Two ways to really enjoy the ride in Japan’s biggest prefecture.

Hokkaido is Japan’s largest prefecture, and the Shinkansen only reaches a tiny corner of it. So more so than anywhere else in the country, if you’re traveling in Hokkaido, it’s best to adopt a “It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination” kind of attitude.

Thankfully, the abundant beautiful natural scenery of the Hokkaido helps make this easy to do, and it’s going to be getting even easier with a pair of beautiful new luxury travel trains coming from JR (Japan Railways) Hokkaido.

Dubbed the Red Star and Blue Star, the brightly colored trains are actually refurbished Kiha 143-class carriages, which in their ordinary form look like this.

The Kiha 143 was retired from service last year, but rather than just scrapping them all, JR Hokkaido is using four cars each for the Red and Bue Star trains, upgrading them with posh amenities and fixtures for a more luxurious riding experience. Here’s a standard Kiha 143 interior…

and here’s what the Red (left) and Blue Star (right) passenger areas will look like.

The Red Star will have a maximum capacity of 100 passengers, with private and semi-private compartments as well as box seats. It’ll also have a lounge and viewing room, shown in the images below.

The Blue Star will have double the passenger capacity, 200, and wide-view windows at every seat, with what look to be tables between each row.

If the elegant retro aesthetics and ample use of wood in the interior are jogging your memory, you might be thinking of Kyushu’s Cruise Train Seven Stars or Yamanashi Prefecture’s Fujisan View Express, two previous projects from Red/Blue Star designer Eiji Mitooka.

Exact station-to-station routes have yet to be announced, but the Red Star will be running along the Senmo Main Line, also known as the Kushiro Line, which connects Kushiro and Abashiri Stations. Meanwhile, the Blue Star will travel along the Furano Line, which runs from Furano to Asashikawa Stations.

▼ The Blue Star and color were chosen to evoke thoughts of Furano’s Blue Pond and lavender fields.

The Red and Blue Stars are scheduled to go into service in the spring of 2026.

Source: JR Hokkaido via IT Media
Top image: JR Hokkaido
Insert images: JR Hokkaido, Wikipedia/出々 吾壱, Wikipedia/MaedaAkihiko, SoraNews24
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