Take the Shinkansen to fully explore Kyushu, Japan.Photo/Roméo A; Unsplash
Japan’s The new Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen will not only make it easier to explore northern Kyushu, but also the scenery around the cities of Fukuoka and Nagasaki. Tamara Hinson jumped on board.
Now, it’s fitting that the best way to travel between Fukuoka and Nagasaki, Kyushu’s most spectacular (and very different) cities, are two rail travels that commemorate Kyushu in very different ways. The West Kyushu Shinkansen now connects Nagasaki and Takeo Onsen, and carries passengers between the two on the Kamome train, a sleek bullet train inspired by the silhouette of a seagull, while the 36+3 sightseeing train operates 5 Different routes, ancient crafts of Kyushu.
Both cities are worth exploring for different reasons. Fukuoka’s Hakata Railway Station stands on Taibai Avenue, which was built in 1969 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Fukuoka’s founding. Perhaps the designation is a bit late—after all, this is home to the oldest Zen temple in Japan. Built in 1195, the Temple of Holy Fortune sits on a quiet tree-lined back street and is surrounded by smaller temples with rock gardens where monks have carved lines in the sand.
The view from Fukuoka Tower, Japan’s tallest coastal observation tower, is stunning, but I also recommend exploring the Momochihama neighborhood where it’s located. This is home to Qingnan Gakuin University, founded by an American missionary in 1916, and I read more about it at the Qingnan Gakuin University Museum, founded in 1921 by missionary William Vories Built, covered with ivy, built of red brick. Other finds were made in memory of former Momochihama resident Machiko Hasegawa, Japan’s first professional manga artist. Momochihama adorns the sculptures of characters from her manga masterpiece, Sazae-san.
Advertise through NZME.
Perhaps, then, there will be a statue of Eiji Mioka, who designed some of Kyushu’s most spectacular trains, including the Kyushu Seven Stars, whose bathrooms are lined with fragrant cypress. One of Eiji’s latest creations is the 36+3 sightseeing train, which operates sightseeing routes around Japan’s southernmost main island, Kyushu. Highlights of the train I took in Fukuoka included extensive areas of polished paint, seats divided by wooden latticework (traditionally made without nails), and a shop selling local produce. There are craft workshops on board, and the first-class cabins have tatami floors. Gorgeous upholstered curtains divide the compartments, and the windows have traditional wooden shutters in case I want to block the view.
Obviously I don’t think so. The northern part of Kyushu is cooler than the southern part, and the scenery is lush rice fields. One stop on my journey was Hizen Hamajuku, a small village-like neighborhood in Kashima City. We were greeted by locals offering shochu samples, and guided by our guide, we strolled along winding alleys lined with low buildings with ornate tiled roofs, as we passed Fuchiyo Sake Brewery We felt a burst of excitement. This small brewery, whose sake has won first place at the prestigious International Wine Champion Awards, is one of the centuries-old Hizen Hamajuku breweries. The top tip for a sake detective? Keep an eye out for the dried cedar bulbs – the owners hang them outside to signify the distillery’s presence.
We continued on, past the Edo period warehouses with clay walls. Hizen Hamajuku is a protected sanctuary, and visitors can now stay at a former brewery that was closed and vacant until it was converted into a boutique hotel by the JR railway. Before we got back on the train, I toasted Hizen Hamajuku at the station, where a local standing in a booth full of sake bottles invited me to identify the different varietals by their printed flavor descriptions. I failed miserably, but as compensation I got a lottery-like chance and walked away with a souvenir pen.
The last leg of the 36+3 train took me to Takeo Onsen, a town now connected to Nagasaki by the West Kyushu Shinkansen’s Seagull train, also designed by Eiji Mitooka, which it hopes will eventually reach Fukuoka. The sleek white high-speed machine gallops to Nagasaki. I arrive in the early evening, but Nagasaki’s rush hour is orderly and calm, when commuters stop at a free piano at the station and start banging the piano. Even more so. ivory.
Advertise through NZME.
The architecture of Nagasaki, a city that rose from the ashes after the atomic bomb, still offers a glimpse into its past. When I saw the monastery-style Hotel Monterey built in the 1500s, I couldn’t help but be amazed. It is close to Oura Church, the oldest Gothic church in Japan, Belle Vue, which became Nagasaki’s first Western-style hotel in 1863, and Glover Garden, named after Scottish Thomas Glover. He helped turn Nagasaki into a center of trade, investing in mines and agriculture. Helped found the brewery now known as Kirin.
There are also many temples. Dating back to the 1600s, this stone bridge across Nagasaki’s Nakajima River was built by a monk who later became the abbot priest of nearby Kofuku-ji Temple, one of several temples on Teramachi, or Temple Street. Other temples include Koei-zan Choshoji, surrounded by manicured palm trees, and Kotaji Temple, with its impossibly ornate roof.
Exploring the city is easy thanks to the network of trams that rattle along Nagasaki’s tree-lined streets, though I can’t help but think they’re not the same as Eiji Shin Mioka’s 36+3 sightseeing train and the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen Looks pretty plain compared to the Seagull Train. But who knows? Given Kyushu’s association with Japan’s coolest trains, it must have only been a matter of time before Eiji Mioka turned his attention to trams.
For more attractions and things to do in Japan, visit Japan Travel Net