I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) tour for 5 days of a 17-day tour. 25 Australians were well into their 2nd week when I joined in. We met at the Indigo Hotel in the hills above Hakone. This 5-star hotel sits on a river in a valley of vibrant green as spring has exploded around us. With a private onsen in every room and elegant decor. The service was excellent, and meals were perfectly prepared and presented, delicious too.
The next day, one of our guests had a medical emergency. Railway Adventures and the local Japan tour company stepped into action. We found a specialist in the area and had an appointment set up before the guest had left the hotel. I took them to the hospital where it was confirmed they needed an operation soon. Japan wasn’t an option for them, so the team checked about the availability of flights back to Australia. I took the couple to the airport and with the doctor’s note, got their tickets changed for the next flight. They were sad to leave the tour as they had bonded with many people, and they were enjoying this incredible season in Japan. I hope they come back one day!
The next morning, after an excellent breakfast (how can you live without an omelette station), we departed on a bus driving through the fertile countryside around Mt Fuji. We stopped at Japan’s best-kept railway secret, the Maglev Linear (Magnetic Levitation) exhibition centre to watch the next generation of high-speed trains going through their paces. The new sleek Maglev train shoots past us at 600km with only the sound of the wind whooshing past. The future is smooth and fast.
We then travel north to the lovely town of Chichibu to ride the SL Paleo Express steam train. Within 2 hours, we are experiencing the first form of train travel and the future of it. The beautiful black heavy engine took us chugging through the rural countryside at a relaxing pace. People of all ages waved as we passed. Family’s out for the day came to watch our beautiful steam train, as we made our way on this splendid day.
At Kumagaya Station, we jump up a few levels and take a Shinkansen to Sendai. Into another excellent hotel, the Western Hotel Sendai for the next few days. This hotel starts on the 26th floor of the building therefore every room has excellent views of Sendai and the areas around it. We have an evening at leisure, so I get to look around Sendai CBD to find a nice meal.
The next morning the group catches a local train, and we head for the coast. To Matsushima Bay and the Zuiganji Temple. We tour the temple and the astounding buildings and caves. We even get to be the background for a Buddhist wedding!
We move to the Bay and take a pleasant boat trip around the many islands and learn the incredible history of the area. Japan is such an old country that every rock seems to have a story and history that someone has covered. So inspiring. Once we dock the group heads out across the coastal town for a wonderful afternoon of exploring for ourselves.
In the evening we all gather and walk in the clear air through the streets to Palinka, an Italian restaurant that has a long connection with Railway Adventures and we are entertained by Yoseki San, ‘The Singing Chef’. An excellent meal is enjoyed by all. The restaurant even put on a live pianist to help us digest! A perfect finish to the day.
This morning, the group checks out, and we head for the station. Unfortunately, my time with the group is up and I wave my goodbyes as everyone goes through the Shinkansen gate to travel north. I hope to meet them again. An excellent group of like-minded people.
Chris Darvall is our knowledgeable and experienced Japanese tour leader and resides in Tokyo. Join Chris for Japan by Rail – Highlights of Honshu for the Colours of Autumn in November 2023 and also the Japan Springtime Spectacular in April 2024.
Scott McGregor’s Railway Adventures tour is more than just a holiday, it is a unique way to experience the world. By train you are completely immersed in culture and adventure, exploring the most scenic corners of the world in the comfort of a luxury train. Whether you are an experienced traveller or just beginning to explore this wonderful world, Railway Adventures has something for everyone. Transform your holiday into the most unforgettable adventure of a lifetime with Railway Adventures.
Call 1300 800 977 or email us at [email protected] to request a brochure on our tours in 2023 and 2024 or visit our website to view all our tours.