Important Note: Join IRT on this Deluxe Rail Journey of Japan! The Society of International Railway Travelers® is the only travel agency in the Western Hemisphere offering advance space on the ultra-exclusive Seven Stars, the “grand finale” of our Deluxe Rail Journey of Japan.
• • •
Picture yourself enjoying pre-trip canapés and drinks in the Seven Stars’ beautiful private waiting room in Fukuoka’s Hakata Station. Suddenly, the President of JR Kyushu drops by to welcome you. (This happened to our 2016 group!)
Imagine boarding this spectacular new train, the first luxury sleeper train in Japan. As you leave the station, you see dozens of locals waving the flags of the U.S. and other nations (depending on who’s on board) to send you off.
This train astounded our guests in 2016 — its first Western group. So we are honored to announce this, our fourth IRT Japan tour, featuring wonderful rail and cultural experiences — topped off with the Seven Stars in Kyushu.
The first part of the escorted tour focuses on the intersection of modernity and ancient tradition in some of Japan’s most celebrated cities and regions. The itinerary includes Tokyo, the Hakone nature reserve, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima. We also include a visit to the Kyoto Railway Museum and a ride on the lushly scenic Sagano Romantic Train.
The second week focuses on beautiful Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, and its new luxury rail star, the Seven Stars in Kyushu. We also have a trip on another Kyushu favorite, the SL Hitoyoshi steam train, which chugs along thescenic Kuma River at a time when the foliage should be spectacular.
Our guests from the 2016 tour told us that some of the tour’s treasures were unexpected: the lively drumming workshop, Hakone’s amazing outdoor art, the warm, unexpected reception of Americans by local Japanese at the Hiroshima museum and the quiet beauty of the shrine at Miyajima.
Fukuoka was grand, they told us. They also loved exploring Kyushu, overlooked by many Americans. Best of all, they said, was the sincere welcome they received at almost every stop by locals proud of their luxury train, their island and their country. The train and service on board was spectacular!
Latest News: Click here for owner Owen Hardy’s blog about his Japanese adventure on the Kyushu Seven Stars. Spoiler alert: He loved it!
“…Even my short, two-day ride on the Seven Stars yielded a plethora of extraordinary experiences — visual, culinary, musical — even spiritual, if you believe the train’s tagline: “a journey to discover a new way of life.”
— Owen Hardy, The International Railway Traveler®
“OMG. I’ve never been on such a beautiful train!” — email from S. Pond, 2016 IRT tour participant on board the Seven Stars.
Day 1: Tokyo
Private transfer from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to our Tokyo hotel. In the next few days, accompanied by a local guide, we will explore Tokyo – the center of modern Japan.
Tokyo is a huge metropolis, with surprises around every corner. This is an exciting, vibrant and bustling city, where everything and everyone moves at high speed.
Tokyo offers it all – from the biggest fish market in the world to high-end shopping districts and areas where you can see first some of Japan’s latest technological innovations. In the evening, enjoy welcome dinner at the hotel and meet your fellow travelers.
Overnight at Palace Hotel Tokyo. (D)
Day 2: Tokyo
Enjoy a tour of classic Tokyo today. In the morning, visit Tsukiji Fish Market (subject to permission), the largest fish market in the world, for a tour of its outer Market, before visiting Asakusa Kannon Temple, one of Tokyo’s most famous shrines dedicated to the Buddha of Mercy.
In the afternoon, enjoy a 50-minute river cruise to Odaiba, Tokyo’s tech island, for a brief tour of the Odaiba waterfront and, if time permits, The Toyota Showroom, which is a museum to all things Toyota. It is a Toyota “theme park” and a Tokyo-only sight, a multi-story display of Toyota’s history and latest cars.
Returning to Tokyo will be a fun experience, as you board the unique Yurikamome Train line, an automatic driverless monorail running on rubber wheels.
Overnight at Palace Hotel Tokyo. (B)
Day 3: Tokyo
Today we see another side of the city as we visit Tokyo’s trendiest and most fashionable areas.
Many of Japan’s most unique pop-cultures, sub-cultures, fashions and trends have developed in these districts right alongside some of the most culturally significant shrines and temples in Japan.
You will spend today in the center of the action, seeing the fusion of traditional and modern Japan as formed by today’s young artists and creators.
Visit the Meiji Shrine, a very popular spot for weddings, where we are likely to witness a ceremony of some kind. Then, take in the over-the-top street fashions of the trendy Harajuku district as well as the famous architecture found in the popular Omotesando district.
Continue to Shibuya to see the famous scramble crossing featured in “Lost in Translation” and many other films.
This afternoon, we visit the Ginza, Tokyo’s famous business district. Surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers, enjoy a guided tour of the area, with a visit to the fascinating Sony Showroom, displaying the latest Sony Products. (On weekend afternoons, like today, Chuo Dori in Ginza is closed to traffic and is great for walking).
Next, enjoy a hands-on Taiko (Japanese drumming) class. This fun and interesting workshop will teach you the basic techniques needed to produce the iconic thunderous sounds of Japanese drumming – a very popular sight at Japanese festivals. This was a huge hit with our 2016 guests.
Overnight at Palace Hotel Tokyo. (B)
Day 4: Hakone
You will need to pack a light bag for one night – large luggage will be sent ahead to Kyoto.
Today, you will travel to Hakone. Start the day with an experience on the Tokyo Metro, from the hotel to Shinjuku Station. With over 3 million people passing through each day, Shinjuku Station is counted as the busiest train station in the world.
From Shinjuku, board the Odakyu Romance Car, a scenic, sightseeing train with huge picture windows to Odawara Station, where you will meet your private motorcoach.
The rest of the day will be spent exploring “the backyard of Tokyo,” Hakone – a nature reserve and hot springs area with great museums, as well as the possibility, on a clear day, to enjoy one of the best views of Mt. Fuji.
We will also enjoy a cruise on Lake Ashi, as well as a visit to Owakudani Valley (weather permitting).
Another highlight for our 2016 guests was the Open-Air Museum, a museum of contemporary art, which uses the beauty of the surrounding nature as a backdrop for its exhibits. This evening, you can enjoy one of the highlights of any visit to Japan: the hot springs.
Overnight at Hakone Highland Hotel. (B, D)
Day 5: Bullet Train to the Past – Kyoto
The next few days will be dedicated to Kyoto – the hub of traditional culture in Japan. This is a city that for hundreds of years has been an island of tradition in the swirling whirlpool of continual progress in urban Japan.
Kyoto has 17 World Heritage Sites – the most in one city – each a masterpiece representative of the era in which it was constructed. During your time in Kyoto, you will encounter the history, cultural aesthetics, religion, and folklore that make up the Japanese puzzle. You will discover and experience the past rippling through the everyday life of locals.
In the morning, catch your private coach to Mishima Station, and board the famous bullet train to Kyoto. The train journey will last two hours. Upon arrival at the train station, we meet our coach and enjoy sightseeing in Kyoto.
First, we will visit the Kyoto Railway Museum. Opened just last year, the museum is of interest to both railfans and fans of rail travel alike.
Following our museum visit, we head to Kyoto’s downtown area for a meeting and presentation with a leading contemporary Washi Paper Artist.
Sake Tasting and Japanese Pottery: Sipping nihonshu sake marks the end of the day, a taste of respite from the busy day. In Japan, depending on the season, the taste and method of serving sake changes, as do the vessels it is served in.
Taking a moment out of your touring, we invite you to join our specialist in Japanese sake and pottery for a bit of quiet and reflection while savoring the flavor of rice wine. Take in the subtle shift in colors and design of sake cups and bottles designed by Japanese artisans — and take home your favorite at the end of the experience.
Tonight you are on your own to try any of the fabulous restaurants in Kyoto. We will make reservations at your request.
Overnight at Kyoto Hotel Okura. (B)
Day 6: Kyoto
Today we’ll visit Kyoto’s sights by private motorcoach, deepening your knowledge of Kyoto and Japan. You will be exposed to the fundamentals of Japanese aesthetics, Zen, architecture, and horticulture through visits to famous places such as the distinguished stone garden at Ryoanji temple, the spectacular Golden Pavilion, the Shogun Nijo castle, and a downtown market.
You will also experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
An Evening with a Geisha: Brilliant red against radiant white. These are the colors illuminating faces behind teahouse windows in Kyoto’s Gion district.
Movies and books strive to capture their essence. Yet only by speaking with one can you understand the dedication, talent, and people who make up all that is beautiful about Japan’s geishas.
We offer you the chance to speak with one of these masters of Japanese tradition. You’ll experience up close some of Japan’s most classical arts, an affair conventionally reserved for Japan’s rich and well-connected. Our guests in 2016 found it a fascinating experience.
Throughout an evening of fine dining at one of Kyoto’s top-tier establishments, guests are treated to a performance that has been refined through years of schooling and apprenticeship.
Our personally-selected geisha and guides make the evening even more memorable as they remove communication and cultural barriers, inviting you to participate in a few of the geisha games of old, and encouraging you to directly ask questions about the geisha lifestyle and life in Kyoto.
By the end of the experience, you will have fascinating stories to take home, memories to cherish, and photographs that any fellow traveler will envy.
Overnight at the Kyoto Hotel Okura. (B, D)
Day 7: Eastern Kyoto Mountains
Continuing your journey in Kyoto, visit the beautiful Arashiyama district. See the Tenryū-ji Temple and then visit Sanjusangendo, a towering pavilion from olden times. You will also enjoy the scenic Sagano Romantic Train.
Overnight at the Kyoto Hotel Okura. (B)
Day 8: Kyoto – Hiroshima
Large luggage will be sent ahead to Hiroshima. Take one small carry-on with you.
In the morning, transfer to Kyoto station by taxi, where you will board the bullet train to Hiroshima, the city that entered the world’s collective memory in that moment of horror on August 6, 1945. You might be surprised to find a modern, fast-paced, vibrant city. First, we will visit the Sukkei-en Garden and the Peace Memorial Park and museum. Our 2016 guests found this quite moving and highly recommend it.
We will take the local train and ferry to Miyajima, and visit on foot one of Japan’s three most scenic spots.
Overnight at the Iwaso Ryokan, Miyajima (B D)
Day 9: Hiroshima
Today will be dedicated to exploring Miyajima, known for its large red shrine gate – the Grand Torii – which looks as if it’s afloat at high tide.
Visit the famous seaside Itsukushima Shrine. A ropeway to the top of the mountain on the Island provides stunning views of the Inland Sea islands. We will visit the Daishoin Temple — with its many stairs. Alternatively, you might prefer time on your own.
If time permits, you can visit a temple with many small sculptures and unique ceremonies.
Overnight at Iwaso Ryokan, Miyajima (B, D)
Day 10: Kumamoto
Today we will take a bullet train to Kumamoto. Here we will visit the fascinating Kumamoto castle, the Hosokawa samurai residence and the Suizenji Garden.
Overnight at the Hotel Nikko Kumamoto (B)
Day 11: Hitoyoshi Steam Train
After your included breakfast, we head to Kumamoto station to board the SL Hitoyoshi steam train (with maybe a chance to see the fully functioning turntable and stone car barn, the only one left in Japan). We’ll chug along the scenic Kuma River at a time when the foliage should be spectacular.
Then visit Kiyajimachi Street for free time and lunch. In the afternoon, travel by coach to Fukuoka and transfer to our hotel.
Fukuoka is a lively and surprising city. The extensive shopping and entertainment area is a delight to explore. Alternately, you can relax with a stroll along the seaside boardwalk.
The Hakata district’s local sake breweries are lively. It’s fun to explore the vibrant shopping district. Dinner is on your own tonight as you experience the city.
Overnight at the Hotel Nikko Fukuoka. (B)
Day 12: Board the Seven Stars Train
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and a morning at leisure before our guide arranges the luggage transfers and the taxis from our hotel to Hakata Station. There, personnel from the luxurious Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu will welcome you to the beautiful Seven Stars’ Kensei (Venus) private lounge in the station.
Relax and nibble some delectable sweets, enjoy the music by the pianist and toast your impending departure with a glass of champagne.
With the clang of a traditional railroad bell, each Seven Stars passenger will be welcomed and accompanied to the platform. In just a few minutes, the Seven Stars will arrive, and you’ll be shown to your cabin, where your luggage will already be stowed.
The Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu will be your luxurious base for the next four days. Note two nights will be on the train and one will be in a beautiful ryokan.
Settle in to your beautiful private cabin as the train heads east. Your first stop will be at Yufuin, a small town on the east coast, where you can choose sightseeing on your own or with the group. Return to the train and head south, down the east coast of Kyushu.
Tonight, enjoy a drink in the beautiful “Blue Moon” bar / lounge car, followed by an excellent dinner on board with all-inclusive drinks. You can expect beautiful live music to entertain you tonight. The train is stabled for its overnights, allowing a great night of sleep.
Overnight on the Seven Stars. (B, L, D)
Day 13: Mimitsu, Miyazaki & Kirishima
Arriving at Mimitsu station this morning, you’ll have the chance for a morning walk around the little seaside town. Return to the train for breakfast and then continue to your next stop, Miyazaki.
We will enjoy group sightseeing in the Miyazaki area, with its islands, temples, shrines and beautiful parks.
Re-board the train to your next destination, and transfer by bus to Kirishima area and an exquisite, boutique ryokan (Japanese inn), which is famous for its luxurious natural hot springs. (You will stay at one of several ryokans since they are all small.) You will leave your large suitcases on board and take just an overnight bag to the ryokan.
Overnight at the Kirishima area Ryokan. (B, L, D)
Day 14: Kagoshima
After a late breakfast, you will depart the ryokan and join the locals in a tradition of planting a small tree, before exploring and enjoying lunch at Tenku no Mori park.
Returning to the train, travel to Kagoshima, one of Kyushu’s most famous portside towns, in the shadow of Sakurajima—an active, smoking volcano.
Today, enter the Hisatsu Orange Railway Line. Enjoy a Kumiko coaster making experience aboard the train. Stable tonight in Minamata Station.
Overnight on board the train. (B, L, D)
Day 15: Yatsushiro
On your final day aboard the Seven Stars train, you will head to Yatsushiro, where we will enjoy a Yanagawa canal cruise before having lunch at the Ohana residence. After lunch, we will visit the Kitahara Hakushu Memorial Museum, before re-boarding the Seven Stars for our return trip to Hakata Station.
Our guide will meet our group and escort us back to the hotel for our final night in Japan. Dinner is on your own tonight in one of the many wonderful restaurants as you prepare for an early departure tomorrow for home.
Overnight at the Hotel Nikkot Fukuoka. (B, L)
Day 16: Departure
After your included breakfast, depart for home any time today from Fukuoka. A private transfer from the hotel to the airport is included. (B)
Sweet Train extension details: please click here: Sweet Train Itinerary.
2017 Dates:November 3-18 (Main Tour)
November 18-21 (Sweet Train Extension)
Please note: independent packages of 7 days or more are available upon request. Call / e-mail us for details.
2018 Dates:May 11-26
May 26-29 Sweet Train Extension
Please note that all prices are per person.
|Deluxe Rail Tour of Japan|
Suite A on the Seven Stars: additional $2,852 per person
Suite B on the Seven Stars: additional $1,640 per person
*US Dollar pricing is based on the value of the Japanese Yen in September 2017. Trip cost to be reevaluated at time of final payment and may be adjusted accordingly. Tour pricing is based on a minimum of 10 passengers. Price may increase if group size is less than 10 passengers. Final balance due 120 days before departure. All payments are nonrefundable.
|Sweet Train extension**|
**US Dollar pricing is based on the value of the Japanese Yen in February 2017. Trip cost to be reevaluated at time of final payment and may be adjusted accordingly. Tour pricing is based on a minimum of 10 passengers. Price may increase if group size is less than 10 passengers.
Medical/evacuation insurance is required for this journey. We highly recommend full tour cancellation/interruption insurance to protect your travel investment. We will send out information about insurance and/or a quote upon booking.
Latest News: Click here for owner Owen Hardy’s blog about his Japanese adventure on the Kyushu Seven Stars. Spoiler alert: He loved it!