The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION ASIA -

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: en/; 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.”


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