By Rey Waters
In the past, many night trains operated throughout Japan. Some trains had sleeping cars and a dining car, while others with sitting cars only.
However, due to the development of the Shinkansen (bullet train) network and popularisation of air travel, most of them have been abolished. Today there is only one regular overnight train, the Seto Sunrise from Tokyo to Takamatsu and Izumo. Other services that have been disbanded include the limited express train Hokutosei (meaning the Big Dipper or the Wain) between Ueno and Sapporo, the limited express train Akebono (meaning dawn) between Ueno and Aomori and the express train Hamanasu (meaning rugosa rose) between Aomori and Sapporo. Luxurious trains such as the Cassiopeia between Ueno and Sapporo operate irregularly if at all.
The Sunrise Seto from Takamatsu to Tokyo uses modern electric rail cars. The body colour of the cars expresses sunrise. A housing company also took part in the development of the cars. The train consists of 7 cars and offers the following sleeping compartments: the Single Deluxe, A-class single berth compartments equipped with a table and a washbasin, the Solo, B-class single berth compartments, the Single, B-class larger single berth compartments, the Sunrise Twin and the Single Twin, both B-class twin berth compartments, and the Nobi-nobi zaseki meaning stretched seats, a separated carpeted floor. It is like sleeping on the floor. For Japan Rail Pass holders, there is no extra charge for a nobi-nobi space. The train has a small lounge and shower rooms (free of charge for A-class passengers and at JPY 310 for the other passengers).
This time, I took the train from Takamatsu to Tokyo. I've been on night trains previously in Japan, Australia and New Zealand and it is the second time for me to take this train. Last time, I took the one going the other way. The train travels about 800 kilometres in about 9 hours and 30 minutes.
Takamatsu City is part of Kagawa Prefecture, which is famous for Sanuki udon noodles. You can obtain information about udon restaurants in the city at the tourist information centre. The Ritsurin Garden and Yashima Island are some of the major tourist sites in the city. If you are interested in shopping, there is a large shopping mall to the southeast of Takamatsu Station. From Takamatsu there are ferries to Naoshima and Teshima.
It is a good idea to purchase some food and drinks before boarding. There is a box meal or bento shop inside the station and a supermarket next to the station. The train departs at Takamatsu at 21:26. Soon the train crosses the Seto Ohashi Bridge that connects Honshu main Island and Shikoku Island. Unfortunately it's too dark outside to see the scene of the channel from the train, however, you may be able to do so from the train to Takamatsu.
In Okayama, the Sunrise Seto and the Sunrise Izumo from Izumo-shi are coupled with each other and both run together towards Tokyo, the final destination. After stopping at some stations, the train stops at Osaka at 0:34. Not withstanding the late hour, the station is full of commuters going home. This time, some passengers believed to be business travellers boarded the train here. After leaving Osaka, the train does not stop until Shizuoka. This train passes through Kyoto Station at about 1:00. Actually, Kyoto Station is still open at that time, because the last commuter train has just left. There may be some potential passengers who would like to take the train there. I hope someday it will stop at Kyoto. After stopping at Shizuoka at 4:38, it makes a brief stop at Fuji, Numazu, Atami and arrives at Yokohama at 6:44. Morning has come and commuters are waiting for their trains on the platform. The train arrives at Tokyo terminal at 7:08.
This train would be also convenient for business use. You can leave Takamatsu later than the last flight and arrive Tokyo earlier than the first flight of the next day from Takamatsu.
An overnight train journey is a pleasant way to travel even if you might not be able to have a good sleep because of the rattling sound. I went to bed just after passing Kyoto Station and had a fairly good sleep.
1. The Sunrise Seto from Tokyo to Takamatsu does not stop at Osaka Station. Instead you can disembark at Himeji and take a Special Rapid train back to Osaka or Kyoto.
The sleeper limited express train, Sunrise Seto is operated daily. All seats and sleepers are reserved. Reservation and purchasing of the tickets can be made at the Midori-no-madoguchi window of the major JR station.
The following charges are required to board this train.
- Basic fare: JPY 11,010 (between Tokyo and Takamatsu)
- Limited express charge:
- JPY 3,150 in the case other than the nobi-nobi zaseki seat, and
- JPY 3,460 to JPY 3,860 in the case of the nobi-nobi zaseki seat. the charge varies depending on the period.
- Sleeper charge:
- JPY 13,350 for a Single Deluxe compartment,
- JPY 14,700 per compartment for a Sunrise Twin compartment,
- JPY 14,420 for 2 persons for a Single-Twin compartment,
- JPY 7,350 for a Single compartment
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