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Hop Aboard Japan’s Sightseeing Trains

© Shikoku Railway Company

Japan's bullet trains have long had a reputation for whizzing passengers between highlight destinations but many have yet to venture aboard the true feather in the country’s railway cap – sightseeing trains. Known in Japanese as kankou ressha, these eclectic and often historic trains offer not only a scenic way between point A and point B but a luxurious and relaxing experience complete with local cuisine offered in the form of ekiben, a portmanteau for the seemingly unending variety of delicious compact lunch boxes offered at train stations and aboard select sightseeing trains. So hop aboard and enjoy this list of just a few of the many regional sightseeing trains available for those looking to venture off the beaten path to enjoy stunning scenery and delectable local eats!

SL Fuyu no Shitsugen (Hokkaido)

©Hokkaido Railway Company

The SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train, a steam locomotive, operates exclusively in January and February, offering passengers a scenic journey through the pristine white landscapes of Kushiro Marsh. Lucky travelers may catch glimpses of red-crowned cranes and Ezo deer from the train windows. An onboard nature guide enhances the experience, and commemorative goods related to the SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train are available for purchase at the onboard counter.

In 2022, Cars No. 1 and 5 underwent renovations to become the Tahcho car. This car features counter seats on the river side and box seats on the mountain side. The box seats, elevated above the counter seats, provide a unique vantage point for both sides to appreciate views of the Kushiro River and the wetlands. Additionally, passengers can enjoy the warmth of a nostalgic potbelly stove for grilling and enjoying dried seafood available for purchase on the train.

Learn more: https://www.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/travel/tour-train/tour-train01.html


Resort Shirakami (Tohoku)

©East Japan Railway Company

The Resort Shirakami train, traversing the Gono line from Akita Station to Aomori Station allows travelers to enjoy the natural beauty of Tohoku across all seasons. The train slows down at picturesque spots, with an announcer offering insightful commentary on each area. Passengers have ample time to capture photos and delve into the rich culture of the Shirakami region. The train's interior features wood locally sourced from Akita and passengers can also enjoy traditional shamisen performances. For a culinary treat, indulge in a Japanese bento from the ORAHO counter, exclusively available on the green-colored "Buna" train. ORAHO also features a variety of goods showcasing the local flair of towns along the train line. With unexpected views and engaging activities, this train adventure promises a unique and exciting experience.

Learn more: https://www.jreast.co.jp/multi/en/joyful/shirakami.html


Saphir Odoriko (Kanto)

©East Japan Railway Company

For an unforgettable trip to the Izu Peninsula, hop aboard the luxury sightseeing train SAPHIR ODORIKO, running daily between Tokyo and Izukyū-Shimoda Station. Featuring JR East's new Premium Green seats, this eight-car marvel offers only Green Car and above seat classes, introducing the innovative Premium Green Car positioned between Green and Gran Class. For culinary delights, visit Car 4's cafeteria with an open kitchen, where passengers can relish light meals curated by Michelin-starred chef Honda Tetsuya of Ristorante HONDA. Indulge in a variety of drinks, including wines, craft beer, and refreshing juices. Green Car Private Compartment passengers can opt for a charcuterie platter. The Izu Peninsula, a scenic gem in Shizuoka Prefecture, beckons with coastlines, hot springs, mild climate, and delectable seafood, making it a sought-after getaway for city dwellers.

Learn more:  https://www.jreast.co.jp/saphir/en/


Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari (Shikoku)

© Shikoku Railway Company

Embark on a nostalgic journey aboard the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari, a luxurious sightseeing train that traverses the scenic landscapes of the Iya Valley. The warm, wooden interior reflects the charm of an old farm house, creating a cozy ambiance for dining. All seats face large windows, allowing guests to savor both vibrant dishes crafted from local ingredients and the breathtaking views outside. Attendants are at your service throughout the approximately 3-hour journey between Tadotsu Station and Oboke Station. The train departs in the morning and returns in the afternoon, with the option to start or end your trip at Kotohira Station.

Learn more: https://www.jr-eki.com/global/en/travel/sennen_top/index.html


Yufuin no Mori (Kyushu)

© Kyushu Railway Company

Experience the enduring charm of the Limited Express Yufuin no Mori, a sightseeing train connecting Hakata Station in Fukuoka Prefecture to the renowned hot springs haven of Yufuin in Oita Prefecture. With over 30 years of popularity, the emerald green train adorned with a golden emblem features a double-decker layout for optimal scenic viewing. The warm, inviting ambiance is enhanced by wooden floors and seating. Indulge in Yufuin's gourmet delights with ekiben lunch boxes, drinks, and sweets from local favorites available at the buffet counter. As the train travels along the Kyudai Main Line, revel in picturesque landscapes, including the Mino Mountain range, Jion Falls, and Mount Yufu, all visible through the expansive windows, showcasing tranquil rural scenes, lush forests, and flowing rivers.

Learn more: https://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/train/yufuin_no_mori.html




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