Japanese regional railway company JR Kyushu has just launched what it calls a luxury sleeper cruise train, spending close to 3 billion yen (around US$29.9 million) to build the first of its kind in Japan. The Seven Stars cruise train comes equipped with the latest motion control technology, 14 luxury guest rooms, two deluxe suites, three presidential suites, a lounge car, dining car and a bar to cater to passengers and tourists who want to visit the seven regions of Kyushu in style.
“The idea for a cruise train came from our company president, Mr. Koji Karaike,” says Simon Metcalfe from JR Kyushu. “It was something that he had dreamed of doing since he was a worker in JR Kyushu, and he waited until he was president to put it into action.” The name of the train “Seven Stars” represents the seven regions of Kyushu – Fukuoka, Oita, Saga, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Kumamoto – which the train travels to. To signify this, the train also has seven carriages.
The cruise train departs from Fukuoka and travels through northwest Kyushu, including a visit to the township of Mt. Aso, the biggest active volcano in Japan. Then it loops back to its original departure point, passing by the other regions, journeying at a steady pace of around 50-70 km/h (31-43 mph). The train’s focus is not on speed but on comfort, having a top speed of only 100 km/h (62 mph). What it lacks in speed, it makes up for in comfort technology – the Seven Stars incorporates the latest motion reduction technology, offering a smoother ride for the guests and making it easier to sleep at night. The technology senses the sideways motion of each train cart and automatically works to move the carriage in the opposite direction, thus counteracting the sway. “In the past, this technology has been used in high-speed bullet trains and some local trains, but it is the first time that it has been implemented in a train in Kyushu,” says Metcalfe.
On board the train itself, guests can enjoy their very own private guest rooms which accommodate two passengers and come with their own bathrooms. The best suite in the train is the deluxe suite in the last carriage that features a stunning panoramic window, looking out over the train tracks. “Each room has been furnished with different wood, and has a different feel,” says Metcalfe. “The designer of the train, Mr. Eiji Mitooka, put much effort into choosing the various woods used throughout the train and the handiwork is truly impressive.” It seems like the Seven Stars cruise train will initially be a hit, already fully booked until the end of next March. The next round of guest applications will open in January 2014 for travel in July to September. Guests can choose between a 2-day (one night) or 4-day (three night) package. Prices for the 2-day package start from US$1,571 per person and the 4-day package will set you back US$3,963.