I was a bit hesitant to write this post up. There’s so many posts up about overnight trains in Japan and I’m not sure what else I can add to them. However, for the sake of completeness I thought that it would be a good idea to add this in.
Fukuoka – Tokyo day 17
Remember the castella from Nagasaki? Turns out 4000 yen goes a long way in castella buying. In the name of science, I thought that it would be a good idea to taste test these two different castellas. The one on the left is the standard castella from Bunmeido, whereas the one on the right is the premium castella from Fukusaya. The standard castellas was roughly 1000 yen whereas the premium was 3000 yen.
Honestly, I was already a little bit in love with the standard castella when I first tore into it in Nagasaki. Therefore, I was pretty dubious as to how much better the more expensive castella could be. My first bites left me unconvinced. Successful tastings would later tell me that the premium castella was a little less sweet but with a stronger honey flavour, a touch eggier and with no artificial taste in the slightest. Just writing about these cakes is making me salivate right now.
While we were in Japan it was the midst of basketball season. Being the NBA fanatic that he is Ryan set up at Wired cafe for the morning to stream the games live. I choose to fill out my dairy and go shopping in JR Hakata city instead. After getting lost a few times, buying enough sunscreen and makeup to last for the rest of the trip and some meandering around we met up again, only to plan to eat even more food.
We had eaten ramen every day we were in Fukuoka and we weren’t going to stop now. Luckily Ramen issou was almost right next to the station. This store is known for its slightly frothy looking tonkotsu soup broth. Though less oily and salty than Hakata Daruma, the broth had a deep pork flavour. Instead of overloading the senses with richness, this broth had a few layers to it. There was a slight sourness to it, which had me going back to the bowl for taste after taste.
Unfortunately, after this ramen, Ryan and I took turns in feeling unwell. Perhaps it was the combination of hot sweaty weather and blasting air conditioning or all the fatty ramen we had eaten in the past few days but the next few hours were spent in a slightly painful stupor. Somehow, we managed to gather all of our belongings and make our way over to Okayama in anticipation of a very exciting trip.
A little-known fact about Ryan is that he loves trains. Perhaps he has spent too much time reading ‘Night on the galactic railway’ as it’s always been one of his dreams to take a sleeper train in Japan. On our previous trip, we had researched the possibility of taking the Cassiopeia sleeper train all the way to Hokkaido. It turned out that taking a plane was simply more cost and time efficient so we gave the whole thing a miss. Naturally, he was devasting when the Cassiopeia was discontinued before we got a chance to ride it. This time he couldn’t afford to miss taking the Seto sunrise from Okayama to Tokyo.
It’s clear from the outset that the seto sunrise is worlds away from the smooth and sleek shinkansen. The train rocked a hell of a lot. You’ll have to excuse the somewhat blurry photos! Our tickets were for the cheapest seats. I would describe these as an open capsule hotel type arrangement. There’s nowhere to store luggage, so you’ll have to sleep with your bags. I can sleep almost anywhere and in any situation so this wasn’t really a problem for me.
In spite of the rocking we explored almost every nook and cranny. The actual cabins are fairly small. There’s not much room to move, but it appeared that there were slippers and bed sheets. Thoroughly exhausted from the heat of the day I nodded off quickly. I woke up a few times throughout the night because I found the air conditioning a bit too cold. However, for the most part I slept pretty well! My scarf doubled up as a pillow and warm blanket!
Tokyo: Day 18 morning
Bleary-eyed we pulled up into Tokyo station. The seto sunrise seemed to be a bit of a treat for Tokyoites as well. Locals on the platforms outside were snapping pictures of the train as we started getting ready to disembark.
Riding the seto sunrise was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. It’s definitely not the most comfortable form of transport or accommodation. However, as sleeper trains become a form of luxury travel it felt a little surreal to be taking the last of what was once a dense network of night trains. Perhaps one day soon this train will also be discontinued and replaced with another luxury train. Until then, this is as close to a night on the galactic railroad I can afford.
If you’re not in Japan for a long time it might be hard to catch the seto sunrise. Tickets can only be bought at JR stations in Japan and they only go on sale a month in advance. Although we booked two weeks and a bit in advance we weren’t able to get tickets next to each other and the station attendant told us that they were, in fact, the last tickets left!
The train provides some simple bedding but not much else. There’s a vending machine to buy rather expensive drinks but no food. It’s a good idea to stock up at the convenience store beforehand. There’s also a shower station, but if you want to freshen up you’re going to have pay. Tickets are purchasable from a vending machine in the train cabins. A ticket will give you 6 minutes of water but unlimited time to towel off and get dry.
This link provides a pretty good explanation of the different seating arrangements for each cabin and what the interior of the train looks like.