Seven Stars in Kyushu
Japan’s subtropical Kyushu island is one of active volcanoes, bubbling hot springs, stunning coastline and incredible cuisine, and there’s way to travel it quite like the ultra-opulent Seven Stars in Kyushu – one of the most luxurious trains in the Far East. The seven-car train gets its name from the seven prefectures of Kyushu Island, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Kagoshima and Miyazaki, offering two excursion and land-heavy itineraries around the island.
On board, guests are treated like royalty, with butlers, oriental interiors and fresh local menus. Off the train, excursions are all inclusive and include trips to shrines and breathtaking vistas, along with dinners out at top local restaurants. On the longer journey, passengers will also get a one-night stay at a tranquil Japanese ryota (traditional inn). Due to its small size, carrying just 28 passengers, and tremendous appeal, prospective travellers need to fill out an application form and are entered into a lottery to buy tickets.
Prices from: ¥630,000
Departing from: Kitakyushu
Journey length: 2-4 days
Seven Stars in Kyushu journey
Two itineraries are available on Seven Stars in Kyushu, a four-day adventure around five of Kyushu’s prefectures and a two-day journey through four. The four-day tour takes passengers though many of the island’s key sites, travelling from Fukuoka to Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kumamoto. A one-night stay in Yufuin City at one of Japan’s traditional ryokans is also on the agenda, home to one of the best onsen (hot spring) resorts on the island. Those pressed for time will appreciate the two-day trip, a round-trip journey of northern Kyushu through Fukuoka, Saga, Nagsaki and Kumamoto.
Seven Stars in Kyushu train
Keeping with the theme of lucky number seven, Seven Stars has seven carriages – five passenger sleeper cars, a dining car and bar car with observation area. The train’s overall design concept was overseen by famed Japanese designer Eiji Mitooka, and guests are greeted with elegant oriental-style touches, like screen partitions, lanterns, floral upholstery and sapphire blue wash basins, along with sumptuous oak panelling and the occasional antique.
On top of sleeper cars there are two other carriages for public use, the Jupiter Dining Car and Blue Moon Lounge. The Blue Moon car is perfect for unwinding, with full bar service, a piano for evening performances and vast windows for panoramic views.
Cabins on Seven Stars in Kyushu
All 14 cabins on the sleeper train are spacious and comfortable suites, with 12 standard suites and two exclusive deluxe suites. Rooms are a mix between old and new, of traditional Japanese furnishings and decor with the benefit of modern amenities, panelled in shiny maple, pear or rosewood. Measuring 183 sq ft, standard suites accommodate two passengers, with sofas transitioning to twin beds and a private washroom with toilet and shower.
With only two on board, deluxe suites are highly coveted, with space for three people, a private lounge and en-suite bathroom, designed in porcelain by the late Sakaida Kakiemon XIV. Suite 301 is barrier free, so perfect for wheelchair users, and the twin beds in suite 403 can be conjoined to make a double bed.
Food and drink
Surrounded by water and with an abundance of farmland, the island of Kyushu produces some incredible food, all served on board the train. Focusing on seasonal ingredients, chefs prepare ever-changing menus for guests with Western breakfasts given a Japanese twist with pickled veg and fresh juice. Lunches are flavourful and Japanese using local produce, finished off with a bowl of rice topped with a succulent, raw, Uchino Tamago egg. Depending on itinerary, dinners are mainly had off the train in top local restaurants, like Hotel New Nagasaki, Ishidobashi Shiratsugu and the famed Kyoyahonten.
The train describes the attire for dinner on board as ‘going out for an anniversary dinner’, and gentleman are expected to wear a dinner jacket, suit or Japanese Kimono. For ladies, a dress, suit with jacket and blouse or kimono is expected. Sportswear, ripped jeans and sandals are not advised (unless wearing a kimono) and shorts, sneakers and t-shirts are only allowed on excursions.
Seven Stars in Kyushu, is first and foremost an excursions train, and most of the excitement happens on land (though the views from the window are truly stunning). Over four days, guests will be able to visit Kyushu leading onsen resort in Yufuin, visit the Miyazaki Aoshima Shrine, explore the topical landscapes of Southern Kyushu, tour the famous Aoi Aso Shrine and even have a go at making their own Ryukyu tatami mat. Excursions are all include in the fare, and guests can choose to either stay on the train or get out and explore the island.
Due to its price point, passengers are usually affluent, retired couples, with the occasional small group of friends also found on board. Due it its size the train is very social it’s easy to make friends on board.
Due to the train’s exclusivity and price point, everything is included in the fair on Seven Stars in Kyushu. All transportation costs are covered, along with excursions, meal (including those at restaurants) and alcoholic beverages – bar select vintage wines and champagne. For the three-night journey accommodation costs, taxes and service charges at the ryokans is also complimentary.
Pros and cons
Combining Western and Japanese food and design, Seven Stars in Kyushu is a great way to introduce yourself to the stunning island of Kyushi, taking in many of its most famous sights. Wheelchair users are welcome on the train and dietary requirements are accommodated too. One con is there’s no Wi-Fi and due to a lottery system tickets for the train are not guaranteed.