JR Kyushu’s new locomotive is already impressive from its gleaming black exterior, but the train is even more splendid inside. The ‘36 Plus 3’, as it’s called, is a luxury sightseeing train designed by industrial designer Eiji Mitooka, who also designed the famous Seven Stars sleeper train. This locomotive, set to embark on its maiden journey on October 16, will offer tours around seven Kyushu prefectures: Oita, Miyazaki, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Kagoshima.
Though the new train is only intended for day trips, Mitooka didn’t hold back on fitting its opulent interior with shoji doors, lattice ceilings and even tatami mat floors. There is a capacity for 105 people on the six-carriage train, with seating ranging from the standard passenger seats to private rooms featuring a fusion of Western and Japanese styles. In addition to the passenger cars, there's also a carriage with a lounge for passengers to use at their leisure, as well as a Buffet room offering sake, refreshments and Kyushu specialities.
Touring all seven prefectures in a day would be an impossible feat, so the trips are divided into five different routes from Thursday to Monday. Each route is colour-themed to showcase the highlights of the towns along the way.
Thursday’s route, which travels across Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima, is called the ‘red road’, passing sites such as the volcano Mt Aso, whereas Friday’s route, which goes from Kagoshima to Miyazaki, is called ‘black road’ as it features views of Kagoshima’s active volcano, Sakurajima.
Saturday’s route covering Miyazaki and Beppu is named the ‘green road’ due to the lush forests and farms that dominate the region. Sunday’s blue route from Beppu to Hakata is a nod to Oita’s rivers and seaside landscapes. On Monday, the train travels from Hakata to Nagasaki along the ‘gold road’. The historical sake breweries of Saga are a highlight and the Monday train will stop at this halfway point briefly.
Reservations for each route can be made online, with prices starting from ¥12,000 for a single seat. When booking, you can also choose the option to have lunch or dinner at a local restaurant specialising in the region’s cuisine, either at a midway stop or at the final destination.
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