Isaburo / Shinpei connects Kumamoto, Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu. This train is called as two train names but this is same train. The only difference is the direction. Isaburo runs from Kumamoto and Shinpei runs from Yoshimatsu. 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 who was the minister of transportations and telecommunications. Shinpei is named from Shinpei Goto who was the president of Japanese Government Railways.
This train was operated as a local train between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu. In 2017, one of two round trips started to run between Kumamoto and Yoshimatsu as a limited express train. Now this train runs as a limited express train between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi, and runs as a local train between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu.
Most of seats are reserved seat when this train is operated as even a local train between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu. And this train is not just a regular local train but the cruising train. This train is operated by fully renovated sperized fleet. There is an attendant on the train. She shows you the scenery of Hisatsu line.
You can take this train by JR Pass.
I will show you many images of this train and tell you the details.
Route and schedule
This train connects Kumamoto, Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu. There is one crew on the train. She guides about the scenery and sell drinks, snacks and souvenirs. This train runs as a limited express train only the segment between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi. This runs as a local train between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu. It stops at all stations on a local train operation segment, 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 photo. Hisatsu line is very historical line. This used to be a part of main line between Hakata and Kagoshima. So every single stations have a history and these look so traditional. You may find the local product in the station. So this train is not only a local train but also one hour train cruising.
Only one of two round trips runs on the segment between Kumamoto and Yoshimatsu. Another round trip runs between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu only. If you take this train from Hitoyoshi, you can get Hitoyoshi by other trains, such as SL Hitoyoshi, Limited Express Kawasemi Yamasemi.
This train connects to other cruising train, Hayato no Kaze at Yoshimatsu. You can get Kagoshima-Chuo by this train. Many tourists take both Hayato no Kaze and Isaburo/Shinpei between Kagoshima-Chuo and Hitoyoshi or Kumamoto.
You can get some more information about this train at JR Kyushu official site (English).
Please also see my trip report. This is not very updated because I had the trip in 2012. But you may get some idea to build your trip plan.
View Isaburo / Shinpei in a larger map
Accommodation and train formations
Isaburo and Shinpei are operated by specialized KIHA 147 series. This series was an ordinary commute train fleet. But it was completely renovated. It does not look like a commute train any more. The lots of wood material are used in the car. You may feel Japanese traditional atmosphere. There is a public space with a huge glass window. You can enjoy a breathtaking scenery from this space too.
The seat configuration is like a box unit. 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. This train has some non reserved seat but the number of seat is only 7. 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 7 non reserved seats available.