Train Suite Shiki-shima offers trips of one, two or three nights across northern Japan. From Y320,500 ($3838) to Y952,000 a person, full board. Despite the hefty price-tag, the train is booked out until March next year. Reservations for April, 2018 opened this week. More: jreast.co.jp/shiki-shima/ en/; jnto.org.au. covered with interwoven strips of leather-like brown metal.
My temporary home is Suite 903, an elegant space filled with a patchwork of contrasting wood panelling, grey fabric chairs (which turn into luxury beds after dark), washi-style paper lanterns and a power-shower bathroom. The two top suites, in Car 7, have windowside Japanese-style baths made of hinoki cypress wood, cotton kimono-style gowns, split-level living spaces with tatami mat flooring and come with custom-made Swarovski binoculars.
The elegant restaurant car — with half-moon shaped tables, fine lacquerware and custom-designed cutlery — serves a French-inspired menu using seasonal ingredients from along the rail route as devised by Katsuhiro Nakamura, the first Japanese chef to receive a Michelin star.
My favourite spots are the observatory cars at either end, approached by walking through a dramatic scarletred corridor, with a glass door revealing the engine. This gives way to a sun-flooded raised seating area with curved walls, white leather seating and a grass-like green carpet, designed by architect Kengo Kuma, plus a view of the white-gloved driver and conductor through a clear partition. As I sit soaking up views of the passing landscape, I am joined by Tasuku Hiramatsu, a deputy manager at JR East, who explains, “The designer wanted to create something totally new for trains that does not exist anywhere else. That was the basis for this concept. The exterior is futuristic, the interior is Japan.”
TELEGRAPH MEDIA GROUP