The JR Kyushu Trains with the Best Views

ByJustin Hanus
Dec 26, 2022

The JR Kyushu Trains with the Best Views

All the Design & Story Trains of the JR Kyushu railway are designed to bring passengers unique experiences. However, a few trains stand out for providing outstanding views along the way.

Ibusuki No Tamatebako

The idea for the Ibusuki No Tametebako train came from the folk tale Dragon’s Palace. When the doors open for passengers to board, the vents at the top release white smoke — just like the treasure box in the story. The train runs along the coast between Kagoshima-Chuo and Ibusuki, offering ocean views, including Kinkowan Bay and the peninsula of Sakurajima.

When you reserve your spot, you can choose what kind of seat you want. Car-1 has teak wood seats in a style you’d typically find in yachts and cruise ships, whereas the seats in Car-2 are made from cedar wood from Kyushu. In both cases, you can swivel the seats on the ocean side of the train. Car-2 also has comfortable sofa seats, kids’ seats, and a space for wheelchairs.

Isaburo / Shimpei

Isaburo and Shimpei are two trains named for key figures in the development of railroads during the Meiji period. The original route ran between Kumamoto-Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu — the train traveling in the direction of Kumamoto-Hitoyoshi was Shimpei, and the one heading to Yoshimatsu was Isaburo. However, the train has been unable to continue on its regular route due to heavy rains that flooded the Hitoyoshi region in July 2020. Its temporary route takes it past the Kirishima mountains and Sakurajima volcano. The train also links to the Kawasemi Yamasemi train in the North.

The cabins in the Isaburo / Shimpei trains are more understated than in some sightseeing trains — this is to take nothing away from the views. All the same, the cabins are attractive and comfortable. There is also an observation lounge with panoramic windows where you can head during the journey’s highlights. To make your trip extra special, you can request a photo next to the train, and all passengers receive a commemorative card.

Kawasemi Yamasemi

Initially, the Kawasemi Yamasemi train passed through Hitoyoshi and Kuma. This region is famous for its wild birds, especially the kingfisher and crested kingfisher, called kawasemi and yamasemi in Japanese. However, the heavy rains also affected this train, leading it to change its route. It currently offers one round trip a day between Kumamoto and Miyaji. This is still a particularly scenic route, not least because it goes through Aso, the largest inhabited caldera in the world, surrounded by grasslands.

The train is made up of two cars. The first is called Kawasemi and has upholstered timber bench chairs. The second is Yamasemi, which has a service corner where passengers can purchase light snacks.

Since each of these trains covers a different part of Kyushu, it’s worth taking a trip on all of them to appreciate the full variety of landscapes the island offers. Even though two of the trains are not currently running along their original routes, they still provide a great experience.

Official website of Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department, Japan Coast Guard (JHOD) , Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

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