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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hakata JR Station 博多駅, JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Northern Kyushu & All Kyushu)

Hakata JR Station - East exit (Chikusi exit)
Hakata JR Station, the biggest (and busiest) train station in Kyushu.
Easily accessible by both subway from Fukuoka Airport and by Shinkansen from Honshu, Hakata JR Station serves as a gateway for many to other parts of Kyushu.

Main lines include:
(1) Kagoshima main line - travel northwards to Kokura, southwards to Kumamoto and Kagoshima.

(2) Kyushu Shinkansen line - connecting Hakata to Kumamoto and Kagoshima.

(3) Sanyo Shinkansen line - connecting Hakata to Shin Osaka. Operated by JR West. 

(4) Kuko line of Fukuoka City Subway.

Special sightseeing & limited express trains departing from Hakata JR Station include:
(1) Ltd Express Huis Ten Bosch - connects Hakata to Huis Ten Bosch, a European theme park located in Nagasaki prefecture.

(2) Ltd Express Kamome - connects Hakata to Saga and Nagasaki.

(3) Ltd Express Midori - connects Hakata to Saga and Sasebo.

(4) Ltd Express Sonic - connects Hakata to Oita and Beppu.

(5) Yufuin no mori - connects Hakata to Yufuin and Beppu.

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What's nearby? 

Hakata JR Station - West exit
(1) Shopping malls
- JR Hakata City, the building just above the train station, comprises of both AMU Plaza and Hankyu. For Tokyu Hands fans, you will be glad to know that there is one branch conveniently located here. Do check out their ground floor which has a section dedicated to Kyushu souvenirs - a good place to source for last minute gifts/merchandises.
- Yodobashi is located adjacent to the train station.
JR Hakata City: http://www.jrhakatacity.com/english/

(2) Numerous hotels to choose from.
Stayed at two different hotels during this trip.
- Hakata Miyako Hotel, 2 mins walk from east exit (Chikusi exit) of train station.
- JR Blossom Hakata Chuo Hotel, 2 mins walk from west exit of train station.

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JR Kyushu Rail Pass


- There are two different types of rail passes, both available in 3 and 5 days:   
(1) Northern Kyushu area, can only be used in Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Kumamoto 
(2) All Kyushu area

- Restrictions: Do note that this pass cannot be used on the Shinkansen between Hakata and Kokura, which is operated by JR West.

- Purchase: Rail pass can be purchased at main train stations in Kyushu (e.g. Kokura, Hakata, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, etc). In Hakata JR Station, there is a counter, served by English speaking staff, specially arranged for foreigners. After purchase of rail pass, you can proceed to make seats reservations immediately without having to queue again.  

- Be prepared! The only way to reap the most benefit/credits out from these rail passes is to do homework/research prior to purchase. Plan your itinerary and make use of Hyperdia to check the train fares between locations, then decide which pass suits you best. This pass can be used on Shinkansen, limited express and local trains operated by JR Kyushu and most importantly, no additional fees are required for seat reservations!
Hyperdia: http://www.hyperdia.com/


- One of the reasons to why train rides are so appealing in Kyushu is its seasonal sightseeing trains! Most of them operates on weekends and certain months, making only 1 - 3 trips per day, therefore it is advised to make reservations in advance to avoid disappointment.

- Was glad to know that in the second half of March, most of these sightseeing trains were also operating on weekdays due to cherry blooming season. Planned the ride of these sightseeing trains on the later half of my 12 days trip, as I would only purchase the rail pass and reserve seats on the day I arrive - thought I would stand a better chance to get my seats on these trains. Despite that effort made, some of the more popular train timings were already fully booked. Had to tweak my itinerary on the spot to fit in less popular train timings. Do have a backup plan in place, in anticipation for such last minute changes.

A good reference to find out past seasonal trains schedule: http://jprail.com/

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My sums:

(1) Northern Kyushu area 5 Days rail pass: 9,000 yen (bef 1 Apr 2014)

  • Day 1: Hakata > Takeo Onsen, by Ltd Exp Midori; 3,000 yen (reserved seat)
  • Day 2: Takeo Onsen > Huis Ten Bosch, by Ltd Exp Huis Ten Bosch; 1,730 yen (reserved seat)
  • Day 3: 
    • Huis Ten Bosch > Sasebo, by local train; 270 yen
    • Sasebo > Nagasaki, by Seaside Liner; 1,600 yen
  • Day 4: 
    • Nagasaki > Shintosu, by Ltd Exp Kamome &
    • Shintosu > Kumamoto, by Shinkansen; 7,700 yen (reserved seat) 
  • Day 5: Kumamoto > Aso by Aso Boy; 2,180 yen (reserved seat)
Total cost without pass usage = 16,480 yen
Savings = 7,480 yen (45% discount)


(2) All Kyushu area 5 days rail pass: 17,000 yen (bef 1 Apr 2014)

  • Day 1: -
  • Day 2: 
    • Yufuin > Kurume, by Yufuin no mori &
    • Kurume > Kumamoto, by Shinkansen; 7,160 yen (reserved seat) 
  • Day 3: 
    • Kumamoto > Hitoyoshi, by SL Hitoyoshi; 2,570 yen (reserved seat)
    • Hitoyoshi > Yoshimatsu, by Isaburo; 1,220 yen (reserved seat)
    • Yoshimatsu > Kagoshima chuo; by Hayato no kaze; 2,430 yen (reserved seat) 
  • Day 4: Kagoshima chuo > Ibusuki by Ibusuki no tamatebako; 2,070 yen (reserved seat)
  • Day 5: 
    • Ibusuki > Kagoshima chuo, by local train; 970 yen
    • Kagoshima chuo > Hakata, by Shinkansen; 10,170 yen (reserved seat)
Total cost without pass usage = 26,590 yen
Savings = 9,590 yen (36% discount)

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Commemorative stamp: 

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