Train journeys are quite the experience in Japan—from Pokemon-themed cabins to ones with onsen-style foot baths to soothe your tired feet. In October, JR Kyushu launched a brand new luxury sightseeing train named 36+3. The moniker refers to Kyushu’s place as the 36th biggest island in the world, with 3 referencing the railway company, local residents, and customers. Meanwhile, the plus sign creatively transliterates to 39 (san-kyu) or the English “thank you.”
Envisioned by industrial designer Eiji Mitooka, who also designed the deluxe Seven Stars sleeper train, 36+3 features interiors that beautifully meld Western sophistication and Japanese sensibilities. Expect to enjoy the changing scenery from behind sliding shoji screens, and marvel at the train’s intricate okawa kumiko latticework crafted by Fukuoka artists. Meanwhile, accents like brass lamps pay homage to the golden age of European locomotives.
Remodelled from a 787-series limited express train called the Tsubame, which plys the Hakata and Nishi-Kagoshima stations, 36+3 easily fits 105 passengers across six carriages. Among these are 13 private compartments that can seat from one to six people each. Guests will dine in car no. 3 and socialise in no. 4—a specialised event space. What’s worth noting is that the floors of cars no. 1 and no. 6 are covered with tatami straw mats, signifying the first time a JR Kyushu tourist train has been outfitted with the traditional flooring.
Ferrying passengers from Thursday to Monday on a five-day circuit, the train journeys through all seven of the island’s prefectures, including Fukuoka, Kagoshima, and Miyazaki. Designed for leisure sightseeing, the train gives guests the opportunity to visit the historic sake breweries of Saga during the Hakata to Nagasaki route, among other unique routes.
Train tickets are priced from 12,000 yen (US$114) for adults, including tax and a meal. Travelers planning to visit Japan next year when border open, likely in time for the postponed Tokyo Summer Olympics, can make their reservations here.