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.
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:
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).
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.