JR Kyushu’s Aru Ressha, also called the “Sweet Train” has an unusual and rather complicated history. It is said that back in 1906, Kyushu Railway (a private company) commissioned the construction of a gorgeous luxury passenger train from a company in America. Apparently the train was built and sent to Japan, but before it could begin operations Kyushu Railway was nationalized and all plans for the train were cancelled. The train, which never ran, passed into legend and became known ever afterward as the “train of dreams”.
Years later a famous model train enthusiast named Nobutaro Hara dedicated seven years of his life to creating a finely crafted scale model of this train, which is now featured in Yokohama’s Hara Model Railway Museum. This model in turn became the inspiration for the design of the Aru Ressha and so finally the “train of dreams” came home to Kyushu!
Aru Ressha is one of JR Kyushu’s fleet of “D & S” or “Design & Story” sightseeing trains; trains that are designed to be the setting of your own story as you travel through the inspiring landscape of Kyushu. The name “Aru Ressha” also means “a certain train,” which is pretty much how a train might be introduced in a Japanese storybook. The look of the train too, both inside and out is as elaborate as any fairy tale.
The design was overseen by Eiji Mitooka, who is also responsible for the luxury sleeper train, Seven Stars in Kyushu. The Aru Ressha’s exterior boasts a bold pattern of fantastical arabesques in gold and black. For the interior of the train’s two carriages Kyushu’s finest craftsmen were employed to create an atmosphere of lavish luxury.
The first carriage is fitted out throughout with maple wood, paneled ceilings, thick carpets, and curtains decorated with intricate traceries of ivy and trailing vines. Seats are arranged in groups of four or two. In the second carriage the wood is a darker walnut, and beautifully carved lattice screens separate private compartments built for two.
Passengers on the Aru Ressha are treated to a bento style boxed lunch using local, seasonal ingredients followed by a course of three desserts, and a final course of mignardise style specialty cakes. For this reason the train is also known as the JR Kyushu Sweet Train.
JR Kyushu Sweet Train Aru Ressha follows two courses. From April to June it runs round trip journeys between the Oita and Hita stations on the Kyudai Main Line in Oita Prefecture. From July to September it runs round trip journeys between Sasebo and Nagasaki Stations on the Sasebo Line and Nagasaki Main Line in Nagasaki Prefecture. Only one round trip takes place per day and these are mostly on weekends.
The basic one-way fare for a two seater plan which includes the sweets course and drinks is 24,000 yen per person. The fare will be higher however, if you book a compartment or travel alone. This train cannot be booked at normal JR ticket windows but only at JR Kyushu travel branches, JR Kyushu station travel centers and other major travel companies. For more details and information on how to buy tickets take a look at the official Aru Ressha website.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos courtesy of JR Kyushu. All rights reserved.