Train Suite Shiki-shima
Photo: Train Suite Shiki-shima

Japan has a futuristic sightseeing train that's also a moving luxury hotel

Train Suite Shiki-shima has hinoki bathtubs, gourmet food and modernist observation cars

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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A starting price of ¥370,000 per person may sound impossibly steep for a train ride, but this ultra-luxe sleeper train is a cut above other locomotives you might have come across. JR East’s Train Suite Shiki-shima is a sightseeing sleeper train that takes passengers on multi-day journeys through some of Japan’s top scenic spots, including the wineries of Nagano, or through an exploration of Ainu culture in Hokkaido.

The train has a maximum capacity of just 34 passengers, with five sleeping cars, two observation cars, a lounge car and a dining car. Packages on offer for the upcoming season are a one-night trip to Nagano and a three-night trip to Hokkaido, with the train departing from Tokyo’s Ueno Station. 

Shiki-shima Train Suite
Photo: Manns Wine Komoro Winery, Nagano

There’s a lot to see on one of these sumptuous trips, though the train itself boasts plenty of treats for the eyes. For starters, one could spend hours staring at the scenery from the windows of the observation cars at the head and tail of the train.  

As for the sleeper cars, each suite is fitted with its own private toilet and shower room. Some even have hinoki cypress bathtubs to soak in as you pass through some of Japan’s most scenic landscapes. 

Train Suite Shiki-shima
Photo: Train Suite Shiki-shima

If you choose to book the three-night tour of Hokkaido, a typical day on board the Shiki-shima might begin by waking to a breakfast of Hakodate ikura (salmon roe) and squid over rice before hopping off at Hakodate Station for an exclusive tram ride around town. For lunch, you’ll be treated to a French menu using seasonal ingredients from the surrounding region prepared by chef Yuya Sekikawa, before you disembark for a tour of the Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park. 

Train Suite Shiki-shima
Photo: Train Suite Shiki-shima

The two-day, one-night trips in Nagano (double rooms from ¥370,000 per person) will run from June through September while the four-day, three-night trips in Hokkaido (double rooms from ¥800,000 per person) will run from April through November. Looking to splurge? You can make a booking on JR East’s official website until January 31 2022. Note that if bookings for a trip exceed the train capacity, guests will be selected by lottery.

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