Sunday, August 9, 2015

Japan 2015 - Tokyo to Hakata trains

In July 2015 I travelled to Japan with my wife and as part of the trip went on a wonderful train trip to Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan.

In this post I will cover the first day action, covering the trains to get from Tokyo to Fukuoka. The next will cover the amazing Seven Stars in Kyushu Train.

For now, the journey begins at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. It takes 5 hours to get to Hakata Station (Fukuoka) from Tokyo by Shinkansen, so we needed to catch the first Nozomi Shinkansen of the day at 6am to get there with enough time for the other train related activities we had planned for today!

Here are some shots from the Shinkansen platform just prior to our train arriving to take us away from Tokyo:

The Nozomi Shinkansen, a N700A series, arrives at the platform. On this trip we checked over the timetables carefully to choose different train types for each section of the journey, so I could experience riding on as many different ones as possible:

Safely onboard the Nozomi Shinkansen, we started the long journey towards Hakata Station, which is in the largest Kyushu city of Fukuoka.

We had a lot of tickets for this trip covering lots of fantastic trains - these are the tickets I needed, excluding the Seven Stars in Kyushu train which doesn't have a ticket as such:

Some scenery along the way:

Being at the tail end of the rainy season the weather would change quickly to rain or very hot during the day - here is Mt Fuji:

The Nozomi Shinkansen N700A is a nice train. I have been on it before as far as Hiroshima (on the main island of Honshu):

Scenery in Japan from the train is always spectacular, at any time of year:

I also grabbed this shot of multiple Shinkansen stabled near the track along the way:

Prior to the trip, my wife had researched and found out you could pre-order a special ekiben (Bento Lunch box) to be delivered to you on the train! You can buy them on the train too but the selection is very much more limited.

We checked the website and found what I thought was just the coolest bento box - but I let you be the judge. I give you the JR500 Shinkansen porcelain Bento box lunch:

The case is not made out of plastic, but proper porcelain and we kept it:

Seriously. Cool.

 My wife also pre-ordered her Bento box, which was of course a more traditional Japanese lunch:

While eating on the train I found some more trains stabled so I grabbed some shots of them too:

Some more N700 Series Shinkansen too:

At this point we are getting close to our first stop of the day - Kokura, which is in Kyushu, close to Fukuoka, the final stop. But we have other plans we will do first!

Here we are, arrived at Kokura Station:

Kokura Station board:

Some more shots of the Nozomi Shinkasen N700A:

As we were exiting the Kokura Shinkansen station I saw this advertisement, which is the reason we got off at Kokura - the Kyushu Railway Museum is but a local train ride away from here at Mojiko!

Here we are at the Kokura Local train platform, which our local train to Mojiko is now arriving at:

This local train, as you would expect is typical Japanese local train fare:

The train map on the train - you can tell this is a local train not frequented much by foreigners. No English here:

View from the train as we headed towards Mojiko:

Arriving into Mojiko Station we saw plenty of trains from the windows - my first proper peek at JR Kyushu trains:

Here we are arrived at Mojiko Station:

Here is some shots of the JR Kyushu trains around the station itself:

Mojiko station itself is very old and unfortunately at this time under renovation. It means I can't take photos of the station building as it is covered over!

But there are some nice reminders of the heritage of the station around the platform area:

Love the bells at the beginning of the platform:

View of the Mojiko platform area from beyond the ticket gate entrance:

Renovation walls are covered in illustrations while the work is underway inside:

Final look at Trains stabled at Mojiko Station:

Next to the station is the Kyushu Railway History Museum, the main reason for visiting Mojiko today:

Once you pay the fee to enter, you see an impressive Steam Locomotive (called SL's in Japan) on a line platform containing lots of interesting trains from the history of Japan railways in Kyushu:

Many decommissioned trains from various eras in Japan's long train history are represented here at the museum - electric, steam and diesel trains.

There are certainly some classic trains in here too - check out this one!

Some newer trains are also here:

This train "Gekko" is painted in the blue Japan National Railway colours (before privatisation):

Some old sleeper cars from the old overnight blue trains are also here - this is from the old "Fuji" service:

Next to this platform is the large museum building that contains an older heritage train, and plenty of images of the old trains in action and memorabilia:

Split over two levels, there is certainly a lot of train stuff to look at and enjoy:

Some of the retired train name plates (usually affixed to the front of the trains) are shown here also:

Some of these train names, like Sakura, Tsunami are now used as names on the Kyushu Shinkansen that runs today. There is also a large souvenir shop where I did go a little crazy buying train souvenirs..

Outside again, the museum has small trains you can drive yourself, much like in the big Saitama Railway Museum in Tokyo:

Being in Kyushu, of course the focus is on trains that run in Kyushu, including Tsubame, Yufuin No Mori, Sonic, and more!

This is such a great idea - I wish we had these in Australia too:

Of course these are intended for kids, but well, I am a big kid at heart so I wanted to have a go!

Here I am at the controls of the Tsubame Express train!

It says: Don't touch this lever. It was just so tempting.....

It was a lot of fun!

I also took a look a Mile 0, the first piece of track laid on the original Mojiko line in Kyushu:

Next to the museum is a rather special Retro line train that runs a few times a day to take tourists from Mojiko station around the bay on a line no longer used by other commuter trains. We had to run for it but we managed to make it in time to catch it:

Once onboard we could enjoy the openness of the carriages and the unusual roof:

You can open the windows up and enjoy the breeze flowing through the carriage, essential on a hot day like today was:

Here is one of the station board signs along the route, which takes about 20 minutes to run from beginning to end:

Mojiko is a town right on the top of the Kyushu main island, and from the view below you can see the bridge that connects Kyushu to the main island on Honshu:

The Shinkansen passes via a tunnel underneath the bay, not using the bridge above.

Another view across the bay:

The views from the train were great!

When we arrived at the final stop, we got out to take some photos and then get back in again for the ride back. Our schedule was a bit tight so we didn't have time to spend much time looking around:

The train has loco's on each end so it doesn't need to turn at each end.

Here is a closer look at the carriages:

One of the highlights on the train trip is the tunnel you pass through, where the roof illuminates blue and looks spectacular:

Here we are arrived back at Mojiko:

We then had to rush back to the main JR Mojiko line station, to catch a local train back to Kokura for the next part of our journey:

This train had funky wood seating and a viewing section in the carriage:

Interestingly, Kokura has a monorail which stops above the entrance to the main JR station, making for an interesting sight!

However we didn't have time to ride it, our connecting Shinkansen ride awaited:

Ever since I first came to Japan in 2005, I wanted to ride a JR 500 series Shinkansen. To me they looked so cool and got me excited about train travel. But around that time they changed them from running Nozomi services from Tokyo to running Kodama (local) services from Osaka to Hakata only, so I couldn't ride it easily.

Introduced in 1997, the 500 series is not far from being retired as it is nearly 20 years old, which is when Shinkansen are normally retired from service.

This time though, I am going to finally ride it!

Finally here it comes, a JR500 series Shinkansen:

I was very excited to ride it as it just looks fantastic compared to the later 700 series Shinkansens in my opinion:

Those who remember earlier in this blog post I picked out the JR500 bento box for the trip down! :-)

Here were are, onboard the train:

It is a lot more cylindrical (airplane like) than other Shinkansen trains, which affects storage and leg room on the train. I understand why the N700A series Shinkansens are more popular now as they have more space. The 500 series does have these nifty pop up drink holders though - I wish these were on the 700 series!

You really do feel like you are on an airplane when on the JR500 - but despite this the seats are more comfortable than the 700 series trains:

The views were nice though, as we travelled the short distance from Kokura Station to the final destination, Hakata Station (Fukuoka):

Soon we arrived at Hakata Station and I had to get a few more photos of the JR 500 series Shinkansen - I was very glad to finally ride it:

I still reckon this train looks cool:

The Hakata station board:

Here is the final shot as we exited the Hakata Station for dinner and our accommodation for the night.

In the next blog post I will cover the next 4 days of our Kyushu trip, where we ride the amazing Seven Stars in Kyushu Cruise train, a trip of a lifetime!

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