In Japan, it costs nearly $3,000 for one person to ride on a new luxury train that launched this week, and the highest price is nearly $10,000, for what resembles a cruise ship experience traveling through Japan's scenic eastern countryside. If you want to ride, plan ahead: the train is sold out through March of 2018.
Officially launched Monday, the Train Suite Shiki-Shima from the East Japan Railway Co. can carry a maximum of 34 passengers. There are 17 suites on the train; some have lofts and a traditional wooden bath. Luxury touches range from a piano bar to specially designed staff uniforms.
For paying a steep price, travelers will get premium services that include the offer of a limousine ride and complimentary luggage service between their homes and their room on the train. Before the trip, the train's staff meets with passengers to ensure the trip is customized to their needs.
The train departs from an exclusive Platform 13 1/2 in Tokyo's at Ueno Station, which also includes a private lounge.
"We hope we can contribute to establishing a railway of a new era," JR East sales director Atsushi Takahashi, tells The Japan Times.
At either end of the 10-car train, passengers can take in panoramic views of the countryside in glass-enclosed observation cars. The eight cars between include six private suite cars, a lounge car and a dining car.
As the train moves around Japan, the menu in its dining car will shift to reflect the ingredients and cooking style of the regions it's passing through. To accomplish that, noted chefs who work in towns and resorts along the train's route will either serve their food aboard the train or host passengers for meals at their restaurants.
On this train, passengers don't book a ticket; they fill out an application — and, because of intense interest, they're also chosen by lottery, Japan East says. The company tells NHK News that "only one out of 76 applicants was able to get tickets for the first trip" this week.
Itineraries range from two-day to four-day trips; most of them are timed to highlight seasonal shifts in the landscape, and many also coincide with traditional festivals or new year's celebrations.
Rather than the standard rectangular window frames, the Shiki-Shima's windows evoke a "quiet forest," the train company says. The train also has its own theme song, "Train Suite," by composer Naoki Sato.