Swap bullet train steel and intercity dashes for artisan crafted wood cabins and scenic stops
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Kyushu – Japan’s southernmost island – has long been the international gateway into the country. Today, this means travellers will be rewarded with World Heritage sites, a unique culinary scene and hot spring resort towns. However, it’s the natural world that wins the most plaudits. Formed from powerful volcanoes, grand mountain peaks soar above giant caldera lakes while pretty forests carpet mountain plateaus. Explore it all on four or two day itineraries that take it in Kyushu’s highlights. On the former, start in the island’s capital, Fukuoka, before calling at onsen resort towns, palm tree beaches, traditional Japanese gardens and giant active volcanoes. You’ll also spend a night in a luxury national park ryokan, enjoying kaiseki banquets and private onsen soaks before returning to Fukuoka. The two-day loop is an abridged version.
Featuring just 14 rooms, the Seven Stars is perfectly intimate. Therefore, be sure to enquire well in advance as trips regularly sell out. However, those lucky enough to get a ticket will find themselves treated to all suite rooms, immaculately presented in intricately carved dark wood panelling and individually designed custom interiors, accented with rich fabrics. Carriages are divided into either three Suites or two Deluxe Suites. All feature en suite showers and toilets while air conditioning adds modern comfort to maple writing desks and oak chairs. Large, shuttered windows make the most of spectacular Kyushu. For extra space, upgrade to the Deluxe Suites, which come complete with castor aralia flooring and rosewood panelling. The Deluxe Suite A is a particular delight, featuring a full window at the rear of the train.
The train’s dining car, Jupiter, is decorated in yet more of that gorgeous wood panelling. Plush, patterned booths are all lit with soft, atmospheric lighting. The dress code is semi formal. It’s a stunning backdrop to carefully prepared gourmet food where seasonal ingredients are used to prepare regional delicacies. As an island, you can expect freshly caught seafood specialities. On the four-day itinerary you’ll also, on occasion, dine in special venues off the train. During your ryokan stay you’ll enjoy a traditional multi-course kaiseki dinner while, in Aso, you’ll take your breakfast in a private station room with views out over the region’s volcano.
Start your journey with a sweet and beverage at the luxurious Kinsei Lounge in Hakata Station, Fukuoka. Check in while you enjoy live piano music before being introduced to the train staff. On the train itself, the Blue Moon lounge car features a fully stocked bar and sofa seats where you can relax and enjoy the view or live musical accompaniment. Throughout, passengers will be treated to traditional Japanese hospitality, with all staff fully trained in omotenashi principles.
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