The Kyushu Shinkansen is a bullet train line that runs through Kyushu Island, the southernmost main island in Japan, connecting the cities of Fukuoka and Kagoshima. When the newest section opened in 2011, the Kyushu Shinkansen allowed for passengers to travel all the way from Kagoshima northward to Fukuoka’s Hakata Station, then eastward to Osaka and, with a change of trains, to Tokyo.
Although that journey can be done more quickly by air, for those with a Japan Rail Pass, the Kyushu Shinkansen is another vital part of the network linking all major islands of the Japanese archipelago by high-speed rail.
The line’s Mizuho and Sakura services run from Kagoshima-Chuo to Shin-Osaka Station via the Sanyo Shinkansen line. Mizuho trains make the fewest stops and complete the journey in about 3 hours and 45 minutes (note that the Japan Rail Pass is not valid for Mizuho services, as with the Nozomi services on the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train). Meanwhile, Tsubame services stop at every station between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo, but mostly travel between Hakata and Kumamoto.
Aside from the route connecting Fukuoka and Kagoshima, the Kyushu Shinkansen will also link Hakata Station with Nagasaki City once construction of a new branch route is complete in 2023.
The capital of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamoto City is home to Kumamoto Castle, a reconstructed but nonetheless photogenic samurai fortress with several authentic 17th-century structures. Other attractions in this metropolis of 740,000 include the Suizen-ji Joju-en Garden and the former residences of writers Natsume Soseki and Lafcadio Hearn.
If you’re a fan of Japan’s mascot characters, Kumamoto is the place to go. The city’s cute bear ambassador Kumamon is often seen around the city, along with oodles of Kumamon merchandise.
Train fare: 4,610 yen
Train time: 38 minutes
Kagoshima-Chuo is the bullet train station at the heart of Kagoshima City, the capital of Kagoshima Prefecture. With a population of about 600,000, Kagoshima is a busy port and point of departure for ferries serving islands in the Ryukyu Archipelago including Yakushima and Okinawa.
The birthplace of the heroic “last samurai” Saigo Takamori, Kagoshima City is famous for its ever-puffing volcano Sakurajima, the Senganen gardens and its kurobuta (black pork) and kuroushi (black beef) cuisine. As one of Japan’s many geothermal hotspots, Kagoshima and the surrounding region are home to numerous onsen hot springs.
Train fare: 9,930 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Article by Tim Hornyak. All rights reserved.