FUKUOKA--In a nod to a more luxurious time, Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) will operate a deluxe sleeper cruise train that makes the rounds of key tourist spots on the southwestern island, targeting railway fans and the wealthy in Japan and the rest of Asia.
While ticket prices will range between 150,000 yen ($1,900) and 550,000 yen per head, JR Kyushu is expecting an occupancy rate of 90 percent.
The "Seven Stars in Kyushu" train will start operating in October next year with two trip options--a one-night, two-day plan and a three-night, four-day plan--both starting from and ending at Hakata Station in Fukuoka, company officials said May 28. Tickets will be available from October this year.
"Consumers have polarized into a downmarket trend and an upmarket trend," JR Kyushu President Koji Karaike told a news conference. "There is a good chance of making profits if we provide excellent service."
JR Kyushu will spend about 3 billion yen to manufacture the engine car and the seven passenger cars of the Seven Stars train.
The design of the cars was done by Eiji Mitooka, an industrial designer who also designed the "Tsubame" Kyushu Shinkansen trains. The underlying concept calls for a mix of Japanese and Western influences, with the reddish color on the outside being a reference to "ancient lacquer."
The passenger cars will have 14 compartments, including Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats. Two of the compartments will be "deluxe suites" that are wider and more extravagant. The train will also include an observation car, equipped with a bar counter and live piano music, and a dining car.
The Seven Stars will be Japan's first sleeper train dedicated to sightseeing. Its ticket prices per night are several times higher than for the Cassiopeia sleeper train that operates between Tokyo's Ueno Station and Sapporo and the Twilight Express sleeper trains that travel between Osaka and Sapporo. The Cassiopea is equipped with lavish compartments and a dining and lounge cars, while the Twilight Express has an available suite.
(This article was written by Shigeo Ohata and Makoto Tsuchiya.)
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