Part 6: The Yufuin no Mori

Welcome to the last part of our series on sightseeing trains in Kyushu! 

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In a previous article, we have already written about the special things to do and stay in Yufuin, Kyushu’s famous onsen place next to (and as famous, if not more, than Beppu). For those economically minded and not having the JR pass, the highway express (half as cheap) will be a better bid than the Yufuin no Mori. This time, however, we’re going to write about the oldest sightseeing train (also one of the most famous) in Kyushu. If you are thinking about planning a trip, please go and check that article too!

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The conductor’s room.

Train

The train is of a greenish color, a bit similar but less bright than that of the one used in Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen. There are three cars in total, and conductor’s rooms with big clear glasses at either end.

Design of the train

Because of how old the line is, the design is quite different from the newer D&S trains like SL Hitoyoshi, Kawasemi/Yamasemi etc. that we wrote earlier. Although there is a buffet car (between cars 2 and 3) and another public gallery area with big glasses (where you can eat, chat etc.) near car 3, the seating is predominantly like a normal train (just like the Kyushu Odan Tokkyu we wrote in our last article). 

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Map

You can take a live view on Google Map:


Scenery

There are two scenic spots where the train will ride slower: the Jion Waterfall (慈恩の滝) and Mount Kirikabu (伐株山). The trainwomen told us the following legends with those two places.

The Jion Waterfall(慈恩の滝)

For the waterfall, it is said that once upon a time, there was a gigantic serpent with a tumor, which made it in so much agony that it became irritable. Whenever it is angry, it lashed out on the innocent villagers, making them very afraid. At this time, a monk passed by the village and, upon learning this, made a promise with the serpent, that in exchange of curing its disease it would no longer hurt the villagers –– and that was what happened. Thus the name of the waterfall – which means amnesty.

Map

Mount Kirikabu (伐株山)

For Mount Kirikabu, it is said that in the past, there were a lot of big kusunoki (camphor trees) which made the villagers unable to farm etc. because there was no light. They hired a Herculean man of great strength and logged them down – hence the name of the mount, which means logging.

Map

Scenery

You will see the many golden rice and wheat fields, the rivers and ponds along the ride, which together with the changing color of the sky (see below) at the backdrop to form priceless pictures –– get your cameras ready as they come and go in just a flick!

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Recommend the seat

If you could, we highly recommend the last train back to Hakata, which is exactly in time for the sunset –– throughout the train ride, you will see how the sky’s color magically changes from clear blue to orange red, and then into deep blue gradually.

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Be Prepared for the Crowdedness

Please let us say this again: book in advance. This train is extremely popular. When we went, it was on a Monday but we had to line up for quite some time even outside the station (needless to say, the train is fully booked, and some people who managed to sneak on the train without booking had to stand in the common area between the cars and have to buy those tickets with the trainmen/trainwomen).

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Recommend for book the bento

And when we say book in advance, we didn’t mean just the seats, but also the bento. Although there is a small number of “non-reserved bento” on sale in the buffet car, people are lining up right after they board the train. (Also as a result of this, it was very difficult to move inside the train.)

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Alternative: Local Diesel Train/the Yufu

So, you can actually consider a different approach. Just as we suggested in the article on Ibusuki, since you’ll need two rides anyway, why not have the full experience?

Yellow One Man Diesel Car

The “Yellow One Man Diesel Car” (hence the Y-DC you see in the front of the train) is a little gem in itself. Like the local train we wrote about in Ibusuki, the experience is totally different from the sightseeing train, yet equally enjoyable. Feel free to combine it with the normal expresses to make a trip from Hakata!

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