Best cruising local train in Kyushu. Local train Isaburo / Shinpei

Izaburo / Shinpei are mostly operated by restored KIHA 147 series. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Izaburo / Shinpei are mostly operated by restored KIHA 147 series. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

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.

My trip from Kumamoto to Kagoshima-Chuo on March 16, 2012 by Limited Express Kumagawa, Isaburo and Hayato no Kaze

Stations Isaburo 1
to Yoshimatsu
Shinpei 2
to Hitoyoshi
Isaburo 3
to Yoshimatsu
Shinpei 4
to Hitoyoshi
Hitoyoshi (人吉) 10:08 13:03 13:21 16:35
Okoba (大畑) 10:23/10:25 12:49/12:52 13:38/13:43 16:17/16:23
Yatake (矢岳) 10:49/10:54 12:2712:32 14:09/14:14 15:53/15:59
Masaki (真幸) 11:07/11:12 12:02/12:07 14:32/14:37 15:29/15:34
Yoshimatsu (吉松) 11:21 11:49 14:47 15:16


View Izaburo / Shinpei in a larger map

Accommodation and train formations

The entrance of Izaburo / Shinpei (C) Sonic Rail Garden
The entrance of Izaburo / Shinpei (C) Sonic Rail Garden

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.

Images
Reserved ordinary seat
Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei

Non reserved ordinary seat
Non reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Non reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Non reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Non reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei Non reserved ordinary seat for Isaburo and Shinpei

Common space
Common space of Isaburo and Shinpei Common space of Isaburo and Shinpei Common space of Isaburo and Shinpei Common space of Isaburo and Shinpei

Sanitary space
Sanitary space of Isaburo and Shinpei Sanitary space of Isaburo and Shinpei Sanitary space of Isaburo and Shinpei Sanitary space of Isaburo and Shinpei Sanitary space of Isaburo and Shinpei Sanitary space of Isaburo and Shinpei

Service counter
Service counter of Isaburo and Shinpei Service counter of Isaburo and Shinpei Service counter of Isaburo and Shinpei

Train formation

1 2
R R/NR

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.

15 thoughts on “Best cruising local train in Kyushu. Local train Isaburo / Shinpei”

  1. I tried to look these trains up for July 1st or 2nd and Hyperdia does not show them. Between Kirishima Onsen and Matsumoto it routes me via Kagoshima even if I specify passing Hitoyoshi.

    How can I see these trains?

    Thank you.

  2. Takeshi-san,

    The transfer from the Isaburo to the Hayato no Kaze is a mere 3 minutes (11:22 – 11:25) in Yoshimatsu. Would there be an issue if the Isaburo train is at all late? Is this a popular connection that is accounted for by train staff?

    Thank you very much!!!

    1. Hi Lars san,

      3 minutes transfer time is on purpose. You can easily transfer those trains because it’s same platform and Yoshimitsu station is so small. If Isaburo is late, Hayato no Kaze wait for it in most cases.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. We, family of four will be travel back to Fukuoka after visiting Kagoshima and would like to take the special scenic route of Kagoshima-Chuo to Yoshimatsu to Hitoyoshi to Kumamoto, then Sakura to Hakata Station within a day. We will be leaving Fukuoka the next day. Should I buy an All Kyushu Pass, or just purchase the ticket since I can use it for one way.

    1. Hi Tish,

      If you use the pass just for this route, single fare is cheaper.
      You can purchase and book a ticket at any major JR stations in advance. Online reservation is not available. You have to go to do it at reservation window in the station that is called “Midori no Madoguchi”.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. I loved my time on this train and I travelled with the japan rail pass and reserved a seat.

    Beware about reserving a seat, since even if the train is not at all busy (about 30% full the day I travelled) those without reserved seat tickets are directed to sit ONLY in the non-reserved bench type seats. This seemed a little strange since so many other seats were empty but rules are rules I suppose.

  5. Does this scenic route from Kumamoto to Kagoshima still operate because when I look at the JR Kyushu site there does not seem to be a line from Hitoyoshi to Yoshimatsu ?

  6. Is the timings for the Shinpei 4 listed here supposed to be flipped?

    From what I can find on hyperdia.com, Shinpei 4 leaves Yoshimatsu (not Hitoyoshi) at 1516hr and arrives at Hitoyoshi (not Yoshimatsu) at 1635hrs, and not the other way around.

  7. We are a party of 5 who will be travelling to Kyushu later this month. Part of our itinerary is to go from Kagoshima to Kumamoto via the scenic route that will take us through Yoshimatsu and Hitoyoshi. We heard of the nice traditional trains that we can take on this route. Can you tell us how we can plan the train connection to our destination Kumamoto?
    Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Joyce,
      It is very nice route. I strongly recommend it.
      Usually take Hayato no Kaze from Kagoshima to Yoshimatsu. Please see the details below link.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/limited-express-hayato-no-kaze.html
      Then take Izaburo/Shinpei from Yoshimatsu to Hitoyoshi.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/local-train-izaburo-shinpei.html
      After arrive at Hitoyoshi, take Trans Kyushu Limited Express from Hitoyoshi to Kumamoto.
      http://jprail.com/trains/trans-kyushu-limited-express-kyushu-odan-tokkyu-kumagawa.html
      All trains are connected in 10 to 15 minutes. So you can transfer the trains very smoothly.
      But if you want to stay somewhere on this route, take some time at Hitoyoshi.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Dear Takeshi-san,

        This is exactly the route that I would like to take in the summer, travelling from Kumamoto to Kagoshima (on Sunday, the 24th of July). It sounds so wonderful!

        I will be using a JR Kyushu Ryugakusei pass, and I would like your advice regarding whether reservations needed on each stage of this route and the additional reservation fees I would have to pay.

        Kumamoto 9:45 ->Hitoyoshi 12:09 by SL Hitoyoshi
        Hitoyoshi 13:22 -> Yoshimatsu 14:48 by Isaburo
        Yoshimatsu 15:01 -> Kagoshima-chuo 16:44 by Hayato no Kaze

        I also plan to take Ibusuki no Tamatebako , Umisachi Yamasachimi, and Yufuin no mori on the same trip, as I make my way back north. Again, could you tell me about the additional fees I would have to pay as a foreign student?

        Many thanks for your help!

        1. Hi Cris san,

          This pass does not cover reserved seat fee. So as long as you take non reserved seat, it’s covered by this pass fully. However SL Hitoyoshi, Ibusuki no Tamatebako and Yufuin no Mori have only reserved seat. Please check the timetable at Hyperdia for this train and you will find “Seat fee” in the result. That is an extra fare that you need to pay.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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