Japan’s Moonlight Nagara train service ends, leaving a hole in overnight rail travel

A sad day for travellers, especially Seishun 18 ticket holders.

While Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains get all the limelight on the international stage, where they’re loved for their punctuality, speed and spick-and-span interiors, there are plenty of other Japanese trains equally deserving of our love and attention.

The Moonlight Nagara is one such train, reliably ferrying passengers across the land on long-haul overnight trips between Tokyo and Gifu, spanning a total of five prefectures and covering a distance of roughly 442 kilometres (275 miles).

▼ The six-hour-40-minute train journey takes around nine hours by car, using expressways.

The current rapid overnight train service, operated by Central Japan Railway Company and East Japan Railway Company, has been active since 1996. However, in recent years its popularity has declined due to competition from cheap overnight bus services, and after its schedule was reduced to busy seasonal periods only, it’s now been announced that the service will stop running altogether.

▼ The 165 series Moonlight Nagara in 2000

▼ And the 183/189 series in 2007

The announcement came as sad news for many, but nobody is feeling the loss more than users of the Seishun 18 Kippu. This discounted ticket package–limited for use during four weeks in winter, five weeks in spring, and around seven weeks in summer–contains five days’ worth of unlimited travel on local and regular Japan Railways express trains for just 2,410 yen (US$23.24) per day.

▼ We once used the ticket to travel with a discount to Korea by ferry.

Considering a one-way journey from Tokyo Station to Gifu’s …continue reading