Monday, November 16, 2015

Kyushu Shinkansen and SL Hitoyoshi

Sorry for the delay in this blog post covering the next part of our Japan train trip to Kyushu in July 2015. This entry looks at Kyushu Shinkansen, Tsubame and SL Hitoyoshi!

After leaving the Seven Stars in Kyushu train (covered in Day 1 post and Day 2-4 post), we awaited on the Hakata Shinkansen platform for the Tsubame Shinkansen, which would be taking us to Kumamoto. Here are some photos from the platform at Hakata station (Fukuoka).

Soon after the Tsubame train arrived:

Once inside you could see the interior was much nicer than JR East shinkansen trains, with wooden details and nicer seats:

Close up of the seat and table:

Nice touch is the window shades, done in a traditional Japanese wooden fixture rather than the normal uninteresting shades like you would get on a plane:

We were soon on our way - this view shows the wooden frame of the shinkansen seats on the Tsubame - so much nicer than JR East Shinkansen seats!

I then tucked into my Ekiben (Station Bento box) that I bought in Hakata station for the journey to Kumamoto:

We soon arrived into Kumamoto Station:

Here is the view of the ticket gates at Kumamoto station:

As it was approaching night time, I could get some great pictures of Kumamoto Station and the surrounding Tram services running in Kumamoto:

Here is the view inside one of the trams as we travelled to dinner from Kumamoto station:

This particular tram looks quite old, and even has timber flooring.

After a good nights rest in a hotel in Kumamoto (near the main station), we got up early to ride the SL Hitoyoshi Steam train, which departs from Kumamoto Station.

Before that though, I got to see a few more interesting trams running outside the station:

Kumamoto Station in daylight!

Here is the sign board for the SL Hitoyoshi, leaving at 9:45am. Very excited as it will be my first ever Steam train I have ridden in Japan.

Kumamoto station has two sections - the Shinkansen platforms and and local trains. The Tsubame arrived at the Shinkansen platforms, but today we had to walk a bit to reach the local platforms (due to some construction work underway at the station itself)

Kumamoto Station board:

A local train arrives on the platform, next to where the SL Hitoyoshi is due to shortly arrive:

The Steam Locomotive Hitoyoshi (in Japan called an SL) arrived on schedule and looked fantastic on the platform. I rushed to take plenty of photos of it before boarding.

They affectionately call this SL Hitoyoshi '86', taking the 86 from the train number 58654.

Amazing clean for a SL I have to say!

It was a seriously hot and humid day, and I can't imagine what shovelling coal must have been like in the Loco during this trip - it must be unbearable!

In Australia we don't run steam trains in the summer months because of this, but in Japan they ONLY run most of the SL's in the summertime...go figure.

Close up of the controls inside the SL:

The first carriage:

The 2nd carriage - at this point we had to board as the train was about to depart:

Once onboard we could see beautiful clean carriages - completely unexpected given the age of this train and the carriages. The restoration of this train is very impressive.

Nice pictures adorn the carriage walls in various places:

This is the entrance of Carriage 2. I learnt the hard way (more than once I might add), that the head clearance of these entrances is much lower than 6 foot. Multiple times I smashed my head into the top of the door going in and out of the train at various points on the journey. Taller people beware!

More inside photos - here you can see some of the souvenirs for sale.

The wooden details inside this carriage are wonderful, as are the little steam train models inside the display cabinets in the distance in the shot below:

The SL Hitoyoshi has a Cafe on board, and here is the menu in Japanese - usual fare, softdrinks, tea, icr cream and more:

In the SL Hitoyoshi there is even a small library!

I really like the framed picture - would love to buy it, but it was not for sale unfortunately.

Entrance to carriage 3:

The seats are comfortable and the table makes eating bento lunches and other food/drink comfortable too:

Shortly after sitting down the train set off!

It was a seriously hot day so the staff requested the windows remain closed after the first 10 minutes of the trip so the air conditioning would work well.

Luckily I got some photos taken before they made us close the windows.

Here is the view from the rear window of carriage 3 on the train as we made our way towards Hitoyoshi.

The views from the rear carriage are fantastic:

Passing a local station platform:

I made my way to the Buffet to get some ice cream and cold drinks as it was very hot outside and my wife and I needed to cool down!

The views as we enjoyed our ice cream in our seat were great, but even better was to come. There are some truly spectacular views on this train trip!

We went forward to the Lounge car (Carriage 1) to get our photo taken by the staff with a SL board (with the day's date on it). The kids get to wear a conductors replica uniform, and the daults the conductor's hat. Lots of people wanted to do this so we had to patiently wait a while:

View from the lounge car back towards the seats in the carriage as we waited.

Shortly after we arrived at our first stop, Yatsushiro Station. We were only stopped for 10 minutes, but we could get off the train and take some nice photos!

A Local train at Yatsushiro station, colourfully decorated:

Taking photos of the SL Hitoyoshi was challenging was lots of people wanted to do it everywhere we stopped!

SL Hitoyoshi stopped at Yatsushiro Station - looking at the carriages from outside:

The rear view carriage 3 looks very impressive from outside too! I didn't get a chance to take photos of it at Kumamoto station, so I was glad to get another chance to!

Some historical photos of SL history around the station were also on display:

While waiting at Yatsushiro a local diesel train arrived too:

Shortly after we were underway again, an the views just got better and better as we went.

Shot from inside the train as we passed another train stationary at a train platform.

And the views from the train just kept getting more amazing.

Seriously - this is why I love train travel so much. How awesome is this.

I could sell this photo as a postcard. Seriously. The views from the SL Hitoyoshi are stunning. You have got to go on this train if you get the chance to.

We then arrived at another stop - Shiroishi Station.

SL Hitoyoshi reflected in the mirror on the platform:

The station building at Shiroishi Station is an old wooden building which has been well maintained:

Close up of the steam from the SL Hitoyoshi as it prepared to depart the station:

View down the platform at Shiroishi Station:

The next step on our journey was Isshouchi Station:

The view of the train from the platform at this station was great!

Close up of the JR Kyushu's carriage maker's plate:

Some more scenery as the train journey continued:

At this stage my Tokyo to Hitoyoshi trip ticket was getting heavily used with so many train transfers! I had to surrender it at Hitoyoshi Station so I made sure to get a photo of it!

We finally arrived at Hitoyoshi Station and it was a fantastic train trip - I really recommend it!

There was a welcome party and samurai costume adorned people around the platform too!

Hitoyoshi Station exit:

But we couldn't leave without buying a Bento from a old Bento salesman who is keeping up the old tradition in Japan of selling Bentos on the station platform - a practice that was commonplace but now very rare. And by the way, the Bento was delicious! :-)

I took some more photos of the SL at Hitoyoshi station, it's final stop:

We then exited the station briefly to look at the amazing clock out the front, which does this amazing display every hour!

The SL Hitoyoshi trip was amazing! This is the last photos before it left the station.

We then rushed to catch a local diesel train back to Kumamoto to catch our next train, the A-Train. It was a tight schedule but we made it work! I will cover the A-Train in my next blog entry!

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