The Seven Stars in Kyushu train is one of the most amazing train journeys you can have in Japan and hands-down one that we were looking forward to the most when we visited Kyushu.
See, the Seven Stars is an uber-luxurious sleeper train (easily one of the best, not just in Japan but in the world – and I don’t say that lightly either) where your every need is taken care of as you explore the beautiful island that is Kyushu.
You know what, rather than me going on trying to describe it, let me show you instead (by the way, you might wanna go make yourself a nice big cuppa tea now or hunker down with a generously poured glass of wine as this is a pretty huge post).
We started off our trip in Fukuoka (the city) and even on arrival at the lounge in Hakata station, you know you’re in for a treat as your bags as whisked off you and you’re welcomed with treats of your choice.
(And yes, that’s sparkling sake in the morning – you can have teas, juices and coffees but I was not about to waste a single bit of this experience on ‘regular’ breakfast caffeine 😀 ).
Soon enough, it was time to board the train and immediately we got on, it’s safe to say I fell in love with the place that would be our ‘home’ over the next few days.
We started things off at the bar with a (non-alcoholic) iced green tea…
…before making our way through the train to go check out the suites!
And what a beauty they are. Every detail, right down to the bathroom sink is just so beautifully designed and easily one of the most gorgeous trains we’ve been on!
To say we were excited would be something of an understatement!
Fast forward a couple of hours later and it was time for lunch (all prepared by the Executive Head Chef of the Seven Stars)!
We started with a selection of appetisers – from Yobuko squid, tiger prawns and Kagoshima caviar, through to wine-fed kuroge wagyu beef. 😋
…before moving on to Goto udon noodles for the next course.
The noodles soon gave way to white fish with kuzu…
… and miso soup with seasonal vegetables.
Dessert came in the form of soft tofu (which was a totally delightful surprise for me as I’ve never been the biggest of tofu in the past).
All in all, an absolutely delicious lunch and one that surprised me how stuffed I was by the end of it. 😀 I just loved how there was so much variety too! It was like eating your way through Kyushu in one meal.
Shortly after lunch, we arrived at our first stop – Arita, a town in the Saga prefecture of Kyushu that renowned the world over for its porcelain.
The porcelain here doesn’t come cheap (not if you go to the traditional places that have done it for generations) but it’s easy to see why once you get a first-hand look at the process and skill that goes into it.
For that, we headed to an Atelier Kiln called Seirokugama, where we got to experience first hand, the craftsmanship that goes into this centuries-old art.
Typically, a ‘Kiln’ is essentially an oven for baking pottery (e.g. the porcelain here) but an ‘Atelier Kiln’ is much more than just an oven. It’s also the incredible craftsmanship, art, design and detail that goes into each piece.
Suffice to say, there’s very good reason why each piece is really treasured (and fairly expensive).
The porcelain we’d been using on the train (plates, art on the walls and even the sinks in the bathrooms) all come from Arita and seeing it from the raw material through to the (almost finished) product – tea and treats in hand, I just knew I had to get a little souvenir before we left the Arita for the train again!
And so, with free time on our hands, we off we went souvenir hunting (we’d already gotten some sake cups at Seirokugama but I was eager to get some more stuff… and also check out the town, of course)…
…stopping off to check Keiun-ji.
Back on the train, we kicked back and relaxed with cocktails and we zipped past the Japanese countryside.
^ That building above is actually a theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki (called Huis Ten Bosch) based on the Netherlands – ergo the style of the building! It’s apparently all very Dutch inside.
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner and we kicked things off with an obligatory glass of champagne before tucking into the most amazing feast.
Each item on the menu is inspired by a different part of Kyushu, with ingredients sourced from the island – all of was absolutely delicious!
Shortly after dinner, we stopped off in Nagasaki station where we were excitedly told to head to the platform for a special Bian lian performance.
Truth be told, I knew to nothing about Bian lian and on further inquiry was told that it was an ancient Chinese face-changing performance… which, at the time, really didn’t describe much.
And I’m glad it didn’t because, by the time the face started changing, I pretty much had to pick my jaw off the ground! It. Is. Incredible!
There’s all this dancing and in less than a second, with a quick whip of a fan (or a micro-second turn around), the mask faces would change.
And this happened over and over again with us none the wiser about how it was happening!
There were so many face changes (far more than I have on camera) – all from the exact same person.
I still have no idea how she did it, what I do know however is that if you even get a chance to experience Bian lian, you’ve got to do so!
Back on the train, still amazed and perplexed by what we’d just seen, we were welcomed back with live music, delicious cocktails and sweet treats!
And so that’s what we spent the rest of the evening doing till late into the night – sampling as many offerings of the cocktail bar as possible (which is nigh-impossible as they can make you cocktails that don’t even appear on the menu)…
…indulging in even more sweet treats
…and pinching ourselves about how amazing the Seven Stars train had been so far!
It’s one thing to have high expectations.
To then have those (already high) expectations then surpassed (sometimes in ways you didn’t even expect) just makes for such an amazing trip and the Seven Stars in Kyushu certainly delivered on that front!