Kyushu is well-known as home to some of the best hot spring onsens, hot tonkotsu ramen and hot weather in Japan. It is a combination of slow-paced rural countryside and forward-thinking modernity. Kyushu is also home to a number of stunning mountains, beautiful oceans and more natural beauty.
Kyushu located at the most southern point of Japan before the islands of Okinawa. It is the most volcanically active part of Japan, with the largest active volcano in Japan, Mt Aso, and a number of well-renowned hot springs. Kyushu has also historically been known as the Gateway to Japan, as Nagasaki was once the only port of entry for foreign vessels in Japan. It was once the place of introduction of all things European to Japan.
Kyushu is also known for its good food. Tonkotosu, or pork bone broth, ramen originated in Fukuoka and is now one of the top ramen types in Japan. Popular for it’s thick soup and thin noodles, tonkotsu ramen is a favourite food of many across Japan and Fukuoka has an abundance of restaurants which specialize in it. Kyushu is a large area with a huge variety of attractions. One of the best ways to experience a number of this is via train.
For those wishing to travel all around Kyushu, JR Kyushu sells all-encompassing rail passes, similar to the JR Rail Pass. There are three types. Firstly, is the JR All Kyushu Area Pass. As the name would suggest, this pass covers all of Kyushu. There are then two separate passes for either the northern Kyushu area or the southern Kyushu area. Kyushu is known for having some of the most scenic rail journeys in the country, so these passes are a great way to experience a number of the beautiful views.
For a more specialized journey, there are also a number of sightseeing trains. One of these is the Yufuin No Mori Limited Express train between Hakata and Beppu. Beppu is a famous hot springs area and the Yufuin no Mori train transports visitors to the Yufuin hot springs resort. Yufuin is popular both as a weekend getaway and as a day trip location for locals. Yufuin is a small, quaint onsen town with a number of art museums, cafes and artisanal shops. The Yufuin no Mori train has a very classic wooden interior and booth seats available to take in the beautiful scenery of the trip. The journey passes Minou Mountains between Kurume and Hite and shows the Jion no Taki waterfalls. These waterfalls are illuminated at night for a mesmerizing view.
Another interesting sightseeing train in Kyushu is the Limited Experess Aso Boy! train. This train runs between Kumamoto city and Beppu with Aso as the midpoint. Aso is the area in which Mt Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano is located. If you leave the train at Aso, you can visit the active volcano peak of Mt Nakadake. Volcanic gases are released from the crater so it is recommended to view with a guide when going close to the crater. However, Aso is not the only attraction of the Aso Boy! train. The surrounding areas are filled with mountain views and stunning scenery and the train offers panoramic seats at each end of the train to fully take in this scenery. The train is also kid-friendly, with special “Kuro seats” which are connected adult and child seats with the child seat always facing a window and a children’s play area in the middle car of the train. This is a great train journey for both families and for those wishing to take in panoramic views of the Aso area.
A very interesting sightseeing train that is available in Kyushu is the Limited Express Ibusuki no Tamatebako train between Kagoshima and Ibusuki. This train is built around a theme; the folk tale of Urashima Taro and the Dragon’s Palace. This is a folk tale about a fisherman who rescued a turtle and was rewarded by being taken to the Dragon Palace beneath the sea. He is entertained by the Dragon Princess and upon returning to land and opening the forbidden jewelled box she gifted him, he becomes an old man. The train goes to Ryugu Shrine, which is said to be the point at which Urashima Taro departed for the Dragon Palace. When the train doors open, steam comes from vents above the doors, intended to represent the smoke that came from the jewelled box when it was opened. As this train goes along the coast, it has ocean view chair which can be swivelled to be forward-facing toward the ocean. There are also wheelchair-accessible ocean-viewing seats and low children’s seats towards the ocean. This train is a whimsical dedication to a well-known and adored folk tale, with some beautiful scenery along the way.
Kyushu, in the south of Japan, is an area which is often-forgotten by international visitors but is well worth visiting. It has a wonderful mix of good food, stunning views and relaxing hot springs. It is also home to some of the most scenic rail journeys in Japan and hence, a number of interesting sightseeing trains. For a rail journey that’s a little different, these trains are some of the best.