Journey Through Eastern Japan on a Luxury Sleeper Train

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Enter the world of Train Suite Shiki-shima, a 10-car sleeper train that’s more like a scenic boutique hotel than a simple means of transportation.

Designed by Yamagata-born, Tokyo-based industrial designer Ken Okuyama, who is known for his work with Porsche, Ferrari, and Maserati, this luxury train takes passengers on two- to four-day journeys through Eastern Japan's forests, fields, and coastline. It's operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East).

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The train includes two glass-walled observatory cars (one at the front and one at the back), a lounge car, dining car, and six cars that house 17 private suite cabins. 

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Shiki-shima’s champagne-gold exterior evokes visions of the golden age of travel, and is described by JR East as a train that combines "traditional Japanese aesthetics with a futuristic spirit." 

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Within, the brilliant white walls give the observatory cars a cool, space-age vibe. 

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Encased in glass windows by AGC Asahi Glass, the lead observatory car has an openness that connects passengers with the outdoors as the train passes through districts like Hakodate and Aomori in the eastern part of the country. 

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There are three room types available, including two-story maisonette-style suites, single-level deluxe suites, and a split-level Shiki-shima suite. 

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All suites have a fireplace, sleeping area, cypress wood bath, shower rooms, and an EVAC compact vacuum toilet

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The interior is fitted out with woven tatami mats and Japanese parchment and lacquer. 

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With its light wood-paneled walls, pearl-colored dining chairs, contemporary chandelier, and large windows, the dining room car is a relaxing yet elegant place to enjoy dinners prepared by Japan's first Michelin-starred chef Katsuhiro Nakamura, who is in charge of the onboard kitchen. 

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The lounge car is inspired by the Japanese term komorebi, which roughly translates to "sunlight that streams through forest trees." In fact, the windows are designed to resemble tree branches extending to the sky. As a result, the light entering this compartment simulates the effect of komorebi

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Tickets for journeys can be obtained with an application process through JR East.  

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