Kyushu is full of stunning scenery, and one of the best ways to see it is on the JR Kyushu scenic trains. The Yoshimatsu Line is one of the most famous scenic train routes, and the you can make the most of it by riding the "Isaburo Shinpei" from Kumamoto to Yoshimatsu, and then the connecting "Hayato no Kaze" from Yoshimatsu to Kagoshima. Make sure to book reserved seat tickets to enjoy the stunning views of Kyushu riding these two special trains!
First of all, both the "Isaburo Shinpei" and "Hayato no Kaze" require reserved seat tickets. They only had a few non-reserved seats on the Isaburo Shinpei, and even then they were bench seats on the side of the train, not providing an easy view of the scenery. The good thing is that the JR pass covers both these trains, but if you don't have the pass, the Isaburo Shinpei would cost ¥2480 and the Hayato no Kaze would cost ¥1800.
"Isaburo Shinpei" is furnished with traditional wooden seats, and instead of the usual forward facing seats, this train's seats are arranged in a dining style, with a table in between the pair of seats. This makes the journey very enjoyable if you are travelling with a group of friends. Similar to other scenic Kyushu trains (like the Yufuin no Mori), the train provides the free postcard for you to get the train stamp on, the commemorative date card, and train driver's hat to take photos with.
The Yoshimatsu Line takes you through picturesque mountains and valleys, with stunning views of the flowing river. Do try to go during the autumn season, as the views are breathtaking with all the autumn colours filling the mountains and valleys. Another entertaining part of the journey was at Yoshimatsu Station, where there was an elderly man selling traditional train bentos for passengers to enjoy. Riding on the Isaburo Shinpei definitely felt like a ride into the past of Japan.
"Hayato no Kaze" is completely furnished with wood and brown cushioning. It is the connecting ride to Kagoshima from Yoshimatsu where the Isaburo Shinpei arrives. If you aren't heading to Kagoshima, you can take the returning "Shinpei" train from Yoshimatsu back to Kumamoto. The Hayato no Kaze continues the scenic train route, and the best scenes come into view as you are arriving in Kagoshima. The train runs alongside the ocean and you get some stunning views of Sakurajima welcoming you into Kagoshima. The other unique feature of these two trains is that they are among only a few trains that perform the switchback manoeuvre in Japan. For all these reasons, make sure to try get a seat on these two trains to enjoy some beautiful Kyushu scenery while travelling in comfort.
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I love Japan for its people, culture, food, scenery, and overall ambiance and never-ending list of things to explore and enjoy. I lived in Kyoto for one year as an exchange student, and was able to travel around various parts of Japan during that exchange time. Now I'm back in Auckland, NZ, but am aiming to be back in Japan soon in the future for travel or work!