The Twilight Express will end operations in the spring of 2015.
On a warm (fall) day in Sapporo, my wife, daughter, and I boarded the Twilight Express at Sapporo Station. The dark blue sleeper cars brought to mind travel from an earlier time.
We had booked tickets for the overnight trip to Kyoto, and would arrive there in 22 hours.
We had a small second-class compartment with two fold-down beds. As the train pulled out of Sapporo, we snacked on onigiri rice balls and watched the scenery roll by.
As midday turned to evening, the train approached the world's longest underwater tunnel--the Seikan Tunnel--which connects the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. For someone from Honshu, the open space in Hokkaido was almost disorienting. Before dinner, the three of us sat in the Panorama Car and watched the crimson skies become night.
An announcement then warned us that we would be in the tunnel for 30 minutes or more. The vast fields gave way to utter darkness as we entered the tunnel. And we clacked and clacked into the dark.
By the time we exited the tunnel and were on Honshu, it was dinner time. After the cramped room the dining car seemed spacious and comfortable.
The next morning dragged on as the train was in no hurry. We played cards and games to kill time.
The train arrived in Kyoto exactly on time, and we got off feeling a bit like sailors on shore leave. It took a few steps to readjust to walking on ground that did not move.
The Seikan Tunnel is the longest underwater rail tunnel in the world at 53,850 meters.
The Twilight Express is the longest overnight train service in Japan traveling for around 1500 kilometers.
Trains leave several times per week from Osaka at noon, stopping at Shin-Osaka Station, Kyoto, Tsuruga, Fukui, Kanazawa, Takaoka, Toyama, Naoetsu, Nakaoka and Niitsu on Honshu island and Toya, Higashi-Muroran, Noboribetsu, Tomakomai, Minami-Chitose and Sapporo on Hokkaido.
Japan Rail Pass holders will have to pay a supplement to travel on this train.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
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