Translated by Lester Somera
Take A Sunrise Sleeper Train To Shikoku Or Chugoku!
Written by Callie
The Sunrise Express is the last sleeper train operating in Japan. Take the scenic route and experience the morning sunrise when traveling to Takamatsu or Izumo.
Japan’s long history with sleeper trains dates back to the middle of the Meiji era, when the railroad network was largely completed, and trains which traveled long distances at night were developed.
The first sleeper train was operated by the private company, Sanyo Railways. Sleeper trains had their heyday in the 1960s, but after 1975, with the advent of shinkansen trains and airplanes, they faded out of popular use. At present, with the exception of luxury trains that do limited runs, the Sunrise Seto/Izumo sleeper trains are the only ones that still operate regularly in Japan.
Commute While Sleeping on the Sunrise Seto/Izumo
The Hokuriku Shinkansen line began operations in 2016, and the Hokutosei and Cassiopeia sleeper trains, which had routes between Kanto and Hokkaido, ceased operations in 2015. As a result, the Sunrise Seto/Izumo are the only regularly operating sleeper trains left.
The Sunrise trains use the Tokaido Main Line railways, so when getting on at Tokyo Station, board at platform 9 or 10. Check the LED display on the platform and confirm that you’re getting on the Sunrise Express, then line up and wait for the train to pull in.
The Sunrise Express splits into the Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo at Okayama Station. The Sunrise Seto goes toward Shikoku, bound for Takamatsu. The Sunrise Izumo goes toward Chugoku, bound for Izumo. A train car bound for your destination will be selected when you buy your ticket, but check the outside of the train to confirm that your car is headed in the right direction, just in case.
There are several types of rooms on the sleeper train. While it appears that there are two floors of cabins from the outside, there are several independent rooms within. Some beds are wider than others, or come with bedside tables. The rooms have clothes hangers, pajamas, pillows, simple slippers and everything else you need at a hotel. However, be aware that only the single deluxe rooms provide toothbrushes and soap.
The “Solo” or “Single” Rooms are Best for People Traveling Alone
This is a solo room aboard the B car. While it is the narrowest fit on board, there is a space to put your suitcase and your shoes. Each solo room comes equipped with a power outlet. The entrance is protected by a password key, so you can have peace of mind.
The room has a control panel with a light switch, radio, emergency call button, alarm and other features.
This is a single room aboard the B car. It is slightly more spacious than the “solo” rooms, but is otherwise the same.
A “Single Twin” Room is Best for Two People
This is a single twin room with a bunk bed. The top bunk is braced with a strap, so you don’t have to worry about falling off. The curtain for the top bunk can be controlled with the panel at the bottom bunk.
There is a little table tucked away by the bottom bunk, and you can fit two suitcases under the bed, too. However, this type of room does not come with a power outlet, so bring a portable charger if you need one for your phone or camera.
The solo, single and single twin type rooms all have entrances just wide enough to fit one person. Each door has a password key panel built in.
The Best Budget Option is the “Nobi Nobi Seat” Section
The cheapest option on board the Sunrise Express is the “Nobi Nobi Seat” section. The room is split into top and bottom bunks, and the hallway has curtains, but there are no curtains or other dividers separating you from the adjacent bunk. Since there is no expectation of privacy, these beds are great if you want to communicate with other travelers or have a good time with friends.
While the Nobi Nobi Seat room does not have pajamas or pillows, it is popular because there is no sleeper car charge.
Choose the “Sunrise Twin” or “Single Deluxe” Options for the Luxury Route
The Sunrise twin rooms in the B car and the single deluxe rooms in the A car are also options. Instead of bunk beds, the Sunrise twin has two beds on opposite sides of a spacious room.
The single deluxe is the most luxurious room available on this train, and even has a private shower. This sort of high-level service also means that it’s somewhat pricey. The Seto and Izumo trains only have six single deluxe rooms each, so if you want to reserve one, act fast.
There are mini lounges in the third and tenth cars on the Sunrise Seto and Izumo trains where you can take a break and have a meal. Enjoy your view of mountainside and seaside scenery from the lounges.
You need to buy a 320 yen shower card to get access to the on board shower rooms. However, there is a limited supply of these cards, so if you want to take a shower during your trip, buy one early.
There are shower rooms in cars 3, 4, 10 and 11, but the ones in car 4 and car 10 are solely for single deluxe room occupants. Other passengers can use the ones in cars 3 and 11. The shower rooms have storage boxes for clothes, dryers, body soap and shampoo. One shower card will afford you a six minute shower. After you finish, hitting the “clean” button on the control panel will activate a pressure vessel to get rid of the humidity, so that the next person can also have a pleasant shower.
You Have To Watch the Train Cars Decoupling!
In addition to trying out the sleeper cars, we also recommend getting a glimpse of the moment that the train cars decouple.
As the train draws closer to Okayama Station, the train fanatics on board will start to get restless. If you want to see the coupling and decoupling of the cars, quickly head to the space between cars 7 and 8. This process is very special, and even the train fanatics who live in Okayama take pictures of it.
Under the guidance of the station staff, the couplings are folded up and the doors are closed, and the now-separated Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo head to their respective destinations. In the same way, when returning to Tokyo from Izumo and Takamatsu, the two trains link up again at Okayama Station before heading to Tokyo. Decoupling takes up to three minutes. You can definitely feel how well-trained the staff are by watching their lightning-quick maneuvers.
If you travel by the Sunrise Express, you can go to sleep in Tokyo and wake up in Shikoku or Chugoku, which saves you time on commuting.
The train was named “Sunrise” to express a wish for “a clear morning for the start to a new day.” Get on the train from Tokyo, and when you wake up and peer out the window, the scenic expanse of the Seto Inland Sea will be spreading out before your very eyes. If you ride the Sunrise Express for yourself, you too can have that wonderful trip experience.
Homepage: JR Sunrise Express