Kyushu Railway Co. launched its "Seven Stars in Kyushu" cruise and sleeper train service Tuesday, offering passengers luxury tours through Japan's southwestern main island of Kyushu.
The first Seven Stars train left Hakata Station in Fukuoka, the biggest railway station in Kyushu, at 12:47 p.m. with stops in Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kumamoto prefectures on a three-night-and-four-day trip, Kyushu Railway, known as JR Kyushu, said.
There are 14 passenger compartments with capacity for a total of 30 guests on the diesel-powered train with seven passenger cars, which cost 3 billion yen to build. The most luxurious compartment costs 1.1 million yen (about $11,200) for two people.
The first passenger to stay in the compartment, Yuko Kawaai, 63, said before boarding with her husband, "My husband and I both like sleeping and dining cars on trains. Seven Stars is a dream-inspiring train and we've been looking forward to being the first to get onboard."
The tour package's destination spots include the Yufuin hot-spa resort in Oita Prefecture and the 1,590-meter-high active volcano Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.
It has proved hugely popular so far, with only one in seven to nine applicants able to successfully make reservations in Japan and tickets for domestic passengers sold out until next June. Half the applicants were in their 60s or older.
At a ceremony before the departure of the first train at Hakata Station, JR Kyushu President Koji Karaike said the service marks "a new start for train journeys in Japan."
"As we've prepared the highest level space (we can), we hope customers will spend an enriching time looking back on their own lives," Karaike said.
The crew's 25 members, hired a year ago, were trained at high-quality Japanese-style "ryokan" inns to offer high-level service to passengers, JR Kyushu said.
JR Kyushu, which is based in Fukuoka, is one of the seven railroads of the Japan Railways group -- six passenger and one freight railroads -- which were created with the 1987 split-up and privatization of the deficit-ridden Japanese National Railways.