‘Nanatsuboshi’, the Japanese Railway Dream

With its Orient-Express feel, a legendary train if ever there was one, this ‘seven stars’ train traverses the island of Kyushu.


WordsClémence Leleu

Watching the landscape flash past through the window, letting yourself sit back and be lulled by the noise of the tracks… There’s something very particular about train journeys. This is even more true when onboard an extraordinary vehicle like the Nanatsuboshi, the treasure of regional company JR Kyushu.

Passengers can sit comfortably, enjoying the Belle Époque atmosphere of this luxury travelling hotel, admiring Kyushu’s seven prefectures and being offered an unobstructed view of the onsen at Beppu, the sunny coast of Miyazaki, and Mount Aso. And, if one feels so inclined, it is easy to escape from this bubble of comfort and go discover some sites on foot during the various stops that punctuate the journey of this magnificent, slow train.


A jewel in the crown of Japanese craftsmanship

The Nanatsuboshi is the work of Japanese designer Eiji Mitooka, who had already worked on various trains for JR Kyushu (including the Yufuin no Mori, a green train with a wooden interior that travels between Hakata and Beppu).

The Nanatsuboshi has seven carriages, including one for the restaurant and another, the Blue-Moon, which has been turned into a piano bar. As well as allowing passengers to discover the region of Kyushu, the train has been designed to showcase Japanese craftsmanship and luxury items. The flooring is made from wood of eight different kinds and the crockery, made from kakiemon porcelain, comes from the workshops in Arita, the historical heart of Japanese ceramics since the beginning of the 17th century.

The meals showcase local products from the island and are made by well-known chefs who work in restaurants established in the cities through which the train passes. One such example is Michiko Kawano, chef at Hosun in Oita, listed in the Michelin Guide.

Since 2013, passengers have been able to enjoy this Japanese splendour for two or four days in one of fourteen suites, two of which are luxury and are equipped with shower screens made from Japanese cypress.


A rare luxury

This kind of experience has to be earned. The Nanatsuboshi was a victim of its own success, so JR Kyushu allocates tickets by way of a ballot, and passengers will have to wait for over a year for a chance to board this seven-star train, or indeed longer if they want to spend the night in the suite at the end of the train, which has a large bay window that makes passengers feel as though they’re right in the heart of nature.

The journey starts at Hataka station in Fukuoka, the largest city on the island. After a welcome ceremony and something to eat in the Kinsei lounge on the second floor of the station, passengers take their seat on the Nanatsuboshi, before the train sets out on the rails in its brown and gold robe and travels through the contrasting landscapes of Kyushu.


More information on the Nanatsuboshi is available on its official website.