famous as a land of shinkansen, but in recent years, it seems that luxury is the new theme. In 2013, the first to come into service was the Kyushu Seven Stars, but since then, there have been 3 luxury trains launched within the last 2 years (The Royal Express which chugs through the Izu Peninsula is the latest), allowing moneyed travellers a chance to explore various destinations across the country while experiencing the best of Japanese hospitality in opulent ‘hotels on wheels’.


Tokyo – Chubu, Tohoku, Hokkaido
Duration: 2 & 4 days

With its maiden departure last year,  Shiki Shima’s design is thoroughly futuristic with traditional Japanese elements. The 10 cars can only hold 34 passengers at a time, who are housed in one of 17 suites. There are 3 types of suites, ranging from the basic to the luxurious Shiki-Shima Suite, which has 2 floors and a wooden bathtub. There’s a shared dining room and futuristic observatory cars.

There are 2 itineraries to choose from: 2D1N or 4D3N. The former explores the prefectures of Niigata, Nagano, and
Yamanashi where you can experience wine pairing in Japan’s oldest wineries. The 4D itinerary journeys towards the northern Tohoku region and into Hokkaido. The first stop is in the magnificent temple town of Nikko, before heading to Hokkaido to explore the southern portions like Hakodate, Noboribetsu, and Niseko. The return portion follows Japan’s west coast, dropping by Aomori and Niigata before ending at Tokyo.

To book a spot, you’ll have to enter into an online lottery (the July-September 2018 season is full). Price per person: JPY320,000 – JPY450,000 (2D1N); JPY740,000 – JPY950,000 (4D3N)


Kyoto/Osaka – Shimonoseki
Duration: 2 & 3 days

Launched right after Shiki Shima, the Twilight Express Mizukaze also has 10 carriages that accommodate only 34 passengers at a time. The design of the carriage harks back to the glamorous Art Deco era, with geometric embellishments and bright colours. With luxurious observation decks and dining carriages, there are three classes of rooms: Twin, Single, and the Suite, which occupies an entire carriage, featuring a clawfoot bathtub.

Twilight Express Mizukaze runs from Kyoto and Osaka to Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture: one runs on the northern Japan Sea Coast (Sanin), and the other follows the southern Seto Inland Sea coast (Sanyo). The itineraries range from overnight trips (Kyoto to Shimonoseki or vice versa) to a 3-day return trip that explores both coasts. Each itinerary has a sightseeing stop per day, which include natural and cultural sites ranging from ancient teahouses to lush paddy fields.

At the moment, tickets are only available for purchase in Japan and there is no English service on board. As they’re popular, passengers will be selected by lottery. Price per person: JPY250,000 – JPY750,000 (2D1N); JPY500,000 – JPY1,200,000 (3D2N)

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