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Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, often gets overlooked by travelers, and a big reason why is because none of its train stations are connected to the Shinkansen bullet train rail network. It’s really a shame, though, since Shikoku has some amazing places to visit, including breathtaking beaches and awesomely atmospheric restaurants.
And even if you can’t get around Shikoku by Shinkansen, the island has an extremely cool train of its own on the way.
Japan Railways’ newest luxury sightseeing train, the Toki no Yoake Monogatari, will run between Kochi Station (which completes the Kochi trifecta by being in Kochi City, the capital of Kochi Prefecture) and Kubokawa Station, roughly 70 kilometers to the southwest.
The two-car, 47-passenger Toki no Yoake Monogatari gets its distinctive name, which means“Tale of the Dawn of an Era,” from the fact that Kochi Prefecture was the home of Sakamoto Ryoma, a prominent leader among progressive samurai who worked to end Japan’s centuries of forced isolation and usher the nation into the global community.
In keeping with that theme of the flow of time, the exterior of the train is decorated with imagery that includes the sun and moon, and the interior of the second car, called Sorafune (“Ship of the Sky”), has a ceiling painted with stars.
The unique interior layout has no benches or box seats, and instead consists entirely of personal seats along counters or tables, allowing passengers to relax and chat while appreciating the view along the route, which includes a stretch of Kochi’s southern coastline.
The Kochi-Kurokawa route passes through two towns with morning markets, as shown in the train’s teaser video above, and JR is also promising exquisite meals that make use of locally-sourced ingredients for traditional Kochi recipes. They haven’t said what exactly will be on the menu, though, so we’ll probably have to wait until we get a little closer to the Toki no Yoake Monogatari’s maiden run in spring of next year. Oh, and if you’re trying to figure out how to get down to Shikoku without using the Shinkansen, there are plenty of express trains and buses that can take you there, but our favorite way to access the island remains the unforgettable Shimanami Kaido.
This article first appeared on japantoday.com