All aboard: luxury Japanese train has bath and fireplace

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Tokyo (AFP) – It’s got Michelin-starred chefs, solid cypress bathtubs and a cosy snug complete with roaring fire: the Shiki-Shima could hold its own against any five-star hotel. Not bad for a train.

In a country best known for its super-fast “Shinkansen” bullet trains, the emphasis in Japan’s latest extravaganza on rails is on savouring the moment, with no expense spared to create the most luxurious travelling experience.

Customers willing to shell out up to 950,000 yen ($8,500) per person can enjoy a top-of-the-range suite aboard the Shiki-Shima for four days and three nights of unparalleled extravagance.

The 10-car train has huge viewing windows through which customers can see the northern Japanese countryside used to grow the ingredients in seasonal delicacies prepared by the onboard chefs.

After dinner they can gather for a drink around the piano, or sit and soak up the atmosphere next to the fireplace — actually a trick created by steam and coloured light — on a journey that takes them from Tokyo to the northernmost island of Hokkaido and back again.

The light-gold “Train Suite Shiki-shima” sleeper — whose name means “Four Seasons Island” — departed Ueno Station in Tokyo for its maiden journey on Monday, carrying 33 passengers, according to operator East Japan Railway.

And despite the hefty price tag, there is no shortage of customers — tickets are booked out through to March next year.

The Shiki-Shima is not the first uber-luxurious train to hit the tracks in Japan, which seems to have a supply of discerning and moneyed travellers.

In 2013, Kyushu Railway unveiled its “Seven Stars” service with a piano and a bar, top-end dining and luxury suites, while West Japan Railway will launch the “Twilight Express Mizukaze” sleeper in June.

Branchline dining: Travellers willing to shell out $8,500 each can enjoy the height of luxury on the Train Suite Shiki-Shima in northern Japan, where Michelin-starred chefs prepare top-notch nosh
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Travellers can sit and watch the world go by from the observatory car of the Train Suite Shiki-Shima, as it travels from Tokyo to Hokkaido and back again on a four-day, three-night trip
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After dinner, why not unwind with the help of the pianist, who will provide a soundtrack to the countryside of Japan whizzing by the window on the Train Suite Shiki-Shima
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Ever wanted to have a bath, but need to get somewhere? The Train Suite Shiki-Shima has solved your problem — if you’ve got $8,500 and want to go around northern Japan
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The Train Suite Shiki-Shima, whose name means “Four Seasons Island”, might not be able to match Japan’s superfast bullet trains, but what it lacks in speed it more than makes up for in luxury
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Tired of gazing at the Japanese countryside as it trundles past your window? How about a snooze in your own private suite aboard the Train Suite Shiki-Shima
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