The Royal Express: New Luxury Train Launches Today

The Royal Express

A new luxury tourist train in Japan has launched on 21st July 2017, offering visitors the chance to ride in style from Yokohama (near Tokyo) to the Izu Peninsula – full of hot springs and picturesque coastlines.

Japan’s latest addition to its ever-growing number of luxury sightseeing trains, the new Royal Express - from the smart royal blue of the train’s exterior down to the staff uniforms - has been designed by Eiji Mitooka, who also designed the Seven Stars Kyushu sightseeing cruise train.

The train will run between JR Yokohama station in Yokohama and Itokyu Shimoda station in Shimoda City at the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula. It will offer passengers the chance to enjoy an elegant experience on their way between Yokohama and Izu, featuring opportunities for dining and live musical performances while on board. At around 100 people, it also has one of the highest passenger capacities of any tourist train in Japan.

Passengers can choose from either one-way tickets with a meal included or a selection of three different “cruise plans”, each including a return train journey, meals, overnight accommodation and sightseeing activities in Izu. Meals will be curated by chefs Chikara Yamada in the Yokohama-Izu direction and Michiyo Kawano on the way from Izu to Yokohama.

While the Royal Express’s “cruise plans” are only open to groups with children aged thirteen and above, its family-friendly Gold Class carriages feature specially designed family seats where parents and small children can sit together, and there is also a ballpond and library of children’s books on board.

Passengers will also be able to avail themselves of purpose-built facilities at Yokohama station before boarding: a private waiting room (The Royal Lounge) which is only open to Royal Express passengers and a cafe (The Royal Cafe, business hours: 7am until 10pm) which is also open to members of the public.

The Royal Express interior rendering
Image: Nikkei Asian Review

The train will begin operating on 1st September, with "cruise plan" departures scheduled for thirteen days and single voyages for nine days throughout September. A one-way three hour journey aboard The Royal Express will cost between 25,000 yen (£172) and 35,000 yen (£241) per person, while the "cruise plans" start from 135,000 (£930) per person based on 2-4 people sharing a room.

The service is being operated jointly by Tokyo Corporation, which manages several lines in the commuter belt around Tokyo, and Izukyu Corporation, which operates the main Izukyu Line down the Izu Peninsula's scenic eastern coast.

Once in Izu, one-way passengers will be able to get a bullet train ride back to Tokyo, or enjoy the local natural and historical sites, such as coastal hiking trails and lighthouse on the rugged Jogasaki Coast, extinct volcano Mt. Omuro and its accompanying cactus park, and Tokaikan, a beautifully preserved former ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Ito City, and Ryugu Cave, Toji Beach and Shirahama Shrine, Izu’s oldest shrine, in Shimoda City.

Aside from being famous for its beautiful natural scenery and relaxing hot springs, the Izu Peninsula is also known as the setting for one of the most important events in modern Japanese history, when Japan was opened up to the outside world after a 200-year long period of isolation by the arrival of Commodore Perry’s Black Ships from America in 1854. Visitors can see many Perry-related sights around Shimoda town, such as Perry Road and Ryosenji Temple, where the Shimoda Treaty was concluded, and take a short sightseeing cruise on a replica of one of Perry’s Black Ships.

Hoshino Resorts recently opened a new ryokan, KAI ITO, part of its KAI range of luxury boutique hot spring ryokan which offer a contemporary take on the traditional Japanese inn experience. KAI ITO offers spacious guest rooms with views of a beautiful Japanese garden, en suite rooms with hot spring baths and even showers fed by the rejuvenating waters of Ito Hot Spring, and local seafood delicacies such as green tea leaf-steamed fish and Ise lobster. Bookings are available online and by telephone.

Watch a promotional video giving a hint of some of the picturesque natural tourist sights that can be visited on The Royal Express here.

Bookings for The Royal Express are currently only available in Japanese through its website. Applications for journeys in September are now open until 5pm (JST) on 31st July and prospective passengers will be notified whether their applications have been successful after 1st August.