The Kyushu Shinkansen (九州新幹線 Kyūshū Shinkansen) is the high speed bullet train line from Hakata down to Kagoshima-Chuo in the south of Kyushu. It connects to the Sanyo Shinkansen at Hakata station and shares many of the trains that come or go from Shin-Osaka.
Brief history of the Kyushu Shinkansen
Initial wishes for a Shinkansen line in Kyushu date back as far as the 1950’s but it was only in 1991 that construction began and the first segment between Kagoshima and Shin-Yatsushiro opened on 13 March 2004. At this point the Shinkansen service was available up to Shin-Yatsushiro but passengers had to change trains to a relay train up to Hakata. At Hakata, passengers again had to change trains bound for the Sanyo area.
It was only in 2011 that the full line opened. Reducing the travel time from Hakata – Kagoshima to only 1 hour and 20 minutes, down from the 4+ hours on the conventional railways.
Train services on the Kyushu Shinkansen
There are three train services on the Kyushu Shinkansen. These are:
The fastest service between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-chuo stations. The Mizuho services only stops at the most important stations like Shin-Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata and Kagoshima-chuo. Note that the JR Pass does not include the Mizuho Shinkansen.
The Sakura service is the same train as the Mizuho but make a few more stops along the route and is in service between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-chuo station. The time difference with the Nozomi/Mizuho is often minimal. In addition to the the Mizuho stops, the Sakura stops at stations like Shin-Kobe, Himeji and Kumamoto.
The Tsubasa is a relay or shuttle service, stopping at every station along the Kyushu Shinkansen and is used to access the smaller stations. Most Tsubasa services are only in service between Hakata and Kumamoto.
Can I use the JR Pass on the Kyushu Shinkansen?
The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the entire Kyushu Shinkansen line. One thing of note is that the Mizuho service on the Kyushu Shinkansen is not included in the JR Pass. However the Sakura and Tsubasa train services are included. Seat reservations for the Kyushu Shinkansen can be made for free using the JR Pass at any JR station, nationwide.
Regional JR Passes on the Kyushu Shinkansen
Additionally, the Sanyo-San’in Northern Kyushu Pass is valid on the Kyushu Shinkansen up to Kumamoto.
Green Class on the Kyushu Shinkansen
Green class (or 1st Class) carriages are available on most Kyushu Shinkansen trains, except for some of the Tsubame services. Trains operate a 2×2 seating plan in Green Class, while ordinary cars operate a 3×2 seating plan. Green seats come with extra comfort, reclining and space. It is generally a lot quieter and a good way to escape from the travelling crowds on busy days.
Green Seating on the Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen
Map of the Kyushu Shinkansen
Below is a map of the Kyushu Shinkansen, that includes the most important stops.
Future of the Kyushu Shinkansen:
A side line or “mini Shinkansen” line is planned as an extension to Nagasaki. While work started as early as 2012 on the first section between Takeo-Onsen to Isahaya, it was scheduled to open by 2023. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties and political interference, delays have piled up and the opening is now scheduled for 2025. Once opened, the line will reduce travel time to Nagasaki and significantly improve travel comfort.
WiFi on the Kyushu Shinkansen
JR Kyushu is slowly introducing free WiFi on the Kyushu Shinkansen, so passengers who travel between Hakata and Kagoshima-Chuo can stay connected. This is mostly limited to high speed Shinkansen that are shared with JR West, such as the Sakura and Mizuho Shinkansen. The full roll-out is for the higher speed Shinkansen expected to be completed before the Olympics in 2020. Service however remains limited to open areas and will not work in tunnels.