Isaburo (いざぶろう) and Shinpei (しんぺい) are same local trains. The only difference is the direction. Isaburo is the train that departs from Hitoyoshi (人吉) to Yoshimatsu (吉松). Shinpei is operated from Yoshimatsu to Hitoyoshi. Both Isaburo and Shipei are the name of the key persons when the construction of this section was completed. Isaburo is the named from Isaburo Yamagata (山縣伊三郎) who was the minister of transportations and telecommunications. Shinpei is named from Shinpei Goto (後藤新平) who was the persident of Japanese Government Railways.
These trains are the local trains. But most of seats are reserved seat. And this train is not just local train but the cruising train and is operated by specialized car. This is one of the best local train in Japan. There is a crew attendant on the train. She shows you the scenery of Hisatsu line (肥薩線). Of course you don’t have any restriction to take this train by Japan Rail Pass.
I will show you many images of this train and tell you the details.
Route and schedule
This train connects Hitoyoshi with Yoshimatsu. There is one crew on the train. She guides about the scenery and sell drinks, snacks and souvenirs. This is the local train. So it stops at all stations, Okoba, Yatake and Masaki, between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu. The train stop at these stations for several minutes. You can get off the train and have a time to take a picture. Hisatsu line is very historical line. This used to be a part of main line between Hakata and Kagoshima. So every stations have a history and these look so traditional Japanese. You may find the local product in the station. So this train is not only local train but also one hour train cruising.
If you want to take this train, you can access from Kumamoto via Hitoyoshi or Kagoshima via Yoshimatsu. You can get Hitoyoshi by Trans-Kyushu Limited Express/Kumagawa from Kumamoto. If you cant to take this train from Yoshimatsu, you can simply take another cruising train, Hayato no Kaze from Kagoshima-Chuo. Hayato no Kaze is operated by the train that has same atmosphere as Izaburo/Shinpei. Lots of tourists take both Hayato no Kaze and Izaburo/Shinpei combination.
Two round trips of Izaburo/Shipei are operated. It connects Hitoyoshi with Yoshimatsu in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
You also can find some more information about this train at my trip report.
View Izaburo / Shinpei in a larger map
Accommodation and train formations
Isaburo and Shinpei are operated by specialized KIHA 147 series. This series was used as the commute train. But it was completely renovated. It is no longer that it used to be. The lots of wood material are used in the car. You may feel Japanese traditional atmosphere. Each car has a common space for everybody. There are only three cars that are owned by JR Kyushu and usually two of these three cars are used for this train. But all three cars may be used in the peak season. And also sometime regular local train car is used for this train.
One of three cars have a huge glass window at the middle of the train. You can enjoy the great scenery along Hisatsu line with guiding about the scenery (in Japanese) by the train crew. And they take care of the sales on board too. You can buy some local foods, drinks and souvenirs.
The seat configuration is the box type. Two sets of the bench seat for two face each other. One unit accommodate 4 passenger. Each unit has a table too. This is not a big seat. But unless you make a reserve the seat, you may not get any seat on the train. There are only seven seats for non reserved seat in normal two cars train formation. Even if you get a three-car train formation, only 10 more seat. Some seats are the wood bench seat. I strongly recommend you reserve your seat.
*Sonic Rail Garden has copyright for all images of accommodations below.
R=Reserved ordinary seat NR=Non reserved ordinary seat
*There are only seven non reserved seats on Car#2. In the peak season, one more car is added. But there are still 17 non reserved seats in total.