Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunrise Seto Night Train Trip to Takamatsu and Naoshima

Back in January 2013, I was in Japan spending time with my wife's family in Tokyo over the New Year period. After the New Year has begun we went on a train trip from Tokyo to Takamatsu and Matsuyama. We got to experience a lot of different trains during this trip! I will focus on the Takamatsu section of the trip in this blog entry.

Prior to the Shinkansen getting to remote destinations in Japan by rail was done by Night Trains. Essentially you left in the late afternoon or evening, sleep on the train and arrive at your destination in the morning.

Japan Railways (JR) has been steadily expanding the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) rail network to cover a lot of Japan now, which in recent years has replaced most of the night trains that were running in Japan. This is because the Shinkansen is much faster than the Night trains are.

With the removal of many of the Night trains from service in the past few years, I was very keen to ride a few Night Trains before they disappear altogether.

Which neatly brings me to the train you see above. This is a night train called Sunrise Seto which travels from Tokyo Station to Takamatsu, located in Shikoku, which is an island off the coast of the main island in Japan (Honshu). It leaves Tokyo at 10pm exactly. In Japan, trains always leave on time. Our trains departure is shown below:

It is called Sunrise Seto because as the sun rises in the morning, the train is crossing the Seto sea between the main island of Honshu and Shikoku, close to the destination of Takamatsu.

Shikoku is definitely not at the top of most tourists destination list when visiting Japan. It is a shame this, because there is a lot of interesting things to see and do. I will show you some of these things!

There is no Shinkansen line currently going to Shikoku. The closest the Shinkansen get is a city called Okayama, around 2 hours or so from Takamatsu by another train. We used the Shinkansen when we went back to Tokyo.

This train has a number of different accommodation options - Nobi Nobi is the cheapest, where you basically sleep on the floor (it is a bit nicer than it sounds), up to Single and Twin Suite rooms.

We went for the Twin Suite room. Of course I had to go and take some photos of the train before it departed. Here is the sign above the platform for the Sunrise Seto, showing that this position is the entry location for Carriage No. 4:

The Sunrise Seto train then arrived into Tokyo Station (bit blurry sorry):

On the side of the train is the name of the train and the Destination Takamatsu, helpfully written in Japanese and English:

Some views of the train waiting at the platform:

In this shot it is clearer that there are two levels in the train. Our room is on the bottom because the twin rooms are only on the bottom unfortunately. If we picked the upstairs rooms then my wife and I would have to travel in separate room! If I travel on this train again myself I will choose the top as it is a much better view!

Sunrise Express Logo. There is also a Sunrise Izumo night train which connected to the back of the Sunrise Seto, and separates during the journey to go to another city in Japan:

Here is the view from our room on the train:

The room is locked with a combination lock, and has two beds with Radio, reading lamps, etc. There is power too which is handy for charging my phone and iPad for watching movies:

We reserved our shower time (there is a shower in each carriage) which is activated using a card (shown below) for 6 minutes maximum at the reserved time. At the end of 6 minutes the water stops automatically and the door unlocks!! You also get a Japanese Yukata for sleeping in:

You also get a small (and it is small) hand towel which has the train printed on it. You get to keep this as a souvenir:

As the train departed Tokyo I moved quickly to the lounge carriage, which gives a better view of the city as we left:

It was quite pleasant to sit here and eat some food watching the night lights of Tokyo fly by:

As a surprise my wife bought some great train bento (Meals) and other things from Tokyo station before we departed. I have say the sake in the Glass Shinkansen shaped bottle was great!

I tried to take some photos of the sunrise in the morning when I woke up, but they turned out too blurry to include here! As the sun was rising, the Sunrise Seto began the very long bridge crossing into the island of Shikoku:

Finally we arrived at Takamatsu Station:

Unlike a Shinkansen, the Sunrise Seto  moves around more (like a train in Australia does), so after travelling overnight I felt a bit dizzy when I got off the train at Takamatsu, but it passed soon after.

We had a fairly tight schedule on arrival, as we were catching a morning ferry to Naoshima, a small island about 1 hour by ferry from Takamatsu. We planned to look around Takamatsu later in the day.

We hurriedly dropped our luggage off at the hotel and went to the Takamatsu Ferry terminal, which had some nice art sculptures on the wharf:

We made the ferry with about 15 minutes to spare, bought our tickets, ready to go to Naoshima:

From the ferry I could take some nice photos of Takamatsu city:

As we headed towards Naoshima we were treated to some beautiful views of Shikoku from the ferry:

Once we arrived in Naoshima, we quickly started to explore it by bus and on foot. (no trains there unfortunately).  Naoshima is famous for it's modern art displays across the island (inside museums and on the island itself). I include some examples from our travelling so you can see what I mean:

Naoshima was interesting, and worth seeing if you are visiting this part of Japan. We then returned back by ferry to Takamatsu to look around. First step of course was to catch a local train to the main shopping district of Takamatsu:

We eventually reached the southern end of the very long shopping district in Takamatsu, and walked through it on our way back towards Takamatsu Station. We bought some clothing and other things while were were here:

Donation boxes in Japan are many and varied, but this one in Takamatsu still got my attention:

For dinner, we did of course have to sample the food Shikoku is most famous for, Udon Noodles, in a a local Takamatsu Restaurant:

In my next blog entry I will cover the next part of the Shikoku train journey from Takamatsu to Matsuyama, looking at the JR Shikoku tilt train, Bocchan Resha steam train, Matsuyama trams and more!

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