JR Kyushu’s (九州) newest train makes its first trip this March and with it are tales of hope. Named after kingfishers local to the Kuma (球磨) region, the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI (かわせみ やませみ) is the first sightseeing train launched by JR Kyushu after the Kumamoto (熊本) earthquake in 2016 and is hoped to be a symbol of recovery.
The KAWASEMI YAMASEMI traverses the same path as the SL Hitoyoshi (人吉) on the JR Kagoshima (鹿児島) Main Line and Hisatsu (肥薩) Line. The train stops at the following stations:
- Kumamoto (熊本)
- Shin-Yatsushiro (新八代)
- Yatsushiro (八代)
- Sakamoto (坂本)
- Isshochi (一勝地)
- Watari (渡)
- Hitoyoshi (人吉)
Unlike the SL Hitoyoshi, which has only one round trip per day, the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI goes through the loop three times a day. The KAWASEMI YAMASEMI is operational daily starting March 2017 while the SL Hitoyoshi operates only on selected days.
— Japan Station (@JPNStation) December 1, 2016
As the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI runs on diesel, the Kumamoto-Hitoyoshi trip will take about 94 minutes, around 60 minutes less than it takes for the steam locomotive. The KAWASEMI YAMASEMI also has shorter stops in between stations than the SL Hitoyoshi.
The train’s cabin interiors add a unique identity to KAWASEMI YAMASEMI. The Japanese cedar and cypress wood used are all locally sourced from the Kuma region. This further evokes the image of the forest together with the green exterior of the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI. The blue motif is also consistent with the deep blue color of the train’s exterior and creates an image of the Kuma River.
The train is aptly named as the characters for “kawasemi (カワセミ)” in Japanese can mean “river kingfisher,” while those for “yamasemi (ヤマセミ)” can mean “mountain kingfisher.” Kawasemi is also known as the common kingfisher and the yamasemi is the crested kingfisher. Look out for the images of these birds as they appear on the train’s badge. Maybe you’ll see some real ones during your trip, too!
On board the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI, you can have a taste of the flavors of the Kuma region by trying their bento sets. There are three types of bento sets that you can choose from: colorful four season Kuma bento, Kuma sweets box, and Kuma treasure box.
These meal sets are available only from the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI and are sold only during weekends and public holidays in limited quantities. You can also take a sip of the different varieties of the Kuma shochu sold at 400 yen per cup.
There are two types of seats on JR Kyushu trains: reserved and non-reserved. However, all seats on the KAWASEMI YAMASEMI are reserved, so make sure to book ahead of time. A ticket costs 3,270 yen for a one-way trip.
The KAWASEMI YAMASEMI is the 11th D&S (Design and Story) train of JR Kyushu and was designed by Eiji Mitooka (水戸岡鋭治). This Japanese industrial designer and founder of Don Design Associates also designed JR Kyushu’s 10th D&S luxury sweets train, Aru Ressha. He is a design consultant for JR Kyushu, who also worked on other trains such as the Yufuin no Mori (ゆふいんの森) and Hayato no Kaze (はやとの風), as well as the Kagoshima-Chuo Station (鹿児島中央駅) and Kumamoto Station buildings.
Sightseeing trains are meant to tell the story of not only its destination but the journey, too. The KAWASEMI YAMASEMI adds another experience altogether as the train itself has its own story to tell. Don’t miss this fantastic experience starting from March 2017!