Friday, June 12, 2015

Special Mid-Summer Birthday Vacation to Japan in June 2015 ~ Section 5

Welcome to the fourth section of my special mid-summer birthday vacation to Japan in June 2015. This section of the blog report will cover a total of four sub-components. They will be a misty family day tour around Beppu in Oita Prefecture, my first day trip visiting Okayama, a cloudy and damp family day tour to Nagasaki and a southern day trip to Kagoshima located at the southern tip of the southern island of Kyushu.

Part 1 ~ Family Tour Around Beppu

The next morning, which was Monday (8 June), we woke up at 8.30 a.m. after receiving a wake-up phone call from my parents.

According to the train departure information board, the Limited Express Sonic No. 19 bound for Oita would be scheduled to depart at 11.19 a.m. from Track No. 2.

Sonic (ソニック) is the name of a limited express train service operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) between Hakata (Fukuoka) and Oita in Japan. Operating every half an hour daily, there are a total of 32 daily return workings running in each direction, with an average journey duration from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Oita taking approximately two hours. A few services also continue as far as Saiki and / or terminate at Yanagigaura, with trains also reversing direction at Kokura Station. The service is capable of reaching a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph).

The service commenced operations on 20 April 1995, using 883 series EMUs in five-car and seven-car formations at a maximum top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph). However, due to rising demand, the fleet of eight 883 series EMUs were lengthened to form as seven cars from 19 July 2008. From 3 March 2001, 6-car 885 series EMUs were introduced on these services at a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), just like the existing 7-car 883 series EMUs. Green Car (first class) accommodation is provided in half of Car No. 1. There are no extra charges necessary for the Sonic for foreign tourists travelling with a Japan Rail Pass.

Beppu Station (別府駅) is a railway station located in the mid-sized suburban coastal city of Beppu, Oita, Japan. Operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu), it serves as the main railway station serving the suburban seaside and hot spring city of Beppu, and is the gateway for its own famous local hot springs (onsen). The station is located on the Nippo Main Line. Beppu serves as a stopping point for limited express trains heading to Oita and Yufuin, and has two island platforms serving four tracks.

Ganso (元相). Noticing the way the waitress was struggling in the Japanese language, we could tell that she was from China. With that, she became comfortable when we spoke in Chinese, allowing communication and food-ordering to become easier for us.

After spending about 25 minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 3 and 4, a 6-car 885 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express Sonic No. 56 bound for Hakata (Fukuoka), finally arrived at Beppu Station at 7.20 p.m. on Track No. 4.

Part 2 ~ My First Day Trip To Okayama

Hakata Station at 10.15 a.m..

After spending 15 minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 13 and 14, an 8-car JR West N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. S2, operating as the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 548 bound for Shin-osaka, finally arrived at Hakata Station at 11.05 a.m. on Track No. 14. Once the train doors were opened, I quickly boarded the train via Car No. 6 and went into the Green Car (first class) cabin, before heading to my assigned Seat No. 12A for the early afternoon journey duration of 1 hour 50 minutes to the hustle and bustle of downtown Okayama located in the Chugoku region of Japan.

After spending approximately 1 hour 10 minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 21 to 24, an 8-car JR West N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. S16, painted in the special Harry Potter livery and operating as the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 569 bound for Kagoshima-chuo, finally arrived at Okayama Station at 6.11 p.m. on Track No. 22. Once the train doors were opened, I boarded the train through Car No. 6 and went into the Green Car (first class) cabin before settling into my assigned Seat No. 11D for the short early evening journey duration of 1 hour 48 minutes back to the hustle and bustle of downtown Fukuoka.

The seat next to me, 11C, would remain vacant for the short early evening return journey of 1 hour 48 minutes from Okayama to Hakata (Fukuoka). Once the clock struck exactly 6.12 p.m. sharp, all the train doors were closed, and the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 569 finally pulled out of Okayama Station for the remainder of its very long evening journey duration of 4 hours 20 minutes from Shin-osaka to Kagoshima-chuo. I was then on my way for a short early evening return journey duration of 1 hour 48 minutes back to the very lively hustle and bustle of downtown Fukuoka located in the southern island of Kyushu.

Part 3 ~ A Family Historical Day Tour To Nagasaki

Kamome (かもめ) is a limited express train service operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) between Hakata (Fukuoka) and Nagasaki in Kyushu, Japan.

After spending approximately minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 3 and 4, a 6-car 885 series EMU, which would soon operate as the Limited Express Kamome No. 17 bound for Nagasaki, finally entered Hakata Station at 10.47 a.m. on Track No. 4.

Nagasaki Station (長崎駅) is a major railway station located in the mid-sized urban port city of Nagasaki, Japan. It is the main railway terminal serving the mid-sized suburban port city of Nagasaki, and currently serves as the western terminus for the Nagasaki Main Line with Hakata (Fukuoka). Nagasaki is connected with Hakata (Fukuoka) via the Kamome limited express service, and to Sasebo with the Seaside Liner rapid service. Nagasaki houses an Amu Plaza shopping mall above its station complex, and has three hotels in its vicinity.

Isahaya Station (諫早駅) is a railway station located in the city of Isahaya, Nagasaki, Japan. Operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) and Shimabara Railway, it is the main railway station serving the suburban seaside city of Isahaya, and serves as an interchange station for the Nagasaki Main Line, Omura Line and the Shimabara Railway Line. Isahaya is a mandatory stopping point for all limited express trains on the Nagasaki Main Line and for all commuter trains running on the Nagasaki Main Line and Omura Line.

Part 4 ~ Journeying Further Southwards To Kagoshima

For the in-bound trip to Kagoshima, I would catch the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 547 bound for Kagoshima-chuo, which would be scheduled to depart Hakata Station at 10.42 a.m., and arrive at the Kagoshima-chuo terminal station at 12.07 p.m..

The Kyushu Shinkansen (九州新幹線) is a major Japanese high-speed Shinkansen railway line connecting the major cities of Fukuoka and Kagoshima in Kyushu, Japan. Operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu), the line passes through forested areas in Fukuoka, Saga, Kumamoto and Kagoshima Prefectures, and serves as the southernmost high-speed Shinkansen line in Japan, having its southern terminus at Kagoshima-chuo Station. The line has a maximum top speed of 260 km/h (160 mph).

The southern part of the line between Shin-yatsushiro and Kagoshima-chuo was opened on 13 March 2004, with 6-car 800 series sets introduced on TSUBAME services at a top speed of 260 km/h (160 mph). From Hakata (Fukuoka) to Shin-yatsushiro, Relay Tsubame limited express services, operated by 787 series EMUs, provided access to the Shinkansen service with a direct cross-platform interchange at Shin-yatsushiro Station. This Shinkansen cross-platform service was then discontinued on 11 March 2011.

From 12 March 2011, the northern part of the line linking to Hakata (Fukuoka) was opened for passenger service. However, in lieu of the Great East Japan Tsunami the previous day, opening ceremonies were cancelled and reduced to simple and silent observation events for rail fans. From the same date, new MIZUHO and SAKURA services, operated by new 8-car N700 series sets, were introduced, providing direct access to Shin-osaka and other Honshu destinations via the Sanyo Shinkansen line.

After spending about 10 minutes of anticipated waiting on both Tracks No. 15 and 16, an 8-car JR West N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. S15, operating as the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 547 bound for Kagoshima-chuo, finally arrived at Hakata Station at 10.40 a.m. on Track No. 15. Once the train doors were opened, I quickly boarded the train via Car No. 6 and went into the Green Car (first class) cabin, before settling into my assigned Seat No. 11D for the short early afternoon journey duration of 1 hour 25 minutes to the southern mid-sized urban port city of Kagoshima located at the southern tip of Kyushu.

Kagoshima-chuo Station (鹿児島中央駅) is a major railway terminal located in the southern urban port city of Kagoshima, Japan. Operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu), it serves as the central railway terminal serving the southern urban port city of Kagoshima, and as the southern terminus for the Kyushu Shinkansen line providing direct access from Hakata (Fukuoka), making it the southernmost Shinkansen station in Japan. It also serves as a major interchange station for the Kagoshima Main Line, Nippo Main Line and Ibusuki-Makurazaki Line.

The station was initially opened on 11 October 1913 as Take Station (武駅), initially serving the Kagoshima Main Line, Nippo Main Line and Ibusuki-Makurazaki Line, until its name was eventually changed to Nishi-kagoshima Station (西鹿児島駅) on 17 October 1927. From 13 March 2004, in collaboration the opening of the southern portion of the Kyushu Shinkansen line from Shin-yatsushiro Station, the station's name was changed to its current name. As of 14 March 2015, there are two elevated island platforms for the Shinkansen trains, and two side platforms with two island platforms for the JR Line trains.

After spending approximately 45 minutes of anticipated waiting on both Tracks No. 11 and 12, an 8-car JR West N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. S9 finally arrived at Kagoshima-chuo Station at 5.01 p.m. on Track No. 11. The train had initially arrived from Shin-osaka as the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 557 bound for Kagoshima-chuo earlier, and was to undergo a relatively long and extensive cleaning process before becoming the Shinkansen SAKURA Superexpress No. 570 bound for Shin-osaka. The entire cleaning process took approximately 50 minutes.

While waiting for the train to be cleaned, I did some Shinkansen train-spotting on Tracks No. 11 and 12. Once the entire cleaning process was finished, all the half-height platform screen doors were opened again at 5.51 p.m., allowing the passengers to board the train. With that, I boarded the train through Car No. 6 and went into the Green Car (first class) cabin, before settling into my assigned Seat No. 14A for the short early evening return journey duration of 1 hour 34 minutes back to the lively hustle and bustle of downtown Fukuoka.

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