Sip sake as you pass active volcanoes, ancient forests and historic hot springs on Japan’s last luxury sightseeing train

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Located on Japan’s southernmost island, Discover Kyushu Express ’36 + 3 takes passengers on a journey through some of the country’s wildest and most under-the-radar landscapes.

There is a magical quality to traveling long distances by train in Japan, and if you are a bona fide Japanese like me who constantly craves the great outdoors and radar destinations, then the southernmost island of Kyushu definitely worth adding to your post-pandemic. bucket list.

Just under a two-hour flight from Tokyo, or a five-hour journey via Shinkansen (bullet train), Kyushu has remained relatively under the radar of travelers outside of Japan. Composed of seven prefectures which include Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Saga, Kagoshima and Miyazaki, the region’s natural beauty, lush greenery, tropical coastlines and thriving hot springs and onsen culture are now easier to visit for tourists with the launch of a new luxury tourist train called 36 + 3. It’s a unique name, we’ll get there.

While the idea behind the new tourist train was to help promote tourism in an area that has been negatively impacted in recent months, the routes open a door for travelers to better see and explore this unknown region in a whole new way. way.

With a total seating capacity of 105, it is the first passenger train to enter service in three and a half years by the Japanese railway company JR Kyushu. On the outside, the 36 + 3’s sleek design and jet-black exterior are complemented by an interior that fuses both a modern and Japanese aesthetic, including traditional tatami mats in two of the six cars and an intricate design of the car. Local wooden trellis in the area called Okawa kumiko of Fukuoka Prefecture.

With five itineraries in total, the seven prefectures of Kyushu can be explored from Thursday to Monday. Home to some of Japan’s most legendary hot springs at Beppu and Kurokawa Onsen, as well as natural wonders like Takachiho Gorge and the mystical Yakushima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, each route is designed to put highlighting key areas around Kyushu.

The six-car train is designed with a mix of classic and modern Japanese styles, with shoji screen doors, and cars with sofas and tables, as well as local materials sourced from nearby Kyushu. In the two cars on board covered with tatami mat floors made of rush grass grown in Kumamoto, guests are asked to take off their shoes before entering.

Of course, no tourist train would be complete without a lounge and a bar car. Likewise, passengers can sample local Kyushu cuisine on their trip, including Japanese sake, wagyu beef, and seafood, which the region is well known for.

What is in a name you ask? Well, Kyushu is the 36th largest island in the world hence the “36”. And the “+3” represents the desire of companies to give passengers “surprise, impression and happiness, through service and experience on the train.

Here’s a look at the different lines and what you’ll see along the way:

red

(Hakata, Fukuoka → Kumamoto → Kagoshima): Goes through Mt. Aso, the Kumamoto volcano (currently suspended due to damage to the region from the July rains).

Black

(Kagoshima → Miyazaki): Offers a view of Mt. Sakurajima, the active volcano of Kagoshima.

green

(Miyazaki → Beppu, Oita): Pass through the lush forests and farms of the region.

Blue

(Beppu, Oita → Hakata, Fukuoka): Crosses the rivers and coastal landscapes of Oita.

Gold

(Hakata, Fukuoka → Saga → Nagasaki): Stops at historic sake breweries in Saga Prefecture.

Prices for 36 + 3 start at $ 114 for adults and include tax and a meal.

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