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SAPHIR ODORIKO: A sapphire blue sea route to Izu on first-class green carriages

SAPHIR ODORIKO: A sapphire blue sea route to Izu on first-class green carriages

With Izu (伊豆) as our destination, we set off from Tokyo (東京) by boarding the SAPHIR ODORIKO (サフィール踊り子) luxury sightseeing train from Tokyo Station (東京駅). This luxury train consisted entirely of green car seatings and we were extremely lucky to be able to book ourselves seats in the very grand Car No.1 Premium Green. The SAPHIR ODORIKO runs along the coast of Shizuoka (静岡), passing through Atami (熱海), Ito (伊東) and reaching as far as Shimoda (下田). From the train, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji (富士山) against the sapphire blue sea if you’re lucky. It is also recommended to make a reservation in advance for the cafeteria so as to enjoy the beautiful scenery while delighting in the scrumptious menus offered exclusively on the train.

*This article covers the booking of tickets for SAPHIR ODORIKO, train routes, timetables, features of each carriage, and the JR TOKYO Wide Pass.

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

When traveling from Tokyo to Shizuoka, the land of Mount Fuji, apart from the original route from Tokyo to Izu or Shuzenji (修善寺) area taken by the Odoriko Express (踊り子号) (all reserved seating), JR EAST has launched a newly upgraded and luxurious, first-class-only train service, the “SAPHIR ODORIKO” as of 14 March 2020.

 

The name “SAPHIR” is derived from the word “sapphire” in French, representing the pure, gem-like blue ocean and skies of Izu, hoping to bring travelers endless beautiful memories of their journey in Izu. To reflect this, the design of SAPHIR ODORIKO and the first carriage also incorporates the same shade of sapphire blue.

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Train routes and timetables

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

The SAPHIR ODORIKO departs from Tokyo Station, Shinagawa (品川駅)/Shinjuku Station (新宿駅), and Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) (with trains only running on weekends from Shinjuku and Shibuya Station). Heading towards Izu, Shizuoka, the train passes by Yokohama Station (横浜駅), Atami Station (熱海駅), Ito Station (伊東駅), and Kawazu Station (河津駅) amongst other stations before finally arriving in Izukyū-Shimoda Station (伊急下田駅).

 

There are two regular trains a day, with additional train services running on weekdays and public holidays. The SAPHIR ODORIKO typically departs from Tokyo Station at 11:00, arrives at Atami Station at approximately 12:17, Ito Station at 12:36, Kawazu Station at 13:18, and finally reaches Izukyū-Shimoda Station at 13:29, making the total train ride from the first station to the last station close to 2.5 hours.

 

This diagram shows only a portion of the train timetable, please refer to the official website for the complete timetable. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The timetable for trains bound for Izukyū-Shimoda Station shows a fixed service departing from Tokyo Station at 11:00 every day (departing from Shinagawa Station at 11:08), as well as an additional train service departing from Tokyo Station at 12:30 on weekdays (departing from Shinagawa Station at 12:38). On weekends and Japanese national holidays, additional train services will depart from Shinjuku Station at 12:25 and from Shibuya Station at 12:30.

 

 

This diagram shows only a portion of the train timetable, please refer to the official website for the complete timetable. (Image credit: JR East)

 

The return journey of SAPHIR ODORIKO, regardless of fixed services or additional services, will run from Izukyū-Shimoda Station to Tokyo Station. 

 

For the complete train timetable (trains bound for Izukyū-Shimoda), please refer here

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Fares 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

Similar to other sightseeing trains in Japan, the fare for the SAPHIR ODORIKO can be calculated by adding the “Basic fare” (運賃 unchin) and the “Limited Express fare” (特急料金 tokkyū ryōkin) together, with the latter varying according to the class of each carriage. 

 

(Image credit: JR East)

 

Limited Express fare + Premium Green fares: Car No.1 — costs ¥8,470 per pax from Tokyo Station to Ito Station and ¥12,460 per pax from Tokyo Station to Izukyū-Shimoda Station. Reservations can be made through Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines, JR EAST ticket offices, or the JR EAST Train Reservation website.

 

Cars No. 2 and 3 are divided into two private compartments that can accommodate 1-4 pax and 1-6 pax respectively. Using the 1-4 pax compartment as an example, the journey from Tokyo Station to Ito Station will cost ¥23,710 for 3 pax and ¥27,880 for 4 pax; while the journey from Tokyo Station to Izukyū-Shimoda Station will cost ¥33,880 for 3 pax and ¥40,240 for 4 pax. Do note that reservations can only be made through Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines and JR EAST ticket offices. Reservations CANNOT be made through the JR EAST Train Reservation website.

 

(Image credit: JR East)

 

A private compartment for 1-6 pax in Cars No.2 and 3 will cost ¥33,480 for 4 pax and ¥41,820 for 6 pax from Tokyo Station to Ito Station, while it will cost ¥47,640 for 4 pax and ¥60,360 for 6 pax from Tokyo Station to Izukyū-Shimoda Station. Similarly, reservations can only be made through Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines and JR EAST ticket offices, and NOT through the JR EAST Train Reservation website. 

 

Cars No.5 to 8 will cost ¥6,970 per pax from Tokyo Station to Ito Station and ¥10,060 per pax from Tokyo Station to Izukyū-Shimoda Station. Reservations can be made through Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machines, JR EAST ticket offices, or the JR EAST Train Reservation website. 

 

For train fares, please refer to JR East’s official SAPHIR ODORIKO website here

*Reservations for Cars No.2 and 3 cannot be made through the JR EAST Train Reservation website. 

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Car No. 1 Premium Green

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

I would like to thank my very capable partner for helping us reserve seats for the SAPHIR ODORIKO, and what’s more, even getting us seats in the Premium Green carriage that is painted in the iconic sapphire blue. As a fan of trains, I couldn’t stop smiling as soon as I got on the train. We waited on the platform as the SAPHIR ODORIKO made its grand entrance into the station. After getting on the train, we left our huge suitcases in the luggage storage compartment and proceeded to look for the seats that we’d reserved. 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

Car No.1 boats two rows of specially built independent electric seats, with a total of 20 seats in the carriage. Windows are installed on both sides of the train as well as on the roof, to allow passengers to enjoy the beautiful sunlight and ocean views during their journey, making this a distinguishing feature from the other carriages. 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

As the train master’s cabin is located in Car No.1, the transparent windows allow the passengers seated in the first two rows of the carriage to enjoy a completely different viewing experience. As such, we were able to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji as the train advanced forward. Everyone in the carriage was excited to be able to capture such an amazing sight and we too, were grateful to have such great luck.

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

There is a special switch on the back of the recliner in Car No.1, which when pulled, allows the recliner to be rotated in any direction you like. If you are traveling with friends or family, the seats can be turned in such a way that allows for four people to end up facing one another. 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

By using the button panel found next to the seat, you can also adjust the inclination of the seat, or raise the footrest. As the seat is extremely spacious, you can even fully straighten your legs to indulge in a more comfortable traveling experience. 

 

Next to the seat, a reading light, a USB charging port, as well as a storage table have been thoughtfully installed (you will need to lift up the brown cover in order to take out the storage table). 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

  • There are restrooms and basins installed in some carriages, with a barrier-free restroom available in Car No.5.
  • There is a luggage storage compartment in Car No.1 (Luggage storage compartments are also available in Cars No.5 to 8, for Cars No.2 and 3, luggages can be stored within the private compartments).

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Cars No. 2 and 3 Green Car private compartments

Cars No.2 and 3 Green Car private compartments. (Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

Leaving Car No.1, we entered Cars No.2 and 3 by passing through an automated door. The design here is mostly clean and the use of white spaces exudes an aura of elegance. On the other side of the aisle lie the private compartments (for 1-4 pax and 1-6 pax). 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

In contrast to the other carriages, since Cars No.2 and 3 are private compartments, passengers are completely undisturbed, making it especially suitable for group travel. 

 

The official website describes these carriages as a relaxing space akin to that of a tranquil cafe. Due to the furnishing and materials utilized, I couldn’t help but be reminded of an atmosphere similar to that of a European library. 

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Car No. 4 Cafeteria

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

Car No. 4 is a cafeteria with an open kitchen concept. Developed by chefs from popular restaurants found along the train’s route, together with the use of local ingredients and delicacies, each journey for passengers promises a delicious exclusive menu offered by SAPHIR. We indulged in our meal while enjoying the beautiful Sagami Bay (相模湾 Sagami-wan) which we passed by along the way. In order to dine in, you will be required to make an advanced booking online to reserve for a time slot, the number of pax, and the menu, before arriving on time for your reservation.

 

*For passengers in Cars No. 2 and 3, the menus will be available as take-outs, which the staff members will deliver to your compartment. 

Please refer to the instructions on how to make a reservation here.

 

The seats near the bar as well as the table for four are all next to the windows. (Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

When we visited, the SAPHIR ODORIKO just happened to be collaborating with the Chinese restaurant “MIYU”, located in Atami, Shizuoka, with the owner, Miyuki Igarashi (五十嵐美ゆ幸)being invited to supervise the research and development of the exclusive SAPHIR ODORIKO limited menu. The popular items include the wonton noodle set, tantan tsukemen (坦々つけ麺), and rice bowl dishes amongst many others (previously, the menu included Italian dishes such as pizzas and even ramen dishes).

 

A mushroom siewmai (シュウマイ) wrapped in fried beancurd skin. (Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

*The cafeteria also offers drinks, alcoholic beverages, snacks and desserts. The menu will be revised from time to time. Please refer to the official website for the latest information.

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Cars No.5 to 8 Green Cars

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Cars No.5 to 8 are arranged in a 2+1 configuration, with a relatively clean design style making use of mostly white elements. 

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Sceneries along the route

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

Returning to our seats in the SAPHIR ODORIKO Car No.1, the sea could already be seen outside the windows just about one hour into our journey!

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

The weather was fantastic and Izu Oshima (伊豆大島) was perfectly visible, with the water shining a shade of blue just like sapphire the train was named after. On this trip from Tokyo to Izu, and with Mount Fuji right in front of our eyes as we headed to Shizuoka, we were really delighted to be blessed with such amazing luck. 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

SAPHIR ODORIKO Seat reservation + JR TOKYO Wide Pass ticket booking

Izukyū-Shimoda Station. (Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

At the JR EAST ticket offices, you can get the staff to assist you with the reservation of the SAPHIR ODORIKO tickets. However, while taking into consideration your departure date, it may be too late to make an on-site reservation in Japan, thus it is recommended to make use of the JR EAST Train Reservation website to make a reservation instead. 

 

The 3-day JR Pass, “JR TOKYO Wide Pass”, can come in handy when visiting Tokyo. During the validity period of this pass, you can take the SAPHIR ODORIKO and save on train fares by only paying the limited express fares (refer to the previous section of the article “SAPHIR ODORIKO Fares”).

 

JR TOKYO Wide Pass validity period, range and price

(Image credit: JR East

 

The JR TOKYO Wide Pass can be used for 3 consecutive days. During this period, you can make unlimited use of trains and bullet trains (新幹線 Shinkansen) in the area, much like an “All-you-can-ride JR local trains and shinkansen” buffet. It covers the trains departing from Haneda (羽田空港)/Narita Airport (成田国際空港) as well as from Tokyo Station to areas in Shizuoka such as Atami and Ito (the pass also covers urban areas within Tokyo, Lake Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Karuizawa (軽井沢), Utsunomiya (宇都宮) and Echigo-Yuzawa (越後湯沢) amongst many others. 

 

The pass costs ¥15,000 for adults (aged 12 and above) and ¥7,500 for children (between the ages of 6-11).

 

JR TOKYO Wide Pass purchasing, exchanging, seat reservation, and ticket collection

How to purchase the JR TOKYO Wide Pass:

  1. Purchase passes online, from websites such as the official JR EAST Train Reservation website
  2. Purchase passes from a Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machine by scanning the IC chip on your passport 
  3. Purchase passes from a ticket office in Japan (the first two methods are recommended to save time on queueing and to make seat reservations quickly).


(Image credit: JR East)

 

Enter the JR EAST Train Reservation website, register as a member and then click “Purchase a pass” or “Seat reservation” according to your needs. (Do note that “Seat reservation” requires you to already be holding on to a pass). 

You can change the languages on the website to enable a smoother process of pass/ticket purchasing. 

 

(Image credit: JR East)

 

Then, select the type of pass/ticket you wish to purchase and then continue by following the steps as described on the website. After the purchase is successful, you can proceed to make payment with a credit card. 

 

If you still have uncertainties regarding how to make a purchase, you can refer to the official website for further instructions.

 

Using a QR Code to collect passes/reserved seat ticket

(Image credit: JR East)

 

There are passport-scanning ticketing machines in JR EAST stations that provide multiple languages. Select the language that you prefer by pressing the button in the upper right corner of the interface. 

 

When collecting your pass/ticket, choose “Receive using a QR code” or “Receive using a credit card” according to the method selected when ordering. I’d personally downloaded the QR code that was on my order document into my phone and I’d scanned the barcode at the ticketing machine to collect my tickets. 

 

You can make reservations for reserved seatings on trains using the same method. 

 

Please refer to the step-by-step instructions provided on the official website for collecting, purchasing and reserving tickets using the ticketing machines.

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

When booking a reserved seat using the JR EAST Train Reservation website or Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machine equipped with a passport scanner, you can choose the carriage that you prefer. After clicking on your preferred carriage, you will open up the seat list where you can choose a window seat or aisle seat, as well as the row and seat number. 

 

To reserve seats for the SAPHIR ODORIKO, you can follow the steps mentioned earlier. You can first enter the JR EAST Train Reservation website, click “Seat reservation” (you must already have a pass), and then select the timing of the SAPHIR ODORIKO train (please refer to the previous section in this article). Use the Japanese page to search for “サフィール踊り子” or otherwise “SAPHIR ODORIKO“ if you are using the English page. 

 

JAPAN RAIL CAFE in Tokyo Station is a composite space that combines a cafe together with a tourist center. Pass/ticket purchases and collection services are also available here. (Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

Should any problems arise when you are collecting your tickets at the ticketing machine or if the machine fails to operate, you can visit the ticket office and ask a staff member to assist you in your purchasing and collection process. 

 

Click here to check out the ticket collection locations.

 

Upon entering the website and clicking on the type of JR Pass, you will be able to see a list of ticket offices that provide ticket collection services such as Narita Airport Terminal 2 and 3 (成田国際空港 第2/第3ターミナル), Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, as well as other popular locations. 

 

However, the ticketing offices are restricted by operating hours, and queues might also be long if there are a lot of passengers. In short, I would recommend that you purchase your passes/tickets online (e.g., through the JR EAST Train Reservation website) and collect the passes/tickets with a Reserved Seat Ticketing Vending Machine equipped with a passport scanner upon your arrival in Japan. 

 

How to use the JR TOKYO Wide Pass

The name of the pass/ticket (in English), validity period and other information will be printed on the successfully collected pass/ticket. (Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

The JR TOKYO Wide Pass can be used in the same way as other passes. When entering a station, you can insert the pass/ticket into the gate and remember to take it out before leaving the gate.



JR EAST Pass Special Promotion and “&EKINAKA” Discount

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

  1. From now until 6 May 2024, a special promotion in collaboration with GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort has been launched where pass holders for JR TOKYO Wide Pass, JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) and/or JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass are eligible for three special offers. Please refer to the official website for more information. 
  2. JR EAST has also launched a special offer program called “&EKINAKA” for passengers holding on to JR East passes, including shopping offers, redemption gifts or free drinks. This does not only apply to the JR TOKYO Wide Pass which I’d used, but the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and the JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) are also eligible for the “&EKINAKA” special offer program. 

 

Please check out the “&EKINAKA” official website and click on the type of pass that you are holding on to and the place of usage. The webpage will display a list of stations, merchants and types of shops where you can enjoy the special offers. 

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

For this trip, I took the SAPHIR ODORIKO to Atami Station, where there were five merchants in the “LUSCA ATAMI” shopping mall, located at Atami Station, in collaboration with the “&EKINAKA” special offer program.

 

(Image credit: Banbi Hsu)

 

The store names, locations, types and conditions for obtaining the special offers are all displayed on the official website. Please refer to the official website for the latest information and updates on the special offer program. 

 

Adapted with permission from Banbi’s blog page.

 

Writer’s profile

I am Banbi (斑比), a full-time photographer and travel blogger. I have published two books, held online photography courses, as well as travel and photography lectures. As someone who has turned photography and the act of creating into a way of life and work, I’m always either on the road traveling, engaged in food photography, or searching for creative inspiration. For a more detailed self-introduction, please visit my blog!

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