Is this the most luxurious train on Earth? Train Suite Shiki-Shima is finally revealed

Train Suite Shiki-Shima accommodation
A rendering of a two-storey suite aboard Train Suite Shiki-Shima

Home of the shinkansen, or bullet train, Japan is renowned for the efficiency of its rail network but it was only in 2014 that Kyushu Seven Stars, the country’s first luxury sleeper train, commenced service. Released today, images of the remarkable Shiki-Shima - due to host its first paying passengers in May - show the luxury train that is aiming to be its successor.

Set to traverse northeastern Japan and accommodating just 34 passengers in 10 carriages, the train is a showcase for Japanese design and craftsmanship and will include a collection of two-storey en-suite suites, two observation cars and a fine-dining restaurant.

A waitress in the dining room of the newly unveiled Train Suite Shiki-Shima Credit: Getty

Guests on one-, two- or three-night sojourns will explore sites such as Naruko Hot Springs, the intricately detailed Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and Hirosaki Castle, while additional excursions will allow for opportunities to engage with local craftsmen and women, and to try distinctive dishes associated with this still relatively unexplored region, but just as attractive to many will be the opportunity to see the world go by from such a distinctive vehicle.

The Train Suite Shiki-Shima lounge Credit: Getty

Designed by Ken Kyoyuki Okuyama (previously of General Motors and Porsche AG), Shiki-Shima is awash with impressive Japanese touches. Tatami mats are laid in bedrooms; a specially made cypress bath decorates a signature suite. The lounge is modelled on a tranquil Japanese forest and service will showcase “the very best of Japanese hospitality” with on-board concierges and butlers greeting visitors “like a member of their family”. Two-day trips will cost from JPY320,000 (£2,300) per person; four-day trips will start at JPY750,000 (£5,400).

Train Suite Shiki-Shima's distinctive exteroir Credit: Getty

Though images aren’t as yet available, also launching this summer is another Japanese luxury train: Twilight Express Mizukaze. Finished to a similar standard, it will explore western Japan on routes that takes in the ancient cultural capital of Kyoto, Osaka, the Sea of Japan and Mt. Daison. With five different itineraries to choose from, guests will travel for either two days and one night or three days and two nights, with one sightseeing stop per day. That might entail a guided tour of the World Heritage Site Itsukushima Shrine led by a resident priest and complementary bugaku dance (a performance normally only given during festivals) or a cruise along the Seto Inland Sea followed by a spa visit.

A bedroom aboard Twilight Express Mizukaze

With just 30 passengers on board the 10-carriage art deco-style trains, it promises to be an intimate, personalised experience. Guests will be able to admire the passing scenery from the outdoor viewing platforms that stand within the observation cars placed at either end of the train; a lounge car will provide a relaxed space for travellers to convene; a spruce dining car will provide an elegant setting in which to enjoy Japanese meals devised by the Michelin-starred Yoshihiro Murata, one of the country’s most renowned chefs.

The Twilight Express Mizukaze's master suite will feature an expansive bathroom with freestanding roll-top bath

As for accommodation, rooms are stylish and cleverly appointed – twins feature retractable beds that can be compressed into seating during the day to create extra space – but it’s the train’s solitary suite that is the standout dwelling. Occupying an entire carriage, it features a private balcony, double bed and expansive bathroom complete with freestanding roll-top bath. Likely to be one of the most extravagant abodes available on any of the world’s most luxurious trains, it adds significant credibility to rail operator JR West’s claim that the Twilight Express Mizukaze will be akin to “a rolling hotel”. Prices have yet to be confirmed but should be comparable to those listed by Shiki-Shima.

The Belmond Andean Explorer

These launches also coincide with the inauguration of South America’s first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer, in Peru. With its interiors inspired by Peru’s hand-soven fabrics and, says designer Inge Moore of The Gallery HBA, “the soft tones of the Alpaca wool blended with Andean slate greys”, the train is expected to offer a resolutely Latin American aesthetic.

Up to 68 guests will reside in en-suite cabins and will share access to two dining cars, an observation car with an open-air deck, and a lounge car. Local ingredients will feature heavily in a menu devised by the chefs at Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco. Beginning in May, trips will cost from $462 (£375) per person for a one-night Spirit of the Andes journey.

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