Today, in 2012, two sleeper Blue Trains remain in operation: Akebono (from Ueno to Aomori) and Hokutosei (from Ueno to Sapporo in Hokkaido).
I'm very tempted!
Here is a nice video of a Blue Train, Izumo, as it heads from night into dawn going from western Japan to Tokyo...
Asahi Shinbun had a great article about the special revival of the Blue Trains during Golden Week, the long vacation (if you are so lucky). The Blue Trains linked Tokyo and Osaka with smaller regional cities throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The more famous Shinkansen was (and is) more expensive, thus the Blue Trains were the perfect solution for ordinary travellers with a little more time on their hands. Kazunori Haga notes:
One charter sleeper train will travel from Osaka to Ueno Station in Tokyo on April 27. That run is the brainchild of Minoru Mukaiya, 55, a member of the 1980s jazz fusion band Casiopea.
East Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. also plan to revive the Nihonkai train for a limited time over Golden Week. Regular runs of the Nihonkai train ended in March.
Nippon Travel Agency Co. is putting together the April 27 chartered blue train that will leave Osaka Station and use the rails of the Hokuriku, Joetsu and other lines to reach Ueno. Mukaiya, a long-time train enthusiast, came up with the idea and convinced Nippon Travel Agency officials to put together a run.
"Railways do not exist only to move from one place to another," Mukaiya says. "I hope passengers will experience the feelings of excitement and expectation that the blue train creates."
Asahi Shinbun: Blue sleeper trains to have Golden Week revival
If you have never heard of Japanese band Casiopea, I don't blame you, but here is a fun video from their 1988 world tour, featuring Gilberto Gil and Pepeu Gomes. Back when the Japanese music scene was just buzzing with great live concerts!!