Posted by: jrhorse | February 15, 2011

Sights along the Kyushu Shinkansen

It’s less than a month before the new Kyushu Shinkansen opens in Japan, which will drastically reduce travel times on the island of Kyushu (one of Japan’s four main islands) and completely link Kyushu to the entire bullet train network. The first segment of this train line opened 7 years ago in southern Kyushu, and the final segment will open on March 12. Reserved seats on high-speed into and around Kyushu have sold like hotcakes for the inaugural runs, which just goes to show you how much the country and the people love their shinkansen.

The new segment opening on March 12 will connect Fukuoka (whose station name is “Hakata”, formerly a separate city which is now one of Fukuoka’s wards) and Yatsushiro, located 130 kilometers to the south. A journey between Fukuoka and Kagoshima (at the southern end of Kyushu), which used to take 4 hours prior to 2004 and is currently just over two hours, will be cut down to as little as 1 hour and 20 minutes.

As announced in an earlier post, foreigners who travel to Japan and use a Japan Rail Pass will be eligible to use Tsubame and Sakura services on the Kyushu Shinkansen, but not Mizuho services which make four daily round-trips during the morning and evening hours.

Here is a list of all of the stations and noted attractions on the Kyushu Shinkansen, compiled from various sources:

Fukuoka (Hakata Station): Fukuoka is the capital of its namesake prefecture. The Tenjin shopping district is not to be missed. Try the area’s famous ramen noodles. At night, stroll along bayside place, or for a more active evening try Nakasu, the city’s red light district. See more on the Fukuoka home page of the Fukuoka Prefectural Tourist Association.

Tosu (Shin-Tosu Station): A short bus or train ride in Tosu brings you to the Tosu Premium Outlets, where you can purchase from famous brands at discounted prices. On the way from Tosu is the Yoshinogari Historical Park, where you can see relics and reconstructions from Japan’s Yayoi period (approx. 300 BC-250 AD).

Kurume: Check out the exhibitions at the Ishibashi Museum of Art . Visit the gardens of Senkoji Temple. Head to the top of Kurume’s city hall building for a free view of the area. See more on the Kurume Association home page.

Chikugo (Chikugo-Funagoya)

Omuta (Shin-Omuta): Originally a coal mining town, Omuta is an industrial city with a science museum and a zoo (japanese website).

Tamana (Shin-Tamana): Located in Kumamoto prefecture, the city has many restaurants specializing in tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen.

Kumamoto: Kumamoto is one of Kyushu’s largest and most important cities, its biggest attraction being Kumamoto Castle. Kumamoto Castle ranks alongside Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle as one of the three great castles of Japan. The castle’s origins can be traced to the year 1467 when its original fortifications were built. The original castle keep was burned down in the Satsuma Rebellion, but many other original buildings remain to this day. The castle keep was rebuilt in the 1960s, and major renovations to the complex concluded in 2008. More about Kumamoto can be viewed at the website of the Kumamoto Prefectural Tourism Federation.

Yatsushiro (Shin-Yatsushiro): Visit the ruins of an old castle, then climb up a mountain: a total of 777 steps that, when completed, will reward you with a great view of the city. Highway buses connect the Shin-Yatsushiro train station with the resort city of Miyazaki.

Minamata (Shin-Minamata): This city is emerging at the forefront of environmental issues, having suffered an environmental disaster itself.

Izumi

Sendai: This Sendai is not to be confused with the more popular Sendai city, which is located north of Tokyo in Miyagi prefecture.

Kagoshima (Kagoshima-Chuo): A historic city and the capital of Kagoshima prefecture, Kagoshima is known for the looming (and active) Sakurajima volcano, which in the prefecture helps to offer the second-largest number of hot springs sources in all of Japan. Bounds of shopping await in the Tenmonkan shopping district and in the area near the bullet train stop. In the evening savor a tasty meal that only those in Kagoshima can serve up… Kagoshima has their own variety of ramen, tea and wagyu beef! Finish it off with an onsen bath heated from the area’s geothermal activity. More about Kagoshima is on the website of the Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau.

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