An accidental ride on the Kamome Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen on 23 September
What does one do after surviving a super typhoon?
My name is Isabelle and I have been living in Fukuoka City (福岡市 Fukuoka-shi) for about 6 months now. Japan’s Kyushu (九州) region is unfortunately really prone to getting hit by typhoons, and the months of August to September is when the typhoon season is at its peak. While I have experienced smaller typhoons throughout my stay, they were manageable and felt like regular storms we face in Singapore. However, over the long weekend of 17 to 19 September we experienced the wrath of Typhoon Nanmadol. Tapes and emergency items were sold out when warning alerts were broadcasted within our region.
My roommate and I had to make do with cardboard boxes we found lying around our home and Rilakkuma decorative tapes to protect our windows. (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
After braving the literal storm, my friends and I decided to take a relaxing day trip out from Fukuoka to the neighbouring prefecture, Saga (佐賀県 Saga-ken).
Yutoku Inari Shrine. (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
We were surprised to encounter a smooth journey to Saga as we expected many track closures. People were back in business as though a category 4 typhoon did not just pass through their city. We spent our morning exploring Yutoku Inari Shrine (祐徳稲荷神社 Yūtokuinari jinja) and hiking through the hilly stoned path covered with beautiful torii (鳥居) gates. We also went to Ureshino Onsen (嬉野温泉), a hot spring town known for its alkaline waters that will leave your skin beautiful and smooth.
Siebold's Bath in Ureshino Public Hot Spring (シーボルトの湯) was named after a German Doctor who introduced western medicine to Japan! He was a big fan of the hot springs in Ureshino. (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
After a full day of exploring and soaking in an onsen, we were ready to head back to Fukuoka. With a quick search on Google Maps, we found ourselves a route back and aboard the new bullet train (新幹線 shinkansen) service on the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen (西九州新幹線) line, Kamome (かもめ), which also happens to be the shortest shinkansen line in the whole of Japan.
Ureshino-Onsen Station. (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
At the platform, we noticed a huge crowd and that was when we realised it was the opening day of the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen (23 September). The train service travels between Takeo Onsen (武雄温泉) in Saga and Nagasaki (長崎県 Nagasaki-ken), running through 3 other stations—Ureshino-Onsen, Shin-Omura (新大村), and Isahaya (諫早). The journey from start to end is about 66km and takes about 30 minutes.
Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen Kamome. (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
When the train approached the platform, the crowd of trainspotters burst out into cheers and applause as they whipped out their expensive cameras and started snapping away. The train that came to a smooth stop was sleek and elegant. The exterior was white with a scarlet red design and「かもめ」branded on it. Kamome means “seagull” in Japanese. Kamome has a total of six cars—three Reserved and three Non-reserved.
We boarded the train at Ureshino Onsen Station (嬉野温泉駅 Ureshino-onsen-eki) and were en route to Takeo Onsen Station (武雄温泉駅 Takeo-onsen-eki) where we will later board the Limited Express Relay Kamome back to Hakata Station (博多駅 Hakata-eki). We entered one of the three non-reserved cars and were greeted by bright, yellow seats. 2-people seats and 3-people seats are available in the non-reserved cars. The interior of the train reminded me of an aeroplane with its windows and overhead compartments to put your baggage.
Inside Kamome: Non-reserved cars. (Image Credit: Isabelle Chin)
The seat was comfortable and had plenty of legroom. It was spacious! That is not the only plus point. There are charging ports located on the armrest of each seat! The seat recline was great as well. It felt so good to lean back and relax after spending the whole day out. I would think this would also be great for business travellers.
Train information on trays. (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
Trays are available as well. They pull down just like those in aeroplanes, and each has a maximum weight limit of 10kg. I also like how there is information written on the back of the trays. It lets you know what to do in case of an emergency and the facilities available in your car and the next car. The information is written in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. Information in other languages can be found by scanning the QR Code. Free Wi-Fi is also available on board Kamome.
Each seat comes with a hook too. The hooks can be found right above the trays in front of the passenger. Passengers at the window seats get an extra hook to hang coats or Omiyage that were bought. Do take note that when aboard Kamome, there are no onboard sales available. Green Car services are also not available.
So beautiful! (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
It was a quick 5 minutes between Ureshino-Onsen Station and Takeo-Onsen Station. The ride was comfortable and rather scenic at some points. I was amazed at how quiet it was and how smooth it went. In the front of the train cars, there are signs to let passengers know which is the next stop and where the doors will open. As our train came to a stop at Takeo-Onsen Station, I managed to walk up to the doors where the toilets are also located. The toilets were spacious and clean.
In just a couple of minutes, we have arrived at Takeo-Onsen Station! (Image credit: Isabelle Chin)
There are many notable places of interest that you can travel to via the Nishi-Kyushu line. Some of these include fruit-shaped bus stops in Isahaya City (諫早市 Isahaya-shi) and Omura Park (大村公園 Ōmura kōen) in Omura City (大村市 Ōmura-shi). Both of which are in the Nagasaki Prefecture.
I did not get time to explore the train further as we were on it for only 5 minutes. When we got off the train at Takeo-Onsen Station, we were surprised to see our next train waiting opposite us on the same platform. This makes travelling to and fro Hakata Station convenient. I would gladly board Kamome again and visit the other stations that the Nishi-Kyushu Line runs through.
Header image credit: Isabelle Chin