When planning a trip to Japan, tourists are most likely to pack destinations like Mount Fuji, Kyoto and Akihabara all into the space of a few days.

But for those who have been there and done that, railways are offering a fresh alternative — a laid-back ride on a sightseeing train through the countryside, exploring the unexplored while accompanied by the pleasures of sake and local cuisine.

As tourist numbers continue to swell, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka — the most popular destinations — are suffering from a shortage of accommodations while areas outside these bustling cities are jealous for being left out of the action.