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Sunrise Seto Night Train

mdchachi

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We're considering taking the Sunrise Seto in mid-July. My wife doesn't want to ride on a nobi nobi seat because it's a shared space. However I'd hate to spend the money on a private cabin if it turns out that the nobi-nobi seats are only at less than 50% capacity.

Anyway my question is does anybody have any experience with that train and, if so, how full were the nobi-nobi cars? We'll be traveling in a mid-July which should be a relatively low season. Plus sleeping-car train travel is not so popular these days.
 

Mike Cash

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Which way are you riding? For the Tokyo-bound trains you can check online up to a month in advance, but for the Takamatsu-bound trains you have to telephone. Information is available up to one month in advance.

サンライズ瀬戸の空席情報 - サンライズ瀬戸で行く四国旅行 予約方法とツアー情報

I'll admit I'm googling all this as I go, so it is a learning experience for me.

I have found photos of what the spaces look like:

寝台料金不要 サンライズ瀬戸・出雲のノビノビ座席 : さざなみ壊変

If she has a thing about shared spaces, this may not be the time to cheap out on her. You're bringing her halfway around the world and riding on a special train, fork out the dough for a private room if it will keep peace in the family.

Anyway, from what I can tell regarding the nature of the thing, the train is mainly private compartments. The nobi nobi seats don't even fill one car. (Note that the train splits/joins sections at Okayama, so there are half as many as it might look like at first glance). I wouldn't be surprised if they're more filled than you think they would be. And I would expect them to be filled with people perhaps a bit more boisterous and noisy than the missus may like.

https://ja.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/瀬戸_(列車)

One idea, if you do decide to go with the nobi nobi seats: try to reserve your seats early and make sure you get two together by a bulkhead. That way she can take the space next to a solid wall and you can take the adjacent one, meaning she won't have to worry about rubbing elbows with a stranger through the curtain in the middle of the night.
 

mdchachi

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Thanks Mike!

The idea is to head out from Tokyo and return by other means. The nobi-nobi seki is included in the JR Rail fare so it would be nice not to pay more. Of course I well know when money is less important than keeping the peace. Or we could give her a single spot while the kids and I do the zaseki thing. Or two private & two nobi-nobi. We'll see. Fortunately she also likes to save money.

Good point about capacity. This being Japan, it's not likely to be gara-gara. Still, mid-July is certainly not high season. The seats look fairly full in this video but judging by the rice paddies I think this was taken in May or June.

The bulkhead idea would be ideal. One issue with that though, if I'm not mistaken, is that you can't reserve seats until you are in-country when using the JR Rail Pass. So we may not be able to make any decisions until that week. Good to know that you can ask by phone.

Thanks again.
 

Mike Cash

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Since there will be more than just you two, so long as you have the berths all together you should be alright. She can have a family member on either side of her.
 

mdchachi

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Since there will be more than just you two, so long as you have the berths all together you should be alright. She can have a family member on either side of her.
For a family of four I was thinking it would make more sense to allocate the berths vertically like bunk beds. But, all in a row, that's an idea. Anyway she's not that phobic about it. I think she's coming around to the idea.
 
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Mike Cash

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For a family of four I was thinking it would make more sense to allocate the births vertically like bunk beds. But that's an idea. Anyway she's not that phobic about it. I think she's coming around to the idea.
Some of the search results I got gave me the impression that it can be hard to get reservations, at least on the Izumo half of the train. You may end up having to take whatever you can get.
 

mdchachi

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Some of the search results I got gave me the impression that it can be hard to get reservations, at least on the Izumo half of the train. You may end up having to take whatever you can get.
Yep. Probably have to play it by ear. That's the disadvantage to the rail pass but if we can save a couple hundred bucks I'll take it. But we're going to Takamatsu, not Izumo, so I'm hopeful.
 

mdchachi

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Reporting back on our Sunrise Seto experience. We booked our ride about 5 days in advance. By that time the car was more than half booked and we were only able to get two side by side which forced my wife to sleep on the nobi-nobi because we couldn't leave one kid alone. We had two upper berths against the bulkhead where my wife slept next to one of my kids. And then I had two lower berths on the other side of the car for myself and my other son. Since we would be getting hot & sweaty climbing the 1368 steps at Kompira-san the next day followed by a stay at an onsen, my kids and I didn't bother buying the shower card. My wife did however and she said she slept well.

The spots next to her didn't fill up leading me to believe that people changed their plans or just didn't show up. So if i were to do it over again, I'd probably check the seating situation one more time just before boarding to see if we could have been lined up as a family. But it wasn't a big deal. We could go back and forth as needed and we slept mostly considering that boarding time was around 10pm and arrival around 7am. We didn't even bother getting eki-bens since there was no need to eat on the train given that schedule. We had some mugicha and sembei for snacks though.

Note there are no places to put luggage aside from within your nobi-nobi space but a full-size suitcase could fit mostly out of the way across two spots.

As for the experience, it's somewhat like a capsule hotel except much less comfortable and less private. It feels like sleeping on thin carpeting over plywood (less pliable than tatami). You are given a thin sheet and blanket and no pillow. I used my air-travel blow-up pillow. I was able to sleep and certainly more comfortably than on an economy seat in an airplane but far from any normal standard of comfort. A backpacker sleeping pad would have been helpful. That said, the price was right and I'd probably do it again. And, most importantly, the wife (and kids) seemed to enjoy the experience.
 
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Our family of six travelled on the Sunrise Seto in May 2017. We used the Nobi Nobi's. The kids and my wife slept well, particularly the younger ones. I struggled however due to pain in my knees due to previous injuries which meant I couldn't lay flat on my back or my stomach. If I had brought my sleeping pad i would have been fine. (not complaining mind you).

I loved the early morning rattling along into Shikoku Island.
 
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