As Japan reopens its borders, international travelers are eagerly planning their trips to Japan. Different regions of Japan are actively showcasing their allure. Beyond the bustling cities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, the Eastern Japan region offers a wealth of unique culture and charm waiting to be discovered. Through the "Joyful Trains Reservation Website (のってたのしい列車予約サイト)" of the JR East Group, reserving a designated seat on a Joyful Train is a breeze with just a few simple steps. Riding on these trains allows travelers to immerse themselves in the local culture and hospitality. This railway journey not only tantalizes taste buds with exquisite regional cuisine, but also displays the passion and vibrancy of the locals.


KAIRI|Linking the Sea(kai) and Villages(ri), Experience the Fusion of Tradition and Innovation

Adorned with color in sunset orange and white, the KAIRI runs leisurely between Echigo-Kangawa station and Kuwagawa station in Niigata Prefecture, with speeds slowed down to 10km per hour. Passengers can see the sunset slowly sinking into the Sea of Japan through KAIRI’s spacious windows as they journey from Sakata or Tsuruoka back to Niigata. The orange-red sun and delicate dishes served at the table create a truly romantic experience on the KAIRI.

Niigata may not be well known, but it has a rich history. During the Edo period, it served as a port for the Kitamaebune, ships that traveled between Osaka and Hokkaido. Later, in the Meiji era, it became one of five Japanese ports open to foreign trade. As a result, many foreign cultures were introduced to Niigata and the Shōnai area. The fusion of the old and the modern is rooted here, and the overall design of KAIRI embodies this characteristic.

From the menu design to the tableware, every detail of the KAIRI reflects the concept of blending tradition with innovation. The train serves original tableware made by OHASHI Western Tableware, a century-old store known for preserving tradition while creating new value. The separate bento boxes designed in the color of Shunkei lacquer(an imitation of the red on traditional Japanese Shunkei lacquerware) and white for menus served in the outbound and inbound journeys, symbolize the sunset and fresh snow, harmonizing perfectly with the appearance of the KAIRI train.

The menus are divided into the outbound route (Niigata to Tsuruoka/Sakata) and inbound route (Sakata/Tsuruoka to Niigata), provided by various restaurants. Most of the dishes are made with local ingredients from Niigata and Shōnai, designed to complement the changes of the seasons. On the outbound journey, traditional Japanese cuisine will be prepared by ryotei (high-end traditional Japanese restaurants) from Furumachi Kagai in Niigata. On the inbound trip, Italian cuisine curated by Chef Masayuki Okuda using native crops from Shōnai will be served.

Unlike ordinary tourism, KAIRI engages the senses of sight, taste, and touch, leading passengers to truly experience the authentic and unspoiled side of Niigata and the Shōnai area. Watching the magnificent view of the sunset and snowy landscape from the Sea of Japan will surely be an unforgettable memory.

The exterior design of the KAIRI train blending the concepts of setting sun and fresh snow./Photo Credit:JR East
Enjoying traditional Japanese cuisine prepared by the ryotei restaurant while admiring the picturesque countryside of Niigata through the train windows./Photo Credit:JR East

※ Original tableware may not be available during certain periods. Meal menus, tableware, and ryotei list are subject to change after October 2023. The above information is for reference only.


Koshino Shu✲Kura | Sway, Sip, and Savor: Sake Train in Niigata

Running through Niigata, the blue and white-themed Koshino Shu✲Kura train resembles a small sake cup, offering passengers the authentic flavors of the Kingdom of Sake (Japanese rice wine). In recent years, Japanese sake has sparked an undeniable craze in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and even Western countries. Many sake enthusiasts visiting Japan hope to explore the brewing regions and savor unique locally brewed sake. Koshino Shu✲Kura is the Joyful Train that leads us to experience the taste of sake.

Debuted in 2014, the name of the train holds profound meaning: “Koshino” represents the Echigo area, "Shu" represents sake, "Kura" represents sake breweries, and "✲" represents rice, snow, and flowers. All of which are representative elements of Niigata Prefecture. The train's design also reflects the pride and enthusiasm of JR East, local sake breweries, and residents toward their hometown.

One remarkable collaboration on board is the “Koshino Shu✲Kura Original Daiginjo-sake" brewed in partnership with sake brewery Kiminoi Shuzou. This limited-edition sake is made from Niigata's sake brewing rice "Koshitanrei," and natural yeast from the brewery, using Yamahai brewing method. Despite its small bottle, this sake allows us to experience the natural flavors of Niigata rice, yeast, and water. Passengers over 20 years old in Car 1 will receive a choko (cup), a kinchaku (purse) adorned with the "Shu✲Kura" logo, and a bottle of the original daiginjo-sake. The train also serves non-alcoholic beverage options, such as Yuki-Otoko carbonated drinks and Yukimuro coffee, perfect for those who prefer not to drink alcohol.

Amidst the sounds of clinking glasses and toasts, Koshino Shu✲Kura immerses travelers in the enchanting world of sake, allowing them to indulge in the local cultures and create unforgettable memories. Whether you are a sake enthusiast or not, Koshino Shu✲Kura presents everyone with a delightful and slightly tipsy feast to enjoy in Niigata.

Highly recommended observation pair seats in Car 1, where passengers can enjoy sake while admiring the view of the Sea of Japan (Note: The view varies depending on the route)./Photo Credit:JR East
The service counter at Kuramori offers a selection of five locally brewed sake./Photo Credit:JR East

TOHOKU EMOTION | A Breathtaking Scenery of Delicacies, Coastlines, and Local Hospitality

A decade ago, with hopes of post-disaster recovery in the Tohoku (northeast) region of Japan, a unique and delightful train was born – TOHOKU EMOTION. Embracing the concept of a "moving restaurant," it has become one of the most famous tourist attractions in the Tohoku area. Over the years, TOHOKU EMOTION has distinguished itself with three remarkable features: delectable cuisine crafted by renowned chefs using local ingredients, breathtaking views of the Pacific coastline, and the heartwarming gesture of locals waving to passengers along the journey. As this year marks its official 10th anniversary, the train proudly displays a colorful headmark on its front, symbolizing the diverse charm of the four seasons.

With its white exterior featuring a painted brick-wall design, TOHOKU EMOTION's interior design incorporates traditional crafts from the region, creating a luxurious and artistic dining environment. The train is decorated with eye-catching elements such as Fukushima's sashiko-ori fabric for the walls, Aomori's kogin-zashi embroidery on the floor, and Iwate’s Nambu iron as part of the kohaku (amber)-inspired wall lamps     .

The culinary meals offered onboard are as splendid as the magnificent coastal scenery outside the windows. Currently, departing from Hachinohe, the set-menu lunch is curated by Chef Eiko Shibuya of "Sous-sus," a renowned restaurant in Omachi, Akita Prefecture. Using local ingredients, the four-course lunch exemplifies the region's gastronomic delights. On the return journey from Kuji, passengers are treated to original desserts and an afternoon tea set specially created by Chef Takashi Kumagai from Hotel Metropolitan Morioka. The chef of TOHOKU EMOTION changes every April and October, and the menu is updated every three months, providing passengers with a fresh experience each time.

TOHOKU EMOTION crafts an elegant and sophisticated journey, catering not only to visual and culinary pleasures, but also immersing passengers in the awe-inspiring coastal landscapes of Aomori and Iwate Prefectures. The black-tailed gulls in Kabushima, Tanesashi’s Natural Lawn, Kuji where the filming of Ama-chan took place, and the genuine warmth of residents standing by the railway, eagerly waving and welcoming with sincere smiles – these yet to be discovered sceneries may very well become the catalyst for falling in love with the charms of the Tohoku region.

The exterior design of TOHOKU EMOTION leaves travelers with a lasting impression./Photo Credit:JR East
During the journey, passengers can watch the chef cook up the meals right before their eyes in the open kitchen railcar./Photo Credit:JR East

FruiTea Fukushima | The Traveling Café Train Filled with the Charm of the Fruit Kingdom
※ Cease operating in December 2023.

Fukushima, with its rich history, beautiful natural landscapes, and unique local food, is particularly famous for its fruits. Apples, peaches, cherries, pears, grapes, and more—Fukushima is known as the Fruit Kingdom of Japan. Roaming through this region is a delightful train particularly loved by ladies, the FruiTea Fukushima. It specializes in fruit sweets and has been serving for eight years. ※ Cease operating in December 2023.

According to one of the train’s founding members, they invested a lot of thought into creating a unique concept that would stand out from other Joyful Trains and provide dining services during the hour-long train ride. Eventually, they settled on the idea of a "traveling café" and brought forth the FruiTea Fukushima. The train highlights Fukushima's reputation as the Fruit Kingdom, allowing passengers to indulge in visual and gustatory delights with original sweets and beverages sourced locally.

This intimate train consists of two carriages, featuring box seats and a café counter. The interior design is tastefully done, predominantly adorned in red and black. Outside the windows, one can be greeted by Fukushima's breathtaking natural scenery. The tables are adorned with original sweet sets and juices, allowing one to capture stunning Instagrammable photos from every angle.

The name "FruiTea Fukushima" cleverly combines the elements of "Fruit" and "Tea." Each month, the train offers original sweet sets crafted by popular local stores using fruits from Fukushima. For instance, Fruits Peaks, which has branches in Tokyo, and Cocco Tree, known for its puddings and pancakes. The stores serve sweet sets featuring Fukushima cherries and blueberries in June. A sip of Fukushima-produced fruit juice or black tea allows one to take in the sweetness of the fruits with the scenic rural landscapes of the region, creating a delightful fusion. Seize this final opportunity to savor the unique sweetness of Fukushima before winter arrives!

(Left) Cocoa-flavored cake adorned with ganache, orange slices, and strawberries. The finishing touch is the highlight of a cherry accompanied by heart-shaped whipping cream, creating a perfect combination of orange and chocolate flavors;(Right) Fruit jelly made with vibrant and seasonal fruits, including cherries. The burst of fruity aroma when the jelly melts in one’s mouth is truly delightful./Photo Credit:JR East
The spacious window café counter is perfect for an Instaworthy shot./Photo Credit:JR East

※ Photos and menus of each Joyful Train are for reference only.
※ Meal menu may vary depending on the season and train route. Please check the official website for the latest information before making a reservation.
※ Scenery varies with the seasons and travel routes. Images and descriptions are for reference only.
※ The above information is as of May 2023. Please check with the official website for any updates.


Easy and Simple: Reserve your Seat Now

Since March 2022, the JR East Group has established an online reservation platform called the "Joyful Trains Reservation Website (のってたのしい列車予約サイト)" to facilitate passenger reservations for travel products (including a one-way ticket and meal vouchers) of the KAIRI, Koshino Shu✲Kura, TOHOKU EMOTION and FruiTea Fukushima trains. One can easily complete the reservation process in just a few simple steps. ※ FruiTea Fukushima is set to retire in December 2023.

If the travel date is within one month, simply select the designated train and choose the preferred travel options on the reservation website. Fill in your personal information and make the payment using a credit card to complete the reservation process. In addition, the website also accepts advance reservations for more than one month ahead. After completing the advance reservation, you will receive a payment notification one month before the travel date when your seat is confirmed. Please check your email inbox to avoid missing the payment deadline.

The final reservation day for "KAIRI" and "TOHOKU EMOTION" is four days before the departure date, while for "Koshino Shu✲Kura" and "FruiTea Fukushima," it’s three days before.

Tickets reserved on the "Joyful Trains Reservation Website (のってたのしい列車予約サイト)" do not need to be physically issued. On the day of your journey, simply go to the departure station and present the station staff with your digital ticket on a smartphone or other device. Then, you can enjoy your journey relaxedly without a physical ticket!

Currently, the reservation website is only available in Japanese. However, the operating company of the "Joyful Trains Reservation Website (のってたのしい列車予約サイト)" has created a special English version video introducing the reservation process step by step. 

Visit the "Joyful Trains Reservation Website (のってたのしい列車予約サイト)

After waiting eagerly for the world to recover from the pandemic and being able to travel abroad again, why not embark on a slightly luxurious and joyful journey to experience a different side of Japan? Let us ride the Joyful Trains, traverse the beautiful landscapes, savor authentic domestic cuisine, and experience the unique charm of Eastern Japan.

The content of this article is provided by “JR EAST VIEW Tourism and Sales”.