Photo By: PIXTA/一歩ずつ
Region
Kanto
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Tokyo
Population
12,059,237

Sunrise Express

Discover rural destinations with Japan’s last regularly-operating sleeper train.

By Laura Payne

Running between Tokyo and off-the-beaten-path prefectures like Kagawa, Shimane and Tottori, the overnight train Sunrise Express lets passengers fall asleep in the city and awake in the countryside.

The Sunrise Express is also a living piece of history. Sleeper trains were once a common way to traverse Japan, but they dwindled with the rise of bullet trains and domestic flights. Luxury sleeper trains still operate on limited runs, but the Sunrise Express is the only regularly scheduled sleeper train left in the country—operating daily with affordable ticket prices.

Train Accommodations

Photo by: PIXTA/ハマ Get a good night’s rest.

A Sunrise Express ticket reserves a bunk space or private room. The cheapest accommodation is the nobi nobi zaseki (stretch and relax seat)—a semi-private carpeted bunk.

Private rooms are more expensive but afford dedicated luggage storage spaces and beds. Options for these rooms include:

  • Sunrise Twin (Room with two twin beds)
  • Single Twin (A bunk bed room)
  • Solo (Small room with one twin bed)
  • Single (Room with a single bed)
  • Single Deluxe (The most expensive room with a single bed, desk and sink)

A Japan Rail Pass covers the entire cost of a nobi nobi zaseki and provides a discount for private rooms.

Train Amenities

Sunrise Seto

Photo by: PIXTA/you Watch the scenery from the lounge.

The Sunrise Express maintains shower rooms, which passengers can use by buying a shower card from a ticket machine (Single Deluxe rooms provide a card in an amenities bag). Each card grants a six-minute shower.

Other amenities include drink vending machines and lounges with window side tables and chairs. No food is sold on board, so passengers must bring their own.

Discover New Destinations

Sunrise Seto

Photo by: PIXTA/ゆうき Adventure is out there!

When the Sunrise Express departs Tokyo, it consists of 14 cars. Upon making a stop in Okayama, half the cars are uncoupled and the train splits into the Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo.

Sunrise Izumo offers access to Japan’s least populated—and most underrated—prefectures: Shimane and Tottori. Nature lovers flock to Tottori for its sand dunes and mountain climbing. Shimane, meanwhile, is called the Land of Myths because many of Japan’s oldest Shinto legends are set here. Destinations like Izumo Taisha—a shrine dedicated to matchmaking—and Yomotsuhirasaka—the entrance to the underworld—keep these legends alive today.

Sunrise Seto’s final stop is Kagawa—the Udon Prefecture. Local farm-to-table Sanuki Udon is the most famous udon variety in Japan, and trying a bowl of these noodles is a must on most visitors’ itineraries. Kagawa is also home to world-famous destinations like Naoshima—an art museum island.

Things To Know

HOW TO RESERVE TICKETS

Sunrise Seto/Izumo tickets go on sale one month before a desired departure date. Early booking is highly recommended as tickets can sell out quickly—especially during weekends and holidays.

Tickets can be reserved in person at Midori no Madoguchi (JR ticket offices located inside major train stations) or online using websites like JR Odekake Net.

If you book online, you need to pick up your tickets from the departure station’s Midori no Madoguchi before boarding. Certain travel agencies may also reserve tickets on your behalf (again, make sure to pick up your tickets before departure).

If reserving a nobi nobi zaseki, be aware that your luggage must be stored in your sleeping area.

Nobi nobi zaseki do not provide pillows, so passengers must bring their own. All passengers should bring a towel for showers.

Shower cards can sell out quickly at the ticket machines, so buying one upon embarking is recommended.

When taking a shower, a timer will inform you how long you have to finish. This timer can be paused if you stop the flow of water during your shower.

How To Get There

Address

By train

The Sunrise Express departs nightly from Tokyo station with stops in other major cities like Yokohama.

Where To Stay

Marunouchi Hotel
  • 1-6-3 Marunochi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-0005 Japan
  • ¥35,090 - ¥145,200
  • 4.76/5 (928 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
The Tokyo Station Hotel
  • 1-9-1 Marunochi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-0005 Japan
  • ¥85,614 - ¥143,894
  • 4.91/5 (686 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi
  • 1-7-12 Marunochi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-0005 Japan
  • ¥46,000 - ¥56,800
  • 4.39/5 (2,874 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Oakwood Premier Tokyo
  • 1-8-2 Marunochi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-0005 Japan
  • ¥85,000 - ¥153,552
  • 4.88/5 (26 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Karaksa Hotel Tokyo Station
  • 1-5-3 Yaesu (1-Chome), Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-0028 Japan
  • ¥27,000 - ¥78,000
  • 5/5 (231 reviews)
  • 0.3 km

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