All aboard the luxury train

Japan’s train system is the envy of the world, but with new luxury trains on offer from three Japanese railway companies, that envy is likely to increase. Kyushu Railway, as well as East Japan and West Japan Railways, will offer luxury trains to cruise Japan in a style far removed from the usual crowded conditions of a Tokyo or Osaka rush-hour train.

The Kyushu Seven Stars train will offer a series of tours from the comfort of a private train suite. Tourists will be able to choose from 14 suites with personal bathrooms, large viewing windows, and live music and other on-board entertainment.

The trains will follow a course that will showcase shrines, natural spots, hot springs and other sites for which Kyushu is famous. The combination of luxury onboard and stunning scenery outside will surely appeal to many tourists, both Japanese and foreign.

However, those tourists will need to have their pocketbooks ready. A four-day journey on the Kyushu train will run ¥550,000. The price of other new luxury trains from West Japan and East Japan Railways is slightly more affordable, but will still be out of reach for many would-be tourists.

That level of luxury will be affordable for only the wealthiest tourists. Even at that price, however, the train is already fully booked well into next year. That is ample evidence that the luxury tourist market has great potential in Japan.

Because so many travelers will not be able to afford the high costs of the new trains, the railway companies should be sure they offer a range of options, at different price levels.

Many travelers would enjoy the option of slightly better comfort for long-distance trains, and many railway companies already offer such services. Some other train lines have already developed various levels of luxury train travel, and those should become more widely available.

The return to the Gilded Age, when the richest members of society owned train cars, is unlikely to happen. The market for luxury travel is one that Japan would do well to develop. Other countries have already opened their tourist markets to high-end travel, but Japan is a bit behind.

With a long tradition of excellent service, cleanliness and hospitality, though, Japan’s luxury travel market is sure to expand. Japan’s extensive network of excellent train lines is a resource that is woefully underutilized in many areas of the country.

The aim of bringing more tourists to Japan for a luxury train ride is an important initiative that deserves support.

  • thompson_richard

    Shinkansen tickets are much sought after by foreign tourists because of the beauty of Honshu and Kyushu. They are steeply discounted when purchased outside of Japan. The added enjoyment of riding the front car with wrap-around windows on Kyushu luxury trains isn’t worth that much.