With tatami mats, noren curtains and a zen garden, this is one of the most stunning and affordable ways to travel in Japan. 

Kyoto is well known for being a city of historic beauty, with an impressive number of ancient shrines and temples, pristine Japanese gardens, and rows of beautifully preserved traditional townhouses known as machiya. It’s these machiya, in fact, that give the streets of downtown Kyoto its unique charm, and while it can be a dream for many to step inside one, there’s now a novel way to experience their beauty firsthand, even before arriving in the old capital.

All it takes is a ticket to ride the Kyotrain Garaku, a new train that takes you from Osaka to Kyoto on the Hankyu Kyoto Line in less than 45 minutes. Although you might wish the ride was longer, given that the train looks like this.

The beautiful wrap on the outside of the train makes it look like all the carriages are covered in traditional lacquer, with golden embellishments giving it a sense of refined elegance, which was the design brief Hankyu Railways was aiming for.

This elegance continues inside the train, where each carriage comes with its own seasonal theme to highlight the changing scenery of Kyoto throughout the year. Car 1 features maple-leaf motifs, to represent autumn, while Car 2 is decorated in bamboo motifs, as a nod to winter.

Car 3 salutes the sakura cherry blossoms of spring, Car 4 is adorned in geraniums for summer, while Cars 5 and 6 focus their attention on the early autumn pampas grass, and the plum blossoms seen in early spring.

Cars 2 and 5 also have sections with seats facing the windows, so you can feel like you’re sitting on a viewing porch overlooking a regal landscape..

Other interior touches you’ll be hard pressed to find on any other train are the noren curtains at the entrance to each carriage, tatami straw mat details, and tranquil Japanese gardens.

▼ Round windows resemble those seen at temples and samurai villas…

▼ The walls are decorated with Japanese imagery and items like fans…

▼ And there are bamboo blinds on the windows.

▼  Even the hand straps have a high-class leather-and-wood look to them.

The Kyotrain Garaku is currently running between Kyoto’s Kawaramachi and Osaka’s Umeda Stations, with stops at Karasuma, Katsura, Awaji, and Juso. The train runs seven times a day (weekends and holidays only), with the first and last departures from Umeda being 9:32 a.m. and 3:32 p.m., and those from Kawaramachi being 10:41 a.m. and 4:41 p.m.

While Hankyu Railway isn’t covered by the all-inclusive JR rail pass that’s popular with foreign travellers to Japan, the Kyotrain Garaku fare from Umeda to Kawaramachi is just 400 yen (US$3.50), the same as any other Hankyu train traveling between those two stations. It’s an incredibly affordable way to experience one of the country’s most beautiful and unique trains, which means we can put aside some extra yen for a trip on some of the country’s other stunning trains.

Source: Twitter/京とれいん
Featured image: Twitter/@jun02tb

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