This was sad news... Japan has a brilliant selection of sleeper trains and, although they have been phasing a lot of them out over the years, to hear that they're getting rid of the top-notch services was heart-breaking.
My experiences on sleeper trains in Japan has always been fantastic. The staff are amazing, dedicated to their work and more than happy to help out a non-fluent Japanese speaker. Currently my checklist includes the Twilight Express, Nihonkai, Kitaguni and Hokutosei, but I'm think I need to get the others ticked before they're scrapped.
Reasons for the cancellation of Sleeper Trains:
- The opening of the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Sapporo
- Age of fleet (30+ years)
- Decreased patronage of Sleeper Trains (thanks to aircraft)
- Cancellation schedule:
The Japanese Fiscal Year runs from April of said year to March 31st of the next. So 'End of Fiscal 2014' would be March 31st 2015 and 'End of Fiscal 2015' would be March 31st 2016.
I can understand that they're scrapping the older (although very well maintained) services ... but it's astonishing that JR East is scrapping the services that have just received brand new locomotives to haul them! The EF510-500 Series locomotives were only introduced in 2010 to pull both the Casseiopeia and Hokutosei services.
Something random to check out: Here's a link to EF81-104 (one of the Twilight Express Locomotives) being chopped up. Turns out that's the one I travelled behind back in July 2009. RIP.
Pictures of the Sleeper Trains
Unfortunately, I've never seen the Casseiopeia in the flesh... Will need to do so before they cut that up too.