La Malle de Bois is, in fact, the name of a new Japanese train that began traversing the rails of the Setouchi region this April. French for “wooden suitcase,” the travel-themed train connects Okayama to Uno Station, one of the gateways to Naoshima, Teshima and many other Setouchi art islands. And get this – it’s one of the only trains that has designated bicycle storage.
Most Japanese trains will only allow you to carry your bicycle with you if it’s a fold-up, or if it’s disassembled. But given the rise in popularity of bicycle-touring, La Malle de Bois made space for storage of up to 8 bicycles. So you can take your bike from train to boat and then peddle your way around the art islands, which is the best way to explore them.
The exterior logos and branding, which feature thick black lines around the windows to mimic the look of suitcases, is the work of Daigo Daikoku. The largely monochromatic exterior was intentionally designed to contrast the region’s green mountains and blue sea. Inside, riders will find a warm interior made from plenty of wood where they are encouraged to walk around during the 1-hour trip and sit at the counter.
La Malle de Bois will run once a day, departing Okayama at 10:10 AM. Returning, it will depart Uno at 3:00 PM.