A LUXURY TRAIN TRIP TO JAPAN WITH SEVEN STAR KYUSHU
Japan is the country of the train par excellence. In addition to the famous Shinkansen, the Japanese TGV, and classic railway lines, the country has many thematic trains that cover the entire territory. On Kyushu Island, in the south of Japan, there is a special luxury train, the Seven Stars, which is the Japanese version of the Orient Express. It’s the most luxurious Japanese train! The equivalent of a 7-star hotel we could say, to use the name of the train, Seven Stars. Moreover, it will be more helpful if you know these Japanese customs to keep in mind while visiting the Japan.
I was very lucky to be invited to travel on this unique train with other journalists and bloggers. To tell the truth, otherwise I could not have done it because, like the Orient Express, it is a luxury trip that is extremely expensive (see practical information). If I can not offer you such a trip, I invite you to discover it with this article.
It is a very popular train in Kyushu and many Japanese people travel to and from the station as it passes. We are often greeted by the mascots of cities. There are some who even come disguised to watch the passage of the train, like those two cute children who came with their parents.
The Seven Stars in Kyushu was inaugurated at the end of 2013. Directed by the Japanese designer Eiji Mitooka, it is an exceptional train that combines western and oriental chic, whether in decoration, the refinement of the service or the cuisine served on board, worthy of the greatest restaurants. Brief explanation of the name “Seven Stars”: seven, for the seven prefectures of Kyushu Island: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, Miyazaki, Kumamoto and Kagoshima, which the train crosses according to the circuits (several possible routes) . Seven also for the seven touristic highlights of Kyushu: nature, hot springs, history and culture, religious sites, cuisine, hospitality and trains. Seven finally for the seven wagons that make up the train. It is a “human-sized” train, with a maximum capacity of 30 passengers for 14 cabins.
Cabin for two aboard Seven Stars
I spent two days and one night aboard the Seven Stars, with a start and finish in Fukuoka, Kyushu’s largest city, and stops in Arita, Bungo-Mori and Yufuin. Apart from the two luxury suites, the cabins are for two people, with two benches that turn into bed for the night, an office and a bathroom with shower. We even get a great white pajama to sleep … It’s very comfortable, but apart from sleeping, I only spent a short time, so there was something to discover on the train.
The best place aboard the Seven Stars is the # 1 car: the “Blue Moon” lounge car, where you can admire the view through the huge picture windows, have a coffee or a drink at any time of the day, chat with other passengers or listen to music played by the ship’s musicians.
The landscapes of Japan parade aboard the Seven Stars
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the restaurant car: the Jupiter dining car. Depending on the meal, we are entitled to the great kaiseki Japanese cuisine, which consists of many small dishes served with extreme refinement, and French cuisine as well. The evening dinner in particular was a gala dinner with a costume for men and evening dress for women. With champagne and wine of course, and cocktails for the evening. Apart from a selection of great wines, all alcohols are included.
Japanese kaiseki style meal aboard Seven Stars
The interest of the trip aboard the Seven Stars, it is also the stages that punctuate the trip and allow to discover the island of Kyushu. Like a cruise ship, the train stops a few hours in stations, to the delight of passengers! On the first day, we visited the Kyushu Ceramics Museum in Arita, home to one of Japan’s most famous ceramic factories. An exceptional craft with pieces that sell for several thousand euros.
On the second day, I really enjoyed visiting the abandoned Bungo-Mori Railway Station, in the middle of the mountains of Oita Prefecture. Abandoned since 1971, this station is one of the most well-known urbex (urban exploration of abandoned places) sites in Japan. You can see an old model locomotive and there is a small railway museum to visit next. A place that is definitely worth visiting on a trip to Kyushu.
Another highlight is the discovery of Kinrin Lake in Yufuin, a very popular onsen destination at the foot of Mount Yufu. With rainy weather, the foggy atmosphere around the lake was magical! Here again a very beautiful place to discover in Kyushu.
Tori on Kinrin Lake in Yufuin
These two days have passed much too fast and I would have liked of course being able to continue the adventure aboard the Seven Stars … I especially thank all the crew of the train for its tremendous welcome and enthusiasm.
Seven Stars Practical info:
All information to book a trip aboard the Seven Stars are on their website . There are two tour options: 4 days and three nights, with a wide tour of Kyushu, and two days and one night, which crosses the northern part of Kyushu. Rates start from around 2,500 euros per person for the two-day package. Despite a high price, the trains are full well in advance so better to anticipate if you want to make this trip.
For train enthusiasts, I invite you to read Japan from the train , a very comprehensive guide to the train in Japan, written by Claude Leblanc, formerly editor-in-chief of Courrier International. He has launched a free magazine on Japan, Zoom Japan , which I also advise you to read.