Kyushu by Rail
Make the most of your JR Kyushu Rail Pass as you explore Kyushu's beautiful west coast. To travel through from Fukuoka to Kagoshima, you'll need the All Kyushu Area Pass. The pass covers the shinkansen from Hakata Station in Fukuoka to Kagoshima-Chuo Station in Kagoshima and many local trains; it also covers some fascinating sightseeing trains, including a traditional steam locomotive. You can reserve seats for all these trains online.
Fukuoka is compact and cosmopolitan, with a friendly atmosphere. Closer to Korea than Tokyo, the city is the historic gateway to the Asian mainland. Hakata Station is connected to Tokyo by shinkansen and has rail and bus connections to the rest of Kyushu. Explore the beautiful grounds of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu National Museum and the surrounding town, just under an hour from the city. Don’t miss the local specialty Hakata ramen, with a rich, pork broth.
Kumamoto is famous for legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi, delicious food and the Mt. Aso volcano. The city is centered around Kumamoto Castle. Although the castle was badly damaged by an earthquake in 2016, its restoration has become a symbol of Kumamoto's recovery. Next to the castle the Sakura no Baba Josaien is a fun shopping area with a traditional atmosphere with samurai in full regalia, who are happy to pose for photos.
Hitoyoshi is about 2 hrs south of Kumamoto city by train. The town, with a retro atmosphere, is famous for its trains, including the SL Hitoyoshi steam locomotive. You can cruise the nearby Kumagawa River on a traditional wooden boat, or refresh your senses with a heart-pounding white-water rafting trip. For more leisurely fun, visit Hitoyoshi Craft Park, about 15 mins from the station by local bus. You can try activities like glass blowing and metal smithing, or experience a tea ceremony.
The skyline of Kagoshima is dominated by Japan's most active volcano, Sakurajima, which often has plumes of smoke rising from the top. The city is sometimes called the Naples of Japan for its geographic similarities. People live on Sakurajima, and it is a fascinating place to visit by ferry from Kagoshima Port. The trip takes about 15 minutes. The island has hiking trails, hot springs and several observatories to see the volcano. Don't miss the half-buried stone torii gate at Kurokami Shrine.
Sengan-En, a short bus ride from Kagoshima Station, was built in 1658 for the Shimazu family, who ruled part of Kyushu from the late 12th century to the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868. Tour the beautiful gardens, with views of Sakurajima. Take a train to Ibusuki, a popular hot spring resort area with sand baths, heated by underground geothermal springs. Don’t miss Yakushima, a subtropical island and natural World Heritage Site with Japan's oldest cedar trees. Ferries depart daily from Kagoshima Port.
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