Photography by Okuyama Design
Yamagata-born Ken Okuyama, well known in automobile design circles as the only non-Italian to design a Ferrari, was brought in to style JR Rail’s slick new Cruise Train, due to commence operations in just a few months.
According to his company, Ken Okuyama Design, the designer wanted to create a train that would allow passengers “to appreciate the flow of the time and space” while enjoying Japan’s landscapes and culture throughout the journey.
One of the more unique features is the observation carriage at the front of the train, which allows passengers to see onto the tracks ahead.
JR Rail says the train will be fitted with furniture that conveys the nobility of traditional Japanese culture.
The walls are fitted with autumnal geometric panelling to match the colour palette and feel of a Japanese forest; dining rooms are all fine-dining white table clothes and sculptural chandeliers; and the train’s dining menu has been designed by Michelin-starred chef, Yoshihiro Murata.
Inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, the private rooms are fitted with intricate dark-stained wooden joinery, washi paper, and luxuriously tiled bathrooms. The two-storey Deluxe Suite even has an onsen bath and a heated kotatsu lounge.
All suites will have a private bathroom with a shower and toilet, but the top sleeping space is the split level deluxe suite, which sleeps four.
On the bottom are two double beds, on the top a traditional Japanese dining area, with seats on the floor.
The train will be able to run on both electric and non-electric rails.
The train, which holds a max of just 34 passengers over 10 carriages, is selling tickets for two- or four-day journeys starting in May. Tickets, which start at around US$3,500, are already sold out for the first six months.
There are two routes to choose from: the longer four-day journey does a loop around the Japan’s main body of land, plus an excursion to the country’s north. The shorter journey begins in Ueno and does a more Southern loop through Aizu Wakamatsu.
Trips go through Naruko Hot Springs, the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and Hirosaki Castle. There are opportunities for passengers to explore independently at each stop, meet the area’s skilled local craftsmen and women, try the region’s distinctive cuisine and hot springs.