World Bulletin / News Desk
Japan's latest super-deluxe train left the station Saturday with a select group of passengers who paid thousands of dollars for a leisurely trip harking back to an era of Art Deco opulence and a slower pace of life.
A couple staying in the 10-car train's top room, The Suite, paid out a combined 2.4 million yen ($22,000) for a two-night, three-day return trip that rolls past emerald green rice paddies, craggy coastlines and ancient shrines.
That eye-popping price tag gets you five-star hotel luxury including a marble-floored bathroom with claw-legged tub in the priciest suite, food prepared by gourmet chefs, and sumptuous lounges where you can sip cocktails as you take in the dramatic scenery through huge viewing windows.
"I'm so delighted to get a spot on this historic train," Ayaka Kobayashi, a newlywed who was travelling on the Mizukaze with her husband, told Jiji Press news agency.
"I want to enjoy this special time and space."
The Mizukaze, which means "fresh wind" in Japanese, is just the latest luxury offering in train-mad Japan, which has an extensive railway network covering most of the country.
These top-end rolling hotels pay homage to once numerous sleeper cars that were overtaken by Shinkansen bullet trains that cut hours off travel times.
"Things have been reset, giving birth to a new breed" of trains, said photojournalist and train expert Kageri Kurihara after touring The Mizukaze.
"Train companies are trying to show what they can do without constraints. You may have this idea that sleeper trains are cramped and inconvenient but these railways are saying 'look what we can offer!'.
"Japanese people are very fond of trains and you'd be excited with all these superb choices," he added.
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The Twilight Express Mizukaze departed Osaka on its maiden trip with around 30 well-heeled passengers on a journey to the far reaches of Japan's main island.