Friday, August 14, 2015

Seven Stars in Kyushu Train - Days 2 to 4

This blog post covers Days 2-4 of my journey on the Seven Stars in Kyushu train! If you missed Day 1 please check it out here.

I discovered above on Day 2 (see picture) that the desk in our room on the train has a large pull out side desk - makes the room feel like an office!

I also forgot to show that in the room, there is individual temperature controlled air conditioning - it kept us very comfortable as it was very hot outside!

We went for breakfast at 7am:

Breakfast service was mostly western style and I quite enjoyed it:

Of course Japan still has this thing about serving Salad and Soup at breakfast:

The Omelet was terrific:

Fruit was delicious too:

The train had been travelling overnight, and as we munched on breakfast we had arrived into Minami Miyazaki:

I also got to see a few different JR Kyushu trains while we were there - Sunshine Miyazaki:

Yamasachi train as well:

We relaxed on the train in the morning, and opted out of the Miyazaki shrine visit as the weather was raining and unpleasant.

A view from our room as the morning passed by - we relaxed and enjoyed a morning to ourselves:

At lunch time we got this impressive Bento box and also the prime seat in the dining car with direct views from the large rear window:

The views from the rear window are fantastic, even with the rain around:

The bus took us to our overnight accommodation in a traditional Japanese Ryokan, high in the mountains:

Train passengers walked down to the entry to the Ryokan:

The forest here is amazing and quite a departure from further north in Kyushu:

The traditional Japanese Ryokan was terrific:

Traditional cooking methods are used here:

Here are the steps leading up to our room, which had a leaf with our names on it at the entrance:

Our home for the night:

Inside our room - this pretend spider was replaced with a very real and large spider later on that day! Luckily in Japan, most spiders aren't poisonous, unlike in Australia!

Our room also had it's own private onsen (bath), in additional to the multiple public baths the Ryokan had available to use:

Onsen's are always relaxing, and we were glad to relax in the public onsen for a while before dinner, and later in our private one.

The view from the Private Onsen room window:

Dinner at the Ryokan - wild fresh vegetables are the order of the day:

And raw chicken too. Err...Right.

They raise chickens on the property here, and then kill some of them each day to serve fresh raw chicken to guests for dinner. My wife and I didn't want to eat it raw (the risk of getting ill we didn't want to take) and asked for it to be cooked!

In the morning on Day 3 we were treated to a lovely display of butterflies outside our room:

We had a traditional Japanese breakfast with the our other passengers in the main restaurant room, separate to our overnight room:

Quite the feast, compared to the cereal, coffee and orange juice I would normally have in Australia!

As mentioned the vegetables are sourced on the property, and prepared in traditional Japanese fashion:

Then we boarded back onto the Seven Stars in Kyushu bus, and headed towards Tenku no Mori, a beautiful location deep in the forests of Kyushu:

Tenku no Mori offers a beautiful view of the forests around it, lots of parklands to explore and some great food for lunch too:

As part of our trip to Tenku No Mori, all the passengers helped to plant a tree in the gardens, which includes a wooden description that Seven stars in kyushu passengers planted this tree and the date:

That done, we moved to the restaurant for lunch:

In additional to the fresh vegetables, fresh pizza was also on the menu and tasted great! The light fittings made out of trees were interesting too!

There were other courses too:

After the lunch was completed we came back to Hayato Station to board the Seven Stars in Kyushu train, and continue our journey:

The train headed further south to Kagoshima, which has a beautiful active volcano right next to it:

There were more locals waving to the train as it passed by too:

We were served teatime sweets on the train, which I have to say were delicious:

You can see on the English menu what sweets were prepared for us:

I love that it is mostly local Kyushu produce:

After we finished the sweets, we were almost arrived in Kagoshima, and the volcano came into full view from the train:

Having arrived in Kagoshima, we then left the train again - this time following a staff member waving a flag for us to follow. I have seen this many times in Japan for Japanese tour groups, but this was the first time I had to follow the leader in a tour group myself!

We boarded a bus heading for a pottery museum - here is some shots along the way:

We eventually arrived in a small township where the museum is:

Here is some photos from within the museum itself - the pottery is beautiful, detailed and also amazingly expensive:

Here are the traditional kilns that they used to use to make pottery prior to the modern day kilns:

We were given the opportunity to make our own pottery designs, which were then prepared in their factory (which we also toured) and then the resulting pottery would be sent to us in Australia later - here is the result when it arrived in Australia - it looks great and can be displayed like this or hung on the wall:

The pottery came with a nice thank you note in English from the president of JR Kyushu too.

After the visit to the Pottery museum we also spent some time in a Japanese tea room, opened only once a year! My wife and I were a bit late to it as the pottery design work took longer than we thought! So no photos of the tea room sorry!

After this we boarded the bus back to Kagoshima and to a big shrine, with beautiful views of the volcano:

We were at the shrine to have a special dinner, over many courses - kind of like a degustation I guess. It was very nice and the food was wonderful:

After the dinner there was a fireworks display, and then we came back to Kagoshima Station to board the Seven Stars in Kyushu train again:

One of the crew pointed out the Seven stars platform marker:

At this point we were exhausted and collapsed into bed in our room on the train, which then left Kagoshima, heading north overnight towards Aso Station.

We arrived at Aso Station just in time for breakfast on Day 4 - the rain and overcast weather had gone and it was a beautiful typically hot and humid summer day:

Breakfast was being served alongside the Aso Station platform at a purpose built Seven Stars in Kyushu restaurant, which gave me the opportunity to take a few more pictures of the train:

We entered the restaurant for a buffet breakfast, which was great:

After breakfast we had some time to look around Aso Station, so I took the opportunity to take some more photos!

At this point the diesel locomotive was separated from the rest of the train, to change tracks to head the train for the final leg back to Hakata Station:

View of the train from the other platform at Aso Station:

At this point a local train arrived at Aso Station, which reminded me again just how well polished the Seven stars in Kyushu train is:

From Aso Station, another famous train called "Aso Boy" departs - unfortunately I didn't get to see it running, but this is where kids wait while the train is coming:

From here we could get some great views of Mount Aso:

External view of Aso Station:

We then reboarded the Seven Stars in Kyushu train for the next part of our journey to Oita Station:

I went to the dining car and was able to get the prime viewing spot at the rear window again, allowing me to get some more great shots as the train was going to Oita:

Some more little details on the Seven stars train interior:

A button is showcased too? Strange. Apparently they make them here in Kyushu.

Here we are, now arrived at Oita Station:

We had an hour here, so I decided to do some train spotting, and there were plenty of JR Kyushu trains to photograph:

Close up view of a JR Kyushu engineer working to separate the Seven Stars Loco again:

View of the Sonic trains - Blue and White versions:

Inside Oita Station concourse - I went to the next platform to get some more photos:

On the next platform I was able to take closer photos of the sonic trains, now stopped at Oita station:

Next to Oita Station is a large building with a small railway on the roof and a train shrine! I had to check that out:

And for those curious, here is the train shrine itself:

After this I boarded the Seven Stars in Kyushu train once more and went to the dining car for lunch, our final meal on the train:

It was a bento lunch, and very impressive:

We also got this beautiful treat for dessert - it was delicious!

We were treated to some more nice views of Kyushu as the train continued it's journey back towards Hakata Station:

One of the sights included this former train storage shed facility (roundhouse), with the turntable present but minus rails to the roundhouse!

Another pleasant surprise on the trip back was the news that the first ever trial run of a brand new JR Kyushu train dubbed "The sweet train" was going to pass alongside the Seven stars train today. It is due to start service later in the year!

We only got a glimpse of it as it passed by quickly, but I was glad to grab some photos of it!

It is a stunning looking train!

We then continued on the last section of the trip to Hakata Station, our final destination.

During the last section of the trip, they converted the rear window in the dining car into a big screen and invited all passengers there. They showed a dvd of the highlights of the trip we were still on, all recorded by the professional photographers during the trip and showcasing all the passengers on board through it!

I include a photo showing the pianist and violinist at work as I forgot to grab a photo of them during the journey:

We then pulled up shortly after at Hakata Station and the journey was finished. We disembarked, received our souvenirs we purchased on the train from the staff on the platform, and said our goodbyes!

The Seven Stars in Kyushu is an amazing train and worth the cost to travel on it. I would recommend the 2 day course if on a budget, but the 4 day course allows you plenty of time to enjoy the train and see a lot of Kyushu too.

Here is a selection of some of the Seven Stars in Kyushu souvenirs we bought:

The day and our trip was not yet over though for us - we still had more train plans for Day 4 and Day 5 too - please check my next blog entry for photos of the Kyushu Shinkansen, SL Hitoyoshi, A Train and more trains in Kyushu! :-)


  1. Amazing! I've always wanted to board that train but it's really expensive, and haven't been able to see any reviews in English for me to jump into the application process. Your review is very detailed with lovely pictures. Thank you :)

    1. You are welcome. The lack of information in English about the train experience was one of the motivations to include as much information as possible so people know what to expect on the journey! I hope you managed to get a ticket.

  2. Thanks so much for your detailed review! My partner and I are booked to travel on the Seven Stars in January 2016 and I stumbled across your blog while trying to find more info on the dress code onboard. (I'm still rather mystified about what we'll wear, given that it will be winter in Japan when we visit and neither of us own many dressy winter items.) Still, it's bound to be a fabulous adventure. Have you been on the Eastern and Oriental Express? Up till now that has been our most extravagant train trip ( but I suspect the Seven Stars will surpass it ...

    1. Not yet - but the Eastern and Oriental Express is on my list :-) The Seven stars in Kyushu is a great trip and you and your partner should have a great time! :-)

    2. Thanks. We intend to! It's now less than five weeks away ...

      Hey, can I ask you a couple of questions please? We just received the booklet detailing all the train 'etiquette' (so now know what to wear). It mentions 'settling the bill on-board'. Given that the trip costs almost a million yen, I'd rather hoped there wouldn't be any additional on-board bills! Do you know what they mean? That is, if (say) we don't want any knick-knacks or photos, is there anything else we're likely to still have to pay for? Also ... tipping. Having never been to Japan before I don't know whether tipping is usual there. Would we be expected to tip train staff? If so, any suggestions re: who, when and how much would be appreciated.


    3. The extra costs they mention are for Seven stars train souvenirs you may buy from their extensive selection on board. If you ask them they will email you the souvenir booklet in advance (which I did so I could decide with plenty of time to think about it).

      Note that some of the souvenirs are not available if ordered after the train journey. Also, they have a professional photographer onboard who takes photos of everyone during the trip and sells the photos on the train on the last day - you get a preview booklet in your cabin to check and select what you want. Also a DVD is made of the journey you are on and that is shown on the last day on the train, and is sold on train too. If you choose to buy any of these, then you will need to pay via credit card at the end of the journey to settle the bill, or you can "pre-register" your card when you arrive at the station before riding the train, and the charge will be applied at the end of the journey if you buy anything extra (you get an opportunity to review the charges before leaving the train).

      In my opinion the cost of the train journey DVD is a rip off. Seriously. I didn't buy it, although I did buy plenty of souvenirs. Note that any DVD and blu ray's are very expensive in Japan - almost 3 times the price as in western's crazy.

      Tipping is generally considered very offensive to Japanese people. The very implication that they would do a better job if you pay them more is a repugnant notion to them. No tipping in Japan - period. Westernised hotels in Japan may include a tip section if dining there but you don't have to, and nor is it expected.

      The customer service you get in Japan will be better than anywhere else in my experience and it is expected and practiced by all Japanese. On the Seven stars the customer service is taken to an even higher level than usual. I hope this helps and I hope you have a great time!

      I would suggest checking out my other train blog entries from Kyushu in case you are interested to ride any of these other trains while in Kyushu!

  3. Thanks so much for your helpful and detailed reply! I really appreciate it. We never buy souvenirs (we hate clutter) and generally avoid buying photos and DVDs, so it doesn't sound like we'll end up with a huge bill ;-)

    Thanks too for the tips on tipping. Really useful to know. Being Australians we're pretty uncomfortable with tipping and have found it rather bizarre when travelling in North America so it's good to know that we won't need to puzzle over it in Japan.

    Your other blog entries about trains in Kyushu look great. Unfortunately we haven't built extra time in Kyushu into our schedule this time (we have lined up trips to several other cities, and lots of Shinkansen travel!) but if all goes well I hope there will be future trips to Japan to do stuff we don't have time for on this trip.

    Thank you again for your help!

    All the best

  4. As a fellow railfan (and avid Japan traveller), I was very pleasantly surprised to come across the two posts you've written about the Seven Stars. In fact, I was only looking for pictures of the lounge at Hakata Station - I'd seen the entrance whilst passing through and was curious about the interior - and ended up getting far more than I'd bargained for.

    I'm not likely to afford passage on this train anytime soon, even in the quite long period I've got left before my own 40th birthday, but I'm delighted to have had the chance to take a peek inside through your blog. In any case, now is probably not the best time to actively contemplate such a luxurious journey, especially on the heels of the recent tragedy in Kyūshū - though I've taken note of some of the stops you've made on this trip with a view to working them into my next journey there. (To be undertaken on far more affordable trains, of course.) As for the Seven Stars ... perhaps a few more decades of saving, and it - or its successor - might serve as a little treat for my retirement years. (^_^)

    I pray that all those affected by the events in Kyūshū will soon overcome the challenges they face, and that we'll all soon be able to visit the region again and make our own contributions (large and small) to the local economy.

    Cheers and many happy journeys ahead.

    1. Thank you for your comments! It is an amazing train. I never thought I would get to travel on it either, but with some hard saving we managed it. I hope you get to travel around Kyushu in the future, whether it is on local trains or the Seven stars. FYI with the current damage in Kumamoto the Seven Stars train has been cancelled until early in May 2016, when apparently it will be taking a slightly altered route to avoid the damaged train line sections.

  5. Hi there.
    Great Blog!!!! I will be travelling on the 7 stars soon in April. Reading your blog answered many questions I have, but I was just wondering what happen to your belongings on the night of the ryokan stay. Does each room comes with a safety box for valuables? As a man what did you bring with you for dinner, is Tuxedo required or will a regular suit be ok. Looking at the photos of other passengers, on board and on excursions, they were pretty causal, I must say. Could you provide me with some idea what yu wore for Breakfast, lunch, in afternoon and dinner? Your help and advice is great appreciated.