More good news for Japan Rail Pass holders keeps rolling in! The Japan Rail Pass is confirmed as valid on the new Sakura Shinkansen service!
From central Japan to the southern tip of Kyushu in just over 4 hours!
The new Sakura Shinkansen, a new line of the Sanyo-Kyushu Shinkansen, opens up the Southern Island of Kyushu for easy access via Shinkansen Bullet Train.
Previously, Kagoshima and Kumamoto had only been accessible by changing trains at Hakata and Shin-Yatsushiro. Now you can go direct, making for much more convenient and efficient travel!
About the Sakura Shinkansen
8-car N700 fleet cars are used on the Sakura line. The seating areas are completely non smoking, however a smoking room is provided mid way through the train. The Sakura runs much the same as the Hikari trains with stops that include Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kokura, Hakata with the addition of Kumamoto and Kagoshima amongst others. On the Kyushu Shinkansen line, the older Tsubame Shinkansen stops at all stations.
Changes to the JR-West Hikari Railstar
With the introduction of Sakura, the number of current Hikari Railstar will halve, from 20 to 11 each way. Many Railstar Series 700 Shinkansen will be downgraded to Kodama operations.
Fortunately, as Sakura runs mostly every hour, there is no real change in service, except for a greatly extended range.
Can I travel on the Mizuho trains with a Japan Rail Pass?
The Mizuho Shinkansen will be introduced at the same time as the Sakura Shinkansen, and is identical in every way, except for stopping at fewer stations. As it is a direct replacement for the Nozomi service on this route, Japan Rail Pass holders will not be able to use the Mizuho trains.
Is the difference between Mizuho and Sakura a big deal?
The difference between Mizuho and Sakura in total journey time for running the entire Osaka – Kagoshima route is only 25 minutes, so you’re unlikely to even notice a difference unless you are on a very tight schedule. (though we can understand if you want to get to the onsen as soon as possible :D ).
Get more use out of your Green Car Japan Rail Pass
Sakura has a green car, so those with a Green Car JR Pass can enjoy a bit of extra luxury travel in the Green Car on Sanyo Shinkansen line. Currently few Hikari trains with Green Cars run between Okayama and Hakata, so this is a welcome upgrade in the value of the Green Car JR Pass.
A nice surprise for Standard Class Japan Rail Pass holders!
In an unusual move, the standard class reserved seats for the Sakura line are wider and more comfy than the standard class non-reserved seats. They are actually very similar to the green car seats of the older ‘Relay Tsubame’ Shinkansen that used to operate from Shin-Yatsushiro to Kagoshima. As seat reservations are totally free with a Japan Rail Pass, standard class holders can now enjoy a little bit of luxury if travelling south of Osaka on the Sakura line.
Kyushu is my favourite area of Japan!
Kyushu is a seriously underrated part of Japan. Aside from the high-tech bustle of Fukuoka, Kyushu hides perfect semi-tropical sandy beaches around Nagasaki, Fiery active volcano’s at Mt. Aso, wonderful Hot Spring onsen at Kurokawa and Sakurajima, hot sand baths in Ibusuki, the JAXA space rocket launch site and viewing areas at Tanegashima, and the awesome World Heritage site of Yakushima.
You get the picture! You could spend some serious time here and barely scratch the surface. Now it’s even easier to get to with a Japan Rail Pass, you have no excuse!