Trip from Kumamoto to Kagoshima by Isaburo and Hayato no Kaze on Hisatsu line one day trip on March 16, 2012

2012 spring trip to Kyushu
Isaburo and local train at Yoshimatsu station
Isaburo and local train at Yoshimatsu station
Isaburo and local train at Yoshimatsu station

When you go to Kagoshima, Kyushu Shinkansen is the best way to get there. It is fast and the trains come very frequently. But if you have a time, please consider the route from Kumamoto to Kagoshima-Chuo via Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu on Hisatsu line (肥薩線). It is very scenic route. JR Kyushu operate very attractive trains on this route.

I got on three trains, Kumagawa (くまがわ) from Kumamoto to Hitoyoshi, Isaburo (いさぶろう) from Hitoyoshi to Yoshimatsu and Hayato no Kaze (はやとの風) from Yoshimatsu to Kagoshima-Chuo, to travel on this line. I would like to share my experience with you.

The limited express Kumagawa from Kumamoto to Hitosyoshi

Kumamoto can be accessed by Kyushu Shinkansen very easily. Actually you can complete this travel in one day from Osaka.

Two train sets of KIHA 183 at Kumamoto station. Limited Express Trans Kyushu Limited Express (Left) and Limited Express Kumagawa (right) (C) JP Rail

By the way, I took Kumagawa 3 at 11:44 am from Kumamoto. Kumagawa is operated by KIHA 183 series. This is very common diesel train set in Kyushu. Limited Express Kumagawa was only two cars set.

The limited express Kumagawa was replaced by the limited express Kawasemi Yamasemi. Please see the post below to find the information about Kawasemi Yamasemi:

When I got on Kumagawa, I was so excited. Because I started my trip for Hisatsu line. (C) JP Rail
The seat was very common. It is 2+2 seat configuration. (C) JP Rail

This train went on Kagoshima line until Yatsushiro. The scenery was nothing special. After stopping at Yatsushiro, the train went into Hisatsu line. The first part of Hisatsu line between Yatsushiro and Hitoyoshi is called “river line”. Because this line goes along Kuma river (球磨川). I have a seat at the left side (seat 7A). Kuma river was on the right side. But I knew it would be left side later. After half way to Hitoyoshi, I saw Kuma river at my side. You can enjoy Kuma river at either side. But I recommend you the left side (seat A/B).

The weather was not perfect. But I enjoyed the scenery of Kuma river. (C) JP Rail
The commemorative stamp was provided by the attendant on board. (C) JP Rail
Eki-Ben (boxed meal that is sold at the station) is very popular in Japan. But regular Bento is much cheaper than Eki-Ben. I bought this bento at 398 yen. It was sold at the convenience store in the station. Half price and more volume. (C) JPRail

Cruising local train Isaburo from Hitoyoshi to Yoshimatsu

I transferred train at Hitoyoshi from Limited Express Kumagawa to Isaburo. Arrival time was 13:10 and departure time was 13:21. There was only 11 minutes to transfer. But it was easy transfer since Hitoyoshi station was very small.

Cruising local train Izaburo (left) and Limited Express Kumagawa (right)

Isaburo is a sort of local train. You can take this train with a basic fare only. But most of seats are reserved seat. I recommend you to reserve it. Especially Japan Rail Pass cover any reserved seat with no extra charge. The pass user should do it! Please see the details about this train at

This car was used for commuters. But it was renovated completely. This is no longer that it used to be. (C) JP Rail
The seat was boxed style for 4 passengers with the table. There was only me in this section. But I didn’t stay there most of time.
There was a public space with huge glass window at the middle of train. I spent most of my time there. (C) JP Rail

This train is a local train. So it stopped all stations. Each stations looked very old and historic. The scenery was completely different from the section between Yatsushiro and Hitoyoshi. This section of Hisatsu line between Hitoyoshi and Yoshimatsu is called “Mountain line”. The train was climbing up the hill and I had very unique experience. The train went through two Zig zag (=switch back) and the spiral way because of very steep. The attendant guided was on board and she guided about history and scenery. I asked attendant how to look after the tourist from outside of Japan with Japanese speaking guiding. She said, ” Even though I cannot speak English very well, I try to communicate with gesturing, writing and showing some pictures. I am not 100% sure. But most of tourists seemed to enjoy.” I received some comments about language barrier from the readers. I understand you worry about this issue. But most of Japanese can understand much more than what you expect.

At Okoba station. Everybody left their own name card on the wall. (C) JP Rail
At Yatake station. This station is located at the highest elevation on Hisatsu line. (C) JP Rail
I couldn’t see anything because of rain! But it was one of most three scenery from the train in Japan. I supposed to see Kirishima mountains. (C) JP Rail
The bell of the happiness at Masaki station (C) JP Rail

It was raining. But I really enjoyed this 1.5 hour train trip.

The limited express Hayato no Kaze from Hitoyoshi to Kagoshima-Chuo

After I arrived at Yoshimatsu at 14:47, I changed the train to Kagoshima-Chuo. The next train was a black cool train, Hayato no Kaze. I had 15 minutes to transfer. But Yoshimatsu station was very tiny. I could change the train at the same platform. Please see the post below to see more about this train, Hayato no Kaze:

Isaburo (left) and common local train (right) at Yoshimatsu station. Hayato no Kaze would be other side of same platform as Isaburo. (C) JP Rail
This train was commute car sets too. It didn’t look like any more. (C) JP Rail
Lots of wood materials are used in the train. (C) JP Rail
The seat looked good but not comfortable so much. But it was okay because of only 1.5 hour trip. (C) JP Rail
Hayato no Kaze have a public space too. (C) JP Rail

Hayato no Kaze is a limited express train. But it is not a fast train. It stopped at both Osumiyokogawa and Kareigawa station for about 5 minutes for viewing the station. Because these stations are heritage buildings and are more than 100 years old.

Hayato no Kaze stopped at Osumi-Yokgawa for 5 minutes. (C) JP Rail
I saw some cherry blossom at Kareigawa station. (C) JP Rail
If the weather was good, I supposed to see Mt. Sakurajima and a beautiful Kinko bay scenery. But it was raining very hard. (C) JP Rail

I arrived at Kagoshima-Chuo station. This was a first visit for last 20 years! The station was completely different. Now Kagoshima-Chuo is Shinkansen station. There were lots of shops in the station.

Kagoshima-Chuo is the biggest station in south Kyushu. (C) JP Rail
You can move to Kumamoto and Hakata easily from Kagoshima-Chuo. If you want, you can go back to even Osaka after this rail trip. (C) JP Rail

I spent 5.5 hours to complete this train trip. If you take Shinkansen from Kumamoto to Kagoshima-Chuo, it takes 1 hour. Shinkansen is fast and convenient. But there are too many tunnels because Shinkansen takes the shortest route. That means not much scenery. If you are looking for something different, try to take this route.


  1. Venansia says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    Thank you for your information. I have a question, how much does it cost for the trip from Kumamoto to Kagoshima-chuo?

    I’m planning to take a group of my students during our visit to Kumamoto next year.

    Thank you ,

    With love from Indonesia

  2. Thomasss says:


    awsome info here!

    I am doing this in september, how early do i need to reserve the tickets?

    I really want to take advantage of the JR south kyushu pass but I am scared it will be too late to reserve them by the time i land in Japan

  3. Allan says:

    Hi Takeshi san, your information is very helpful and useful. I am planning for my next Japan trip which will be in April 2016 in Kyushu area. I saw from Youtube video that on the Hisatsu Orange Railway, there is a special train called “Galaxy Express 999”, running from Izumi to Yatsushiro. However I cannot find the timetable of this special train. Do you know where I can find the timetable and where I can buy the ticket for this special train? Thanks.

  4. Hwang says:

    If I were to take this route in the reverse order, starting from Kagoshima-Chuo instead, which train from Kagoshima-Chuo should I be taking ?

    Thank you.

  5. Hwang says:


    I will like to take a similar train journey starting from Kumamoto and ending at Kagoshima Chuo in early August. Please advise if I can can use JR pass for all sectors and how can I make bookings for seats outside of Japan.

    Thank you

  6. Fifi says:

    Really enjoyed reading about your journey on these special trains. I have trued to get the schedule on hyperdia and only if I put in the last leg dies it correspond with the specific trains you went on. Can you please tell me the station names or how else I can get the schedule. Thank youso much.

    • Hi Fifi,

      You can get the timetable at JR Kyushu website:


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Fifi says:

        Dear Takeshi,
        I did check the website before I posted my email and there is no mention of the Isaburo train. The Kumagawa 1 and Hayoto no Kaze are listed on there as well as on Hyperdia, but nothing on Isaburo. Are you able to offer any further assistance or info on buying these tickets from outside the country as they need reservations. Thanks so much.

        • Hi Fifi,

          I think this train is shown as local train at Hyperdia.
          You can find the train that depart from Hitoyoshi at 10:08. It’s right after Kumagawa 1 arrive at Hitoyoshi. That train is Isaburo. You will find reserved seat charge for this train on Hyperdia too. Common local train does not have any reserved seat.

          Actually you can’t book it from outside of Japan. But you can take this train without reserved seat anyway. This is operated for local people too.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. junie says:

    Very informative site.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences. I was able to maximize my trips and minimize the expenses using the information provided herein. And I have also shared this site to my friends.
    Once again, おおきに ありがとう!

  8. Tommy says:

    I took Isaburo too, but i understand 0 of what the attendant said >.<

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Tommy,
      I’m sorry to hear that.
      Unfortunately most of trains in Japan do not focus on overseas travellers. In Kyushu, only Yufuin-no-mori have the attendant who speak English. There are lots of overseas travellers in Kyushu and Hokkaido. I hope they educate the staff more.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Andy says:

    Sounds like a great journey. I heard that the northern sector also has a steam train running during the summer months. I have taken the Hayato no Kaze once from Kagoshima to Aira.

    I think Kyshu in many ways is the best of Japan, and JR Kyshu runs the best touring trains.

    Again thanks for the website.

  10. Sealy says:

    Japan looks amazing, but I was not expecting trains like that. Japan in my head is all robots and technology, not box cart trains.

    This has changed my view slightly, or are those trains only for sceneic routes?

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