There's a term for people who love trains in this country:
I don't know if I would call myself that, but I definitely LOVE looking at trains. I'm not too crazy about the model and I can't tell which model of trains is what (yet?), but trains really fascinate me. Not only just the interior, but some trains here in Japan have really amazing views. Not just trains, but I find that buses and even boats can be quite the experience here.
Like Shimonada station in Shikoku:
It's just a normal, local stop along the coastal route of Ehime, but the views of the ocean are absolutely stunning from the station. I haven't taken this train in particular, but the drive down this coast is extremely rewarding.
There are plenty of other trains in Japan that sells its view, like the Seven Stars in Kyushu. Which costs an arm and a leg (omg), but there are slightly cheaper options like the Yufuin no Mori from Fukuoka to Yufuin in Kyushu:
(excuse my photo, this was taken years ago on a very shitty old iphone)
Another train that is a shorter train ride, but offers a somewhat panoramic view of the nature is the Tenku that goes to Koyasan in Wakayama. Or more recently, the Hankyu Kyo-train Garaku from Osaka to Kyoto.
Along with the view, trains like Seven Stars also offer luxury of course, but there's often a lot of interior eyecandy going on as well. Like the newest Kyushu additional, the 36+3 (36ぷらす3). Or 36plus3. The Seven Stars offer luxury travel for multiple days, but the 36plus3 offers the same luxury - except it's only for one day, from one city to another city. Depending on the day you take it, the cities they operate in change. So if you're in Kyushu, and your travel dates align - I would be extremely jealous because just look at this interior porn AND exterior porn:
Such beauty. I can't even.
Not equally as beautiful, but there are definitely lots of local trains that also prides itself in its interior design. In Kansai, the Ao-Matsu that runs daily from Fukuchiyama to Amanohashidate is also extremely handsome. I took this train years ago, and it's still one of the most beautiful and perhaps "cheapest" ride I've been on:
Another type of train every North American should try and experience is the Sleeper Train. Most Sleeper Trains in Japan have been discontinued. Probably most popular amongst them, the Cassiopeia that run from Tokyo to Sapporo, discontinued in 2016. But there is still one Sleeper Train that runs daily in Japan, the Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo.
This trains runs east to west, and splits off to go to Izumo in Shimane, or Takamatsu in Shikoku (or Tokyo if you're going east).
The problem with being in Kansai, and wanting to take this train is that... you only have the option of taking it to Tokyo. This train does not stop in Kansai traveling westbound, which means booking space from Kansai is quite limited. However, I did have the pleasure of riding this to Tokyo a few years back.
View-wise, it's pitch dark out so there's no life-changing sunrise on your way to Tokyo, but the train itself is quite the experience. While I traveled in a private suite, the cheapest and probably the more unique way to do the Sunrise train is the "nobi nobi" seat. You get your own private floor space, and you spend the night just like you would sleeping on a futon on tatami in Japan. I would have loved to try it, but since this is the cheapest seat, it is often the one that gets sold out the quickest.
Definitely worth the experience though, if you are able to book it!
Lastly, the bullet trains. That in itself can be quite an experience since it's extremely fast and convenient. I was more shocked at how many times I had to pop my ear than being excited though, quite frankly. And it's expensive for us residents.
Anyway though! Every few years, JR does change up the design for one of its trains from the Osaka to Hakata route. Right now it's still the Hello Kitty design (don't really have an interest in it), and previously it was the Evangelion theme. I took it from Hakata to Kokura for a total time of 10 minutes, because my poor ass at the time couldn't afford a longer journey.
Here's to some nostalgia:
I really loved the theming for this train. It just fits so well... I wish they had kept it permanently.
There are also a ton of themed non-Shinkansen trains out there in Japan. Most of them are limited time or only operate on holidays or weekends, like this "onsen train"... but if you can align your travels to get on these trains, I think they are very interesting.
There's no better place to explore trains than in Japan, in my opinion. There's so many different kinds, themes, interiors, rail lines (that offer views), and so many different companies that run their own unique trains.
What's your favourite train Japan?
What train would you want to get on that you haven't yet?