TOPTravelThe 4 Most Joyful Trains in Japan

The 4 Most Joyful Trains in Japan

Whether you're hopping on the local service or the shinkansen, trains in Japan are primordial for getting around

By Alexandra Ziminski

Japan is known as the land of the tori-tetsu, or trainspotters. It could be a young child declaring their favorite shinkansen through its choice of footwear or a group of photographers planning their next trip. JR East has accommodated these hearts and more with a wonderful range of trains for any traveler. For foodies, café-goers, artists or onsen lovers, these trains cease being a simple form of transport and become a journey of their own.

1. Tohoku Emotion

Find yourself in a world of high-class service, freshly prepared dinners and panoramic views with the Tohoku Emotion train. As it smoothly sails along the picturesque Sanriku coast, explore traditional additions that show the power of Tohoku craftsmanship, from Fukushima’s distinctive sashiko ori pattern embellishing the walls to Aomori’s kogin sashi embroidery carpeting the floors. Follow your nose and enter the kitchen car, where culinary delights are exquisitely made before your eyes. Choose something sweet or savory but don’t doubt the incredible home-grown ingredients in store on this traveling food haven. 

Learn more about the Tohoku Emotion here.

2. FruiTea Fukushima

Aptly named FruiTea, this unique train blends the best of Fukushima’s orchards with impressive views of snow-capped Mount Bandai and surrounding scenery. This quaint two-car train masquerades as an intimate mobile café. Spend the time relaxing in comfortable box seats and be offered an irresistible assortment of seasonal fruits and thirst-quenching beverages from the hospitable attendants. Juicy peaches, grapes, apples and pears are just some of what’s on offer. If the mood strikes you, head next door to the stylish café car and order straight from the source; the spacious layout and bright-red stools encourage bonding with your fellow passengers, so why not swivel around and strike up a conversation?

Learn more about the FruiTea Fukushima here.

3. Resort Shirakami

Hop on board and be taken aback by the vivid colors of the Resort Shirakami. From Akita to Aomori on the Gono line, gaze out your window at the cool-blue sea on one side and the mesmerizing Shirakami-Sanchi on the other. The World Heritage Site contains the last residual old-growth forest of Japanese beech, and one of the train designs, Buna, finds inspiration from this fact. Its first and fourth cars are often filled with locally crafted wood art from Akita and Aomori including an emblematic beech tree. As well as a Japanese cedar and hiba interior made from trees along the route. Running on a hybrid engine, the train represents a deeper link to nature and a passion for preserving it. Further connect to the towns along the tracks by visiting the Oraho car counter. Here you can pick up the region’s most delicious treats, delectable sake and taste spring water from the Shirakami-Sanchi mountain range. Don’t forget to grab something at the ‘Nomono’ shop area before you depart as a memento of your wondrous trip. 

Learn more about the Resort Shirakami here.

4. Toreiyu Tsubasa

Feel like you’re in a moving luxurious hot spring hotel onboard the Toreiyu Tsubasa. Its matchless design highlights traditional Japanese elements, such as tatami seating and Tendo woodworking. Its reserved seating area has a brilliant red pop of color with a large birch table and intricate designs representing the fruit of Yamagata above and below. There are not many places you can dip your tired feet into a bubbling footbath while simultaneously traveling through the heart of Yamagata but (providing you book in advance) it’s possible here. Sit atop the ruby-colored seat and take in the views as the train rushes past the landscape beyond. After you’ve thoroughly de-stressed, walk through a floor-lit hallway lined with thin wooden beams and enter the adjacent car: Yuagari Lounge. Here you can enjoy a glorious selection of Yamagata’s finest sake, wine or juice. You’ll never want to leave this fabulous train.

Learn more about the Toreiyu Tsubasa here.

*Depending on the train, some train tickets cannot be purchased from outside of Japan.


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