Seven Stars train line offers an old-world travel experience

Kyushu Travel - October 5th, 2013

Even a sluggish economy cannot slow down travelers from boarding Japan’s first luxury sleeper train on its route the lush landscape of Kyushu.

The Seven Stars, unveiled by Kyushu Railway Co, will take passengers on a luxurious cruise through the southern Japanese island of Kyushu for a price—prices start at 155,000 yen ($1,500) for a two-day, one-night trip in one of the 14 first-class compartments with walnut and maple paneling.

The most expensive package, a three-night, four-day trip for two costs as much as 550,000 yen ($5,500) per person.

A lounge car offers plush sofas and a pianist to provide live background music. Chairs in a viewing room rotate so passengers can enjoy the scenery, including volcanoes and mountains. The restaurant car features dishes by renowned Kohi Shimomura, whose Tokyo restaurant was awarded two stars by Michelin.

Rooms are outfitted with furniture made by local craftsmen, and the locomotive is painted in a reddish “ancient lacquer” finish to top off its overall grandeur.

The Seven Stars’ maiden voyage is on October 15 but tickets are already sold out until June 2014.

JR Kyushu, which spent approximately 3 billion yen ($30.1 million) on building the train, said it plans to raise package prices starting July 2014 departures. Prices for double occupancy packages will cost 770,000 per person, or a total of 1.54 million for a party of two.

Still, demand for a ride on the luxury railcar remains strong, particularly among older citizens as well as younger affluent businessmen and their families, the company said.

Japan’s high-end travel services are flourishing despite a stagnant average income for most.

“You don’t need higher wages to boost spending,” says Dairo Murata, a retail analyst at JPMorgan Securities Japan. “Businesspeople and tourists can do that.”

By: Maesie Bertumen