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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Day 11 Itinerary: Sakurajima 桜島, Ibusuki 指宿

Day 11: 25.03.2014
* Day 4 of 5 Day JR Kyushu Rail Pass

Mt Uomi
Breakfast: Hotel Urbic Kagoshima ホテルアービック鹿児島

Hotel Urbic Kagoshima ホテルアービック鹿児島 > Kagoshima Port
by taxi. Fee = 700 yen.

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Kagoshima Port > Sakurajima Port
by Sakurajima Ferry 桜島フェリー. Fee = 150 yen/one way.
* 160 yen/trip from 1 Apr 2014 onwards.

Visited
(1) Sakurajima Dinosaur Park 桜島自然恐竜公園
(2) Yogan Nagisa Park & Footbath 溶岩なぎさ公園&足湯
(3) Michi no eki Sarakujima Hinoshima Megumikan 道の駅桜島日の島めぐみ館

Lunch: Udon, on board Sakurajima Ferry 桜島フェリー back to mainland.

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Suizokukanguchi 水族館口 > Kagoshima chuo ekimae 鹿児島中央駅前
by Kagoshima City Tram, via line 2. Fee = 160 yen.

Kagoshima chuo JR Station 鹿児島中央駅 (1157 hrs) > Ibusuki JR Station 指宿駅 (1248 hrs)
by Ibusuki no Tamatebako 指宿の玉手箱

Check in: Tsukimiso 旅館月見荘

Hired sightseeing taxi for 3 hours. Fee = 13,000 yen.
Visited
(1) Uomidake 魚見岳
(2) Lake Ikeda 池田湖
(3) Nishi Oyama JR Station 西大山駅
(4) Nagasakibana 長崎鼻

Visited Natural Sand Bath Center 'Saraku' 砂むし会館 砂楽.

Dinner: Tsukimiso 旅館月見荘

- End of Day 11 -

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Tenmonkan Mujaki 天文館むじゃき

Visited 24.03.2014

Top left: Tenmokan, busiest district in Kagoshima city; Right: An adorable white bear welcoming you to Mujaki.
After dinner, we made our way this dessert shop which is easily recognized by a huge white bear figurine placed in front of the shop, located along Tenmokan dori. Mujaki originated from Kagoshima an has been a household name for more than half a century. It started off selling a kind of shaved ice dessert. This popular local dessert is named "white bear ice" or Shirokuma (白熊) because the ball shaped shaved ice which is topped with raisins and cherry, looks like an expression of bear when viewed from the top.

The original white bear ice - Shirokuma. 
Japan version of ice kachang? Shop was quite empty on the day of visit; was expecting to see a reasonable crowd during meal time as this shop was quite heavily publicised in travelogues. The variety of shaved ice available here made us spoilt for choice. Ordered two different bowls of shaved ice to share - the top two best selling cold dessert in the shop: the original "white bear ice" and strawberry flavoured "white bear ice". Do note that the shaved ice comes in two sizes: the regular and the "baby (ベビー)" size. Had two regular sizes to share among four persons. Contrary to our ice kachang which has atap seeds, you will find agar, banana, orange and beans at the bottom of the bowl. After filling the bowl with fine, shaved ice, condensed milk and honey are drizzled over it, with final touches of fruit toppings such as orange, peach, banana, strawberry, etc to complete this dessert. The combination makes this a welcoming dessert to cool one down during the hot summer period here in Kyushu.

Strawberry Shirokuma
Looks better than it tastes. Could not resist the hearty bowl of snow like ice with colourful fruits when it was served. However, I didn't find this cold dessert exceptionally good taste wise. I prefer my shaved ice to be finer and melt at the moment I put into my mouth. Milk was fragrant and sweet but diluted by the melting ice overtime. If asked to choose between shaved ice and parfait for dessert, I will choose the latter as I feel that fruits go better with ice cream than shaved ice. If you are unable to make your way to the flagship store at Tenmokan, Mujaki has another branch located at AMU Plaza (Kagoshima Chuo JR Station).

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Tenmonkan Mujaki 天文館むじゃき
〒892-0843  鹿児島市千日町5-8 天文館むじゃきビル
Opening hrs: 1100 - 2200 hrs
http://mujyaki.co.jp/

How to get there?
From Kagoshima Chuo Ekimae (鹿児島中央駅), take Kagoshima City Tram Route 2 heading for Kagoshima Ekimae (鹿児島駅) and alight at Tenmokan dori (天文館通). Approx 2 - 3 minutes walk away.



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Video: Scroll to 8:55 for 遇约九州's feature on Mujaki. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Ichi Nii San Tenmonkan Branch いちにいさん天 文館店

Visited 24.03.2014


First night in Kagoshima. First thing that came to my mind was to find a good restaurant that serves superior kurobuta (black fur pig) that Kagoshima is proud of! Have bought kurobuta from Kagoshima from Isetan in Singapore to savour during steamboat sessions at home and I love the sweetness and tender texture of the meat. Followed the travel guide book - took the electric tram from Kagoshima Chuo to the shopping district of Tenmonkan. Ichi nii san is easily distinguished by this huge symbol of Kurobuta's rear and its short tail with white marking at the end.


Bottom center: Dipped the meat into "soba tsuyu"; Bottom right: yuzu pepper can be added to ponzu sauce.
Kurobuta vs soba. Ordered the shabu shabu set which comes with kurobuta, vegetables, meatballs and buckwheat soba. Kagoshima's kurobuta is raised on sweet potatoes which gives the meat that distinct flavour and sweetness. Ichi nii san selects the belly portion of kurobuta for shabu shabu. Only a few swishes of each thinly sliced of rosy marbled meat in boiling water is required and the mouth watering meat is ready for consumption! Ichi nii san actually originated as a restaurant selling buckwheat soba. Therefore, instead of the usual sesame dipping sauce provided for shabu shabu, Ichi nii san created their very own ponzu sauce, known as "soba tsuyu", to match both the meat and soba. Spicy yuzu pepper and crispy white spring onions (白ねぎ) can be added to the sauce to further elevate the taste of the meat. Was my first time eating shabu shabu this way and I enjoyed my dipping sauce with a huge serving of freshly cut white spring onions. Had a satisfying dinner as the meat did not disappoint at all. Looks like Kagoshima's kurobuta is going to stay on our menu for future steamboat sessions back at home!

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Ichi Nii San Tenmonkan Branch いちにいさん 天文館店
鹿児島市東千石町11-6 そばビル2・3F (2nd & 3rd floor)
Opening hrs: 1130 - 2200 hrs
http://ichiniisan.jp/


Other branches in Kagoshima:

Ichi Nii San Kagoshima AMU Plaza
鹿児島市中央町1番1 アミュプラザ鹿児島5F (5th floor)
Opening hrs: 1100 - 2300 hrs

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hotel Urbic Kagoshima ホテルアービック鹿児島

Stayed 24.03.2014
Booked thru' Booking.com.

Top left: View from hotel room
Most hotels are found in two main areas in Kagoshima city - near Kagoshima Chuo JR Station and Tenmokan area. Decided to go with Hotel Urbic, which is a stone throw away from Kagoshima Chuo JR Station. Its operation follows the typical business hotel model in Japan, which is aimed to provide economical and no frills accommodation to travellers.

Booked twin room (inclusive of breakfast) at an affordable rate of 10,000 yen. Was surprised to get a rather spacious room (22 m2) with reasonable walking space. Similar to other hotel chains, all basic amenities are well taken care of here. A decent number of dishes were served during breakfast buffet. Though I could not find one prominent feature that make this hotel more outstanding than others, its competitive rates, strategic location and clean environment are good enough reasons for a traveller to stay in this hotel.

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What's nearby? 

(1) Kagoshima Chuo JR Station & AMU Plaza, less than a minute walk away from the hotel.

(2) Kagoshima Chuo Ekimae Station, less than 2 minutes walk away from the hotel.

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Hotel Urbic Kagoshima ホテルアービック鹿児島
890-0045 鹿児島県鹿児島市武1丁目3番1号
http://www.urbic.jp/

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Kagoshima Chuo JR Station 鹿児島中央駅, Kagoshima City Tram 鹿児島市電


Kagoshima Chuo JR Station, serves both the local trains and Kyushu Shinkansen.
* Please take note that Kagoshima Chuo and Kagoshima JR Station are two different train stations. Only the former is part of Kyushu Shinkansen line.

Main lines include:
(1) Kyushu Shinkansen line. Kagoshima Chuo is the southernmost terminus station on the line.
- Sakura and Mizuho commute between Kagoshima Chuo and Shin Osaka, on both Kyushu and Sanyo Shinkansen line.
- Tsubame commutes between Kagoshima Chuo and Hakata.

(2) Kagoshima main line, connects Kagoshima to Kumamoto and Hakata.

(3) Ibusuki Markurazaki line, connects Kagoshima to Ibusuki and Markurazaki.

Special sightseeing and limited express train departing from Kagoshima Chuo JR Station include:
(1) Hayato no kaze (隼人の風), commutes between Yoshimatsu and Kagoshima Chuo.

(2) Ibusuki no Tamatebako (指宿の玉手箱), commutes between Kagoshima Chuo and Ibusuki.

(3) Limited Express Kirishima, commutes between Kagoshima Chuo and Miyazaki. 

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What's nearby?

(1) AMU Plaza and Bic Camera
Both are connected to the train station. Managed by JR Kyushu, AMU Plaza houses popular brands such as Uniqlo, MUJI, Tokyu Hands, ABC Mart, Tower Records. There is even a ferris wheel on the roof of AMU Plaza. Named as Amuran Ferris Wheel, it provides a bird's eye view of downtown Kagoshima and nearby Sakurajima. 
AMU Plaza Kagoshima: http://www.amu-kagoshima.com/images/common/floorguide.pdf

(2) Kagoshima City Tram 鹿児島市電
- The network is made up of two lines:
Route 1: tram commutes between Taniyama and Kagoshima ekimae.
Route 2: tram commutes between Korimoto and Kagoshima ekimae, via Kagoshima Chuo ekimae.
- Each trip cost 160 yen, regardless of the number of stops travelled.
- A one day unlimited tram pass cost 600 yen. Can be purchased from Tourist Information Center in Kagoshima Chuo JR Station, post offices and hotels in Kagoshima city. 


From Kagoshima Chuo ekimae,
- take Route 2 and alight at Tenmonkandori (天文館通), where the heart of Kagoshima city lies in. This is one of Kagoshima city's busiest entertainment district where numerous eateries and shops are located in.  
- take Route 2, alight at Suizokukan Guchi (水族館口) and transfer to 15 minutes ferry ride to visit Sakurajima.

Peeked into Yatai mura just before we left Kagoshima.
(3) Kagommafurusato Yataimura かごっまふるさと屋台村
There is a street hawker village otherwise known as "yatai" located about 10 minutes walking distance from Kagoshima Chuo JR Station. This is definitely one place to head down to if you want to try local gourmet dishes or immerse yourself transiently into local culture. Wanted very much to pay this place a visit but had to give the idea up due to time constraint (only stayed in Kagoshima city for 1 night).
Website: http://www.kagoshima-gourmet.jp/


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Commemorative stamp:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hayato no kaze 隼人の風

Travelled 24.03.2014


There are two round trips daily. For my trip, I boarded Hayato no kaze 3 which departed from Yoshimatsu JR Station at 1503 hrs and arrived at Kagoshima Chuo at 1632 hrs. This is one of the 3 sightseeing trains I took to travel from Kumamoto to Kagoshima. Do check out the latest train operating schedule on JR Kyushu website: https://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/trains/hayatonokaze/

  • Hayato no kaze 1, 3: Yoshimatsu > Kagoshima Chuo
  • Hayato no kaze 2, 4: Kagoshima Chuo > Yoshimatsu

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Highlights:

Top left: Observation lounge; Bottom right: Sakaurajima coming into sight.
Features & facilities: Train design/concept is quite similar to Isaburou/Shinpei. A shiny black coloured train with wooden interior. Made up of two train carriages, the train does not have a fixed counter that sells food. Instead, the cabin attendant will push a cart that carries light snacks and train merchandises along the aisle during the train journey. Small sections of the train are dedicated as observation lounges where the seats are arranged to face the windows. Do look out for the train's commemorative boarding pass and inked stamp while on board the train. 

Top: Osumi Yokogawa JR Station; Bottom: Kareigawa JR Station
Train makes a brief stop (5 mins) at two of the oldest train stations Osumi Yokogawa JR Station (大隅横河駅) and Kareigawa JR Station (嘉例川駅) along Hisatsu line. Both unmanned train stations were made of wood and have been around for more than a century. After departing from Hayato JR Station, the train cruises along the circumference of Kinko Bay, with Sakaurajima coming into sight. This is the best time to make your way to the observation lounge to capture this majestic active volcano through the camera lens.

Best ekiben. Something that I missed out was the ekiben (百年の旅物語かれい川) that is only available on board Hayato no kaze. JR Kyushu holds a campaign to select the best ekiben annually and this particular ekiben has won the competition thrice! However, to grab your hands on this award winning ekiben, it is not so straightforward. This ekiben is only made upon order, therefore reservation needs to be made at least 3 days in advance at JR Kyushu Travel Center or midori no madoguchi, located at major train station. Do note that this ekiben is not available on Hayato no kaze 2.

Hayato no kaze collar pin
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Commemorative boarding pass and stamp:


Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Isaburou 伊三郎, Okoba JR Station 大畑駅, Yatake JR Station 矢岳駅, Masaki JR Station 真幸駅


Travelled 24.03.2014


There are two round trips per day. For this trip, I boarded Isaburo 3 which departs from Hitoyoshi JR Station at 1321 hrs and arrived at Yoshimatsu JR Station at 1447 hrs. This is one of the 3 sightseeing trains that I took to travel from Kumamoto to Kagoshima.
Do check out the train operating schedule on JR Kyushu website: http://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/trains/isaburou_shinpei/
  • Isaburo 1 and 3: Hitoyoshi > Yoshimatsu
  • Shinpei 2 and 4: Yoshimatsu > Hitoyoshi

Origin. Train is named after Yamagata Isaburou (山縣伊三郎) and Gotou Shinpei (後藤新平), two prominent figures who have contributed greatly to railway development during Meiji period.

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Highlights: 
Features & facilities. The distinctive red exterior makes the train looked bright and stunning under sunlight. Wood is used as the core material to create a warm and cosy atmosphere internally. Seats are arranged in groups of four with pairs facing each other, suitable for passengers travelling in group of 3 to 4 people. Made up of only two carriages, there is no counter selling food in the train. However, cabin attendant will push a cart which carries train related merchandises, some light snacks and drinks along the aisle during the train journey.  

Charm. Hisatsu line (肥薩線) runs through three prefectures - Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima and has been around for more than a century. Despite full commissioning of Kyushu Shinkansen (Hakata to Kagoshima) in 2011, Hisatsu line continues to be in operation to serve the remote areas. Introduction of sightseeing trains (SL Hitoyoshi, Isaburou/Shinpei and Hayato no kaze) has instead, attracted many visitors to embark on a longer journey between Kumamoto and Kagoshima. In an era where efficiency is of utmost importance, hopping onto such local train is one form of escapism for city dwellers, to enjoy a slower pace of life.

Between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu, the train makes a brief stop (5 to 10 mins) at all intermediate railway stations.

Bottom right: Look how high the train has ascended to after Okoba JR Station.
  • Okoba JR Station (大畑駅). Many will make their way into the unmanned train station to pin their business card onto the wall. This is deemed as an action to acquire good luck. 
  • Experienced the one and only loop line & switch back mode of operation in Japan after Okoba JR Station. The train will make switch back and cruise along a loop line to ascend a steeper gradient. After the train has overcome the elevation, do look out and down from the train windows to discover how high the train has ascended from Okoba JR Station.
  • Yatake JR Station (矢岳駅). A D51 steam locomotive is put on display in a warehouse just beside the train station. This model of steam locomotive was first introduced in 1923 and almost all have retired from service. The only one that is still in operation (on special occasions) can be found in Gumma prefecture. (D51 498 owned by JR East: https://www.jreast.co.jp/railway/joyful/d51.html)

View overlooking Kirishima mountain range & Ebino Plateau is voted as one of top 3 in Japan.

  • Moment that all passengers looked forward to on board this train. After Yatake JR Station, do pay attention to the announcement made and find a good window seat on the left side of the train. Look out of the window as the train reduces its speed of travel and the scenery that appears right in front of your eyes is voted as one of top three best train views in Japan. On a good and clear day, a picturesque view of Kirishima Mountains and Ebino Plateau can be captured through the window frame.
  • Masaki JR Station (真幸駅). This is the only train station along Hisatsu line that is located in Miyazaki prefecture. What makes this train station special is its auspicious name "真幸" which means true happiness. Most passengers will alight and rush to sound this bell that is located on the platform, deemed as an act to wish for true happiness, analogous to its name. After this station, the train will perform a switch back operation again and make its way to the last station of this journey - Yoshimatsu JR Station.
Photo taking and commemorative boarding pass. Passengers can also borrow this commemorative panel which states the day of travel and also cabin attendant's hats for photo taking purposes. Don't forget to grab a commemorative boarding pass with inked stamp while on board the train.

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Video: Scroll to 41:20 for 遇约九州's feature on Isaburo/Shinpei.


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Commemorative boarding pass & stamp: 


Okoba JR Station
Yatake JR Station
Masaki JR Station

Friday, September 4, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hitoyoshi JR Station 人吉駅, Aoi Aso Shrine 青井阿蘇神社

Top left: Karakuri Clock; Bottom right: Very delicious chestnut rice ekiben.
Hitoyoshi JR Station, on Hisastu line.

Chestnut rice ekiben. This is the terminus station for two sightseeing trains - SL Hitoyoshi train and Isaburo/Shinpei. When the train pulled into the station, do pay attention to a person exclaiming "ekiben" loudly outside. Look out for an well groomed uncle supporting a huge box filled with ekibens (train bento boxes), held on a strap slung over his shoulders. Two of the most popular ekibens that are on sale here are ayu (sweetfish) sushi and chestnut rice. Bought the latter to try and I like it a lot. Rice is covered with huge and sweet chestnuts, accompanied with lotus root, tamago, prawn, fish and konjaku, all packed into a unique chestnut shapped container. So far, this is one of the best ekiben I have eaten before in Japan.


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What's nearby?

(1) Karakuri Clock からくり時計, located just in front of the train station.
This clock that takes on the form of a miniature Hitoyoshi Castle and comes into life every hour. Apparently, there is a story behind this clock... On the ground level of the castle, the windows revealed a group of drum players dancing to a folk song and the feudal lord disguised himself as a commoner to explore Hitoyoshi. Middle level showcased attractions which were visited/experienced by the feudal lord - such as Hitoyoshi Onsen and Kuma Shouchu, Lastly, the feudal lord, dressed back in his costume, reappeared at the top of the castle, looking pleased and overlooking at the town below. The duration of each performance is about 3 minutes.
Website (in Japanese): http://www.city.hitoyoshi.lg.jp/q/aview/186/1343.html


(2) Aoi Aso Shrine 青井阿蘇神社, approx 5 mins walk from the train station.
Had an hour to spare before Isaburo departs from the train station. Spoke to the staff at the tourist information center and she recommended Aoi Aso Shrine, one of the nearest attraction from the train station. This shinto shrine has a rich history of more than 1,200 years (founded in 806) and has been accredited as a national treasure in 2008. It has become rarer to see buildings with thatched roof in this era. However, such traditional and dwindling technique is still being well preserved and utilised in the construction/maintenance of this shrine. Do take a closer look at the elaborate architecture details showcased at different parts of the shrine. There is an inari shrine within the same compound, which is easily recognisable by the numerous vermilion torii that leads from the entrance to the main hall. This is also the first time I see cone shaped structures which were used to tie the divination slips to. In front of the shrine, there is a canal where cherry blossoms trees are planted along its sides - making this a good spot to come to during spring.
Website (in Japanese): http://www.aoisan.jp/




(3) Hitoyoshi Onsen 人吉温泉
Hitoyoshi is actually a hot spring town. Did contemplate to spend a night in a ryokan here during itinerary planning. Had to give up the idea due to time constraint. This is yet another item which was put into my follow up list for my next trip to Kyushu.
Website (in Japanese): http://hitoyoshionsen.net/



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Commemorative stamps:



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Video: Scroll to 32:10 for 遇约九州's feature on Kakuri Clock and Aoi Aso Shrine. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - SL Hitoyoshi SL人吉, Isshouchi JR Station 一勝地駅

Travelled on 24.03.2014

SL Hitoyoshi at Yatsushiro JR Station, the terminus station of Hisatsu line.
There is one round trip per day when the train is in operation. For my trip, I boarded SL Hitoyoshi which departed from Kumamoto JR Station at 0945 hrs and reached Hitoyoshi JR Station at 1213 hrs. This is one of the 3 sightseeing trains I took to travel from Kumamoto to Kagoshima (the other two being Isaburo and Hayato no kaze). Do check out the latest train operating schedule on JR Kyushu website: https://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/trains/slhitoyoshi/

Highlights:


My first! Steam locomotive driven trains have undergone revival and are commonly utilized as sightseeing trains in various parts of Japan. By right, my first SL train ride experience should be in Hokkaido, on board SL Fuyu no Shitsugen, about a year ago. Unfortunately, the steam locomotive was out for maintenance during the day of my travel and was replaced with diesel locomotive. Therefore, SL Hitoyoshi is officially my first steam locomotive train ride in Japan. Was relieved when I was able to reserve tickets for this popular sightseeing train.  


Features & facilities. Lavish interior created using wood, patterned fabric and leather sofa seats - a chic ambience can be felt immediately upon stepping into the train. Great level of details were displayed at different parts of the train  - from the dividers and curtains with the number "86" on it (because the train number is 58654), different type of wood used in every train carriage (such as rosewood and maple wood), to wooden cabinets displaying various series of steam locomotive trains and a mini library stocked up with a collection of books for all ages. A snack bar, located in the second carriage, sells original merchandises, ekibens, food and drinks. One free souvenir which everyone can bring home is the commemorative boarding pass and inked stamp, only found on board SL Hitoyoshi. Could not resist buying a miniature replica of the steam locomotive to add on to my existing collection of toy trains on display at home! Passengers can also borrow a commemorative panel which states the day of travel and also cabin attendant's hats for photo taking purposes.


Unobstructed train view. The most popular and crowded spot is at the rear of the train, where passengers can enjoy an unobstructed, panoramic view throughout the entire train journey. Train travels alongside the mysteriously charming Kuma River, where the water looked emerald green under the bright sunlight. Most people, including myself, hang out at this observation lounge, with our cameras and phones in hand, all prepared to capture/record beautiful pictures at the right moment - when the train crossed the metal bridges accompanied by loud chugging sound or when the train passed by rows of blooming cherry blossom trees leaving a trail of black smoke behind. Children receive this exclusive privilege to sit on the small chairs that were arranged to face the windows. To me, these are the "dream" seats especially for those who want to capture/admire the marvelous landscape without any interruption.  

Rear view of train.
SL Hitoyoshi makes a brief stop at several train stations: 
(1) Yatsushiro JR Station 八代駅. This is the terminus station for Hisatsu line, where a '0' or starting point marker is placed at the platform. Hisatsu line has been around for more than a century and runs through three prefectures, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. Despite full commissioning of Kyushu Shinkansen in 2011, many travellers are willing to sacrifice time and choose local/ sightseeing trains that commute along Hisatsu line, well known for being a scenic route.

Do you know? From Yatsushiro JR Station, one can also transfer to Hisatsu Orange railway line. On the Hisatsu Orange railway line, train moves alongside the beautiful coastline of East China Sea and Yatsushiro Sea. An Orange Restaurant train also operates between Shin-Yatsushiro and Sendai (川内駅) on weekends and holidays, where passengers can feast on a sumptuous meal while admiring the changing coastline scenery. Hope to experience this train ride on my next trip to Kyushu. From what I understood, this service is extremely popular with the locals, therefore do make an early reservation as soon as the dates of operation are released.
Website: http://www.hs-orange.com/english/

Left; Shiroishi JR Station; Right: Success amulet ticket from Isshouchi JR Station.
(2) Shiroishi JR Station 白石駅. This wooden train station is more than a century old. During the five minutes interval at this station, do hop off the train to explore the surroundings and observe how the train engineers operate the steam locomotive; shoveling coal into the fire box to generate steam to drive the wheels.

(3) Isshouchi JR Station 一勝地駅. Train makes a 10 minutes stop at this station which has an auspicious and lucky name - signifies success and victory. Was surprised to see many passengers rushing down to form a queue in front of the ticket counter. Out of curiosity I decided to join the queue and found out that a lucky charm ticket (shaped like an amulet), each with a unique serial number, was on sale here. Was actually expecting something more, thought that I could exchange this ticket for a real cloth type amulet but this was not the case. A beautiful landscape awaits just outside the train station - a spectacular view of Kuma River and the nearby mountainous area. There is a post office located on the right of the train station upon exit, where you can send a postcard back home with an exclusive inked stamp of Isshouchi post office.    

Kuma River in front of Isshouchi JR Station.
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Video: Scroll to 26:30 for 遇约九州's feature on SL Hitoyoshi.


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Boarding pass & commemorative stamps:


Isshouchi Post Office

Isshouchi JR Station

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Day 10 Itinerary: Kumamoto 熊本, Kagoshima 鹿児島

Day 10: 24.03.2014
* Day 3 of 5 Day JR Kyushu Rail Pass



Breakfast: Mitsui Green Hotel Kumamoto 三井ガーデ ンホテル熊本

Karashi machi 辛島町 > Kumamoto ekimae 熊本駅前
by Kumamoto City Tram, via A line. Fee = 150 yen.

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Kumamoto JR Station 熊本駅 (0944 hrs) > Hitoyoshi JR Station 人吉駅 (1219 hrs)
by SL Hitoyoshi SL人吉, with stopover @ Yatsushiro 八代駅, Shiroishi 白石駅, Isshouchi 一勝地駅.

Visited Aoi Aso Shrine 青井阿蘇神社.

Hitoyoshi JR Station 人吉駅 (1321 hrs) > Yoshimatsu JR Station 吉松駅 (1434 hrs)
by Isaburo 伊三郎, with stopover @ Okoba 大畑駅, Yatake 矢岳駅 and Masaki 真幸駅.

Lunch: Chestnut rice ekiben, bought at Hitoyoshi JR Station.

Yoshimatsu JR Station 吉松駅 (1503 hrs) > Kagoshima Chuo JR Station 鹿児島中央駅 (1632 hrs)
by Hayato no kaze 隼人の風, with stopover @ Osumi Yokogawa 大隅横河駅 and Kareigawa 嘉例川駅.

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Check in: Hotel Urbic Kagoshima ホテルアービック鹿児島

Kagoshima Chuo Ekimae 鹿児島中央駅前 > Tenmonkan 天文館
by Kagoshima City Tram via Route 2 (heading towards Kagoshima Ekimae). Fee = 160 yen.

Dinner: Kurobuta shabu shabu @ Ichi Nii San Tenmonkan Branch いちにいさん天文館店.

Dessert: Polar bear shaved ice @ Tenmonkan Mujaki むじゃき.

Tenmonkan 天文館 > Kagoshima Chuo Ekimae 鹿児島中央駅前
by Kagoshima City Tram via Route 2. Fee = 160 yen.

Shopping @ AMU Plaza Kagoshima.

- End of Day 10 -