More than 600,000 Japanese will go overseas later this month during the 'golden week' holiday. That is 13 per cent more than last year, and a new record. But for many, the world's tourist haunts and shopping meccas have lost their lustre. Instead, they want to stay at home and ride the trains. Not the 'bullet' variety, where speed is paramount - but just the opposite - luxurious 'rolling suites' where the longer the trip takes, the better. The Twilight Express is nearly always fully booked. Since its launch nine years ago, it has been labelled Japan's best train experience. The train sets out from Osaka in the west, and 21 hours and 1,500km later, it pulls into a station in Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost island. Unlike the slick design of the bullet trains, the Twilight Express is boxy and imposing. It may lack sex appeal, but the trade-off is charm. Private compartments, including 'suites' and 'royal' rooms, come with toilets and showers. The top rooms come with bottles of skin lotion and other items normally associated with hotels. Best of all are the huge windows that give passengers grand coastline views of the Sea of Japan. For meals, passengers can choose multi-course French or Japanese kaiseki dinners in the elegant restaurant. Suites sell out a month in advance. Tickets, at 44,810 yen ($3,270), are snapped up as soon as they are available online. Even more expensive is the overnight journey from Tokyo to Sapporo in a suite at the front of the Cassiopeia. Tickets cost more than 50,000 yen a night, but again the train is usually fully booked. Decades ago, night trains were for people unable to afford the better-class trains or the cost of a flight and hotel. But according to one Tokyo travel agent, night trains are attracting a special class of passenger, those who have both the money and the time to make the unique journey. Among them are women, both young and old, who like the idea of privacy offered by the compartments. Japan also has a large contingent of 'railroad fans', fascinated by train engineering and design. They meet to exchange arcane trivia and memories from cherished journeys. Some businesspeople also claim that it is easier to travel on night trains than rushing between Tokyo and Osaka in one day, a frequent practice as companies push staff on the road to finish work in a day to save money on accommodation. After trying so hard to make life faster, it is about time that the Japanese decided to go in the opposite direction.