Golden Week: Kyushu~! Day Three: Catching ferries and climbing bridges

City: Kagoshima

Last day! On the sample itinerary, they had suggested catching the Aso Boy train to the Mt. Aso area in Kumamoto to explore the area for the day.  However, when we were going through the different types of trains on the JR Kyushu lines, we had spotted the beautiful A-Train express, a Jazz-aged inspired train that runs three to four times a day to Misumi, a small town between Kumamoto and Amakusa on the shore of Ariake Sea and famous for oranges.

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Just look how beautiful the train is!

And so, after grabbing a quick breakfast at Seattle’s Best Coffee (the coffee is neither from Seattle nor the best… but good enough for when you are hungry and have not-quite enough sleep), we started our day.

Kagoshima-chuo Station ~ Kumamoto Station
Train: Sakura Shinkansen

Our break between trains at Kumamoto gave us nearly an hour to explore, so we decided to head into town properly and see a little of Kumamoto before heading off to Misumi.  We should have guessed by what we saw last time we were in Kumamoto… but the station is located on the outskirts of the city, and to see the things that make the place famous would need either a bus or a tram ride into the city centre.  We had time, but not enough to hop onto somewhat infrequent public transports (due to the public holiday) and make it back for our train.

So we decided to take a stroll down the main street and see how far we could go before heading back to the station.  However, I sincerely suggest you don’t do this, because estimating return times and stuff is really hard, and we nearly missed the train as a result.

Kumamoto Station ~ Misumi Station
Train: A-Train

Oh, beautiful beautiful Jazz train.  They took the theme to the extreme, as all Japanese themed-places do, and had stained glass windows, specially patterned seat covers and carpet and a retro on-board bar with formally dressed bartenders.  Although the drinks were expensive, we all decided to get a celebratory drink, and that added to the whole atmosphere of the train.

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The fancy on-board bar

The ride is short, but very enjoyable, with beautiful farmscapes turning into inland seascapes to accompany the soothing, train-ride appropriate Jazz mix playing during the trip.  There is also a train card to be collected on the A-Train, which makes it all the more special.  JR Kyushu is doing something right, with all these specialty trains and accompanying stamp cards.

Town: Misumi

When we step off the train, the first thing I noticed was how charming Misumi was.  The station faces the shore, and when you turn back, the small town stretches outwards from the station into the distance.  There were clearly a lot of tourists who came by Misumi, because when we approached the tourist centre, not only did they have most of the pamphlets available in both Japanese and English, but the people working there could speak English quite a lot better than a lot of workers in similar tourist centres in Fukuoka.  The woman we spoke to told us of a boat that would take us out to a few of the outer islands, and recommended for us to go to the closest island due to our short-ish time frame.  The ferry runs semi-frequently (every hour or so, from memory), and being almost time for the ferry to depart, we rushed out from the centre and straight onto the ferry.

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One of the tourist sights of the town: Misumi Station

The ferry itself is quite small, but it travels fast, and soon we were whooshing past smaller islands until we got to our stop.  I can’t remember the name of the island we stopped at all… But it’s the first stop on the ferry service, and a lot of families got off with us, so if you’re travelling on a holiday, follow the families!

On this island, we had heard about dolphin watching, but alas! ‘Twas not the season for dolphin watching, and the prices were beyond us.  So we decided to take a walk instead, heading towards a building complex that we spotted on our way in.

This building complex is evidently the main tourist attraction, because it housed a few cafeteria style restaurants and quite a large souvenir shop.  It also serves as the entrance to a path that leads past an abandoned army airplane to a small local aquarium.  People are allowed to climb into the airplane, and so that was what we promptly went to do.  I have never been inside a small aircraft, let alone an army plane, and I found it fascinating.  Things had been allowed to decay naturally around a well-maintained central walkway, and the glass covering the cockpit was grimy and seemingly warped from age and sun-exposure.

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The cockpit

Further explorations led us to small inlets and bays, and as we approached the aquarium, we saw people wearing wetsuits wading into the sea to pet the aquarium dolphins.  The actual aquarium is housed in a small building built into the sea and connected to shore by a wide metal walkway.  Entrance was free when we arrived, and the actual entry into the aquarium reminded me of a primary school.  The aquarium feels and looks very amateurish, almost as if it had been a private collection that developed into a local sight-seeing sight and decorated by the collector’s primary aged children, but it has enough exhibits and information to entertain guests for a solid amount of time.

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The steps leading into the aquarium

After a quick food break, we set off walking around the area, following the shoreline and the rocks until we spotted a red bridge.  This is one of five bridges spanning from Misumi to Amakusa (I presume).  To see the bridges, you can either make your way across all five, or join a boat tour that will take you alongside or under the bridges.

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The bridge we found

However, since we were under the bridge, we just took pictures of how cool it looked before making our way back onto land.

 

And then we walked down the road, and found the start of the very same bridge.  We even found a small, slightly overgrown path that led to the maintenance underside of the bridge, without any sort of barriers and chains and signs warning us away… so I climbed it.  The first section of it, anyway.

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Hiding from the tourists! | Sam Schultz

And then it was time to go.

Misumi Station ~ Kumamoto Station
Train: the local line

When we got to Kumamoto, even though it was still relatively early and we could get some dinner or whatever before heading back, we were so tired that we ended up just making it to the station souvenir shop to stock up on Kumamon items before heading back to Fukuoka.  Probably a waste of a night, but when you want to go home…you go home.

Kumamoto Station ~ Hakata Station
Train: Tsubame Shinkansen

Home time! Three days is enough to explore a few key places properly, and it was definitely worth it, training it around Kyushu to see everything.  For sure, most of the places that we had ended up going to would not have been part of any sort of tour or normal tourist plan, so to see Kyushu properly, I definitely think that this pass is worth it.

Also, since there are so many different trains on the JR Kyushu system, it is fun to skip over the faster shinkansen lines to catch all the different trains they have.  I mean, we could have probably fit a stop or two more into our itinerary on the first day in lieu of catching the trains that we did down to Kagoshima, but it was for sure more fun to see the countryside that we did than to go and see a few more towns.

I can’t wait to do this again and explore other areas of Kyushu!


Golden Week: Kyushu~! The JR Kyushu International Student Pass
Golden Week: Kyushu~! Day One: Train-hopping from Fukuoka to Miyazaki
Golden Week: Kyushu~! Day Two: Absorbing the ashes of a volcano

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Golden Week: Kyushu~! Day Two: Absorbing the ashes of a volcano

City: Miyazaki

We emerged, blinking, into sunlight that was far too bright and cheerful for the time from which we exited the net cafe (7:30 AM).  Six hours was not enough to get a full nights sleep, and I (somewhat willingly) didn’t get any sleep because of uhhh… reasons…

The other girls had gotten a double booth, so they had a bit more room to stretch out on the sofa they shared, but they still had trouble sleeping well because of the couch, and I guess also because it was all of our first times staying overnight at a net cafe.  So all of us, sleep deprived, glaring at the slightly-too-bright sun, went to walk around a bit more before we could get breakfast.  Most places in Japan don’t open until at least 9:00 AM, with the exception of fast food chains like Macca’s or Mosburger, but we had seen last night that Tully’s opened at 8:00 AM.  More importantly, they had signs saying they had French toast, so hallelujah we didn’t need to eat greasy burgers for breakfast.

And that French toast was so good.  Ugh.

Just look at it!

Just look at it!

Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to explore Miyazaki prefecture because all their scenic spots are at least an hour or two away from Miyazaki city, so we used the bit of extra time we had before heading to Kagoshima to go to Starbucks and absorb the Japanese vibes. #touriststothecore

Miyazaki Station ~ Kagoshima-chuo Station
Train: Kirishima

Heading back to Kagoshima, this time on a less crowded train and with the sun blazing strongly, we could see a lot more than the night before.  For instance, the seaside landscapes as you get closer to Kagoshima is beautiful, and when you approach Kagoshima city, you can definitely spot Sakurajima, the resident volcano, blotting out a significant section of the horizon.  When you catch this train back, make sure you don’t get Kagoshima Station and Kagoshima-chuo Station mixed up!  The latter is the one that is located in the city centre; Kagoshima Station is quite far away from everything!

When we arrived, there was a fair happening outside the station for locally produced shochu and fingerfoods, so we hung around for a bit before trying to find the tourist information centre.  It was a hot day, and we were all kind of struggling a little, but thank goodness again! Kagoshima planners planned everything in straight lines as well, and abundant signs pointing you in the right direction will make sure you get to where you need to go.

Once we got there, we were told about a Day Pass that includes all Kagoshima city public transport, including the ferry to Sakurajima.  This costs ¥1000 for adults, and if you’re planning on exploring the city thoroughly, this is definitely worth the price!

Calling me cute? Why, thank you!

Calling me cute? Why, thank you!

For travelling around Kagoshima, there is a bus that runs in loops around Kagoshima CBD, out to the port and back, and it comes fairly regularly, so that should prevent any tourists from needing to figure out how to operate the city bus systems.  There are no subway systems in Kagoshima; there is only a tram connecting Kagoshima-chuo Station and Kagoshima station, and the buses that I mentioned before.  They’re not hard to navigate, but for sure, especially if you don’t really know much Japanese, it will make life a lot easier if you can catch the city loop bus.

Mainly for us, we wanted to see Sakurajima because live volcano, so we hopped onto the bus and headed out for the port.  The port is closer to Kagoshima Station, so that could also be a travel option instead of travelling to Kagoshima-chuo Station.  There are a few things to see around the port area, including an aquarium and a geo-park, so just exploring that area can definitely take up to a day.  But we were here for Sakurajima, and so we jumped straight onto the next ferry and in ten minutes, we were setting foot upon the black ashy grounds of Sakurajima.

Sakurajima!

Sakurajima!

And it was beyond amazing.  There’s black ash everywhere, the vegetation there is this vivid startling green, the shores are full of rocks and shapes that are just a little sharper and more angled than usual.  We walked a shorter base walk, soaked our feet in the free foot onsen near to the port, stared at the ocean and the volcano for equal amounts of time… I wish we had a bit more time to take either the bus tour that takes you halfway up Sakurajima, or hike one of the longer trails, but if you have a few spare hours, go check it out! It’s definitely worth it.

A normal Sakurajima fart

A normal Sakurajima fart

After heading back to Kagoshima, we walked around a bit more, exploring nearby Tageyama Park (commemorating someone from Finland… I still don’t know who he is), which had exception views of the harbour, before heading back to Kagoshima-chuo on the tram.  If you want to take the bus back, the last bus leaves the ferry port before 6:00 PM so make sure to put that in your calculations, because we didn’t, but the tram was definitely a very enjoyable and local experience.

The view of Kagoshima from the ferris wheel on top of the station before we went to find a bath

Nightlights of Kagoshima from the ferris wheel on top of the station before we went to find a bath

Something else that was a very local experience was us trying to find an onsen, but ended up a super local sento instead.  Sento are public bathhouses usually with ceramic tiling that don’t have medicinal waters like an onsen,, and are generally quite cheap for a basic bath, with added costs for towels, soaps, etc.  This one in particular costed us ¥310 each, with the hottest bath water that I have experienced since getting to Japan.  Even though we wanted to stay for longer, we couldn’t… we just weren’t on the level of all the obaa-san there happily stewing themselves in the water.

But a bath is still a bath, and when we finally settled in for the night at a bigger net cafe next to Kagoshima-chuo Station, we went for the nine hour package and for the flat bed option.  And despite the cheap ¥1750 price tag, those flat mattresses felt like the fluffliest futon at an expensive ryokan. #poorstudenttravels


Golden Week: Kyushu~! The JR Kyushu International Student Pass
Golden Week: Kyushu~! Day One: Train-hopping from Fukuoka to Miyazaki
Golden Week: Kyushu~! Day Three: Catching ferries and climbing bridges