Sunday, November 22, 2009
The Pokemon Shinkansen in Kyushu
The shinkansen, or Bullet Train, is a major part of Japan's transportation infrastructure to say the least. While the Shinkansen has been developed throughout Honshu, the central of Japan's 4 major islands, it has only just reached into Kyushu. Beginning development way back in 1991, the Kyushu Shinkansen starts at Kokura station in the north and will then travel south to Kagoshima and Nagasaki. While it has yet to connect all the way to Kokura, the route from Kagoshima to Shin-Yatsushiro, south of Kumamoto, is open.
The route between Kagoshima and Kokura is called the Relay Tsubame and involves changing to a normal express train for the middle portion. Tsubame, by the way, is sparrow in Japanese and is the name for the Kyushu Shinkansen trains. The tunnel filled route between Kagoshima and Shin-Yatsushiro takes 35 minutes at the least. Compare that to the 90 minutes it use to take using a normal express train.
I only took the Shinkansen part of the route and continued from Shin-Yatsushiro to Kokura on local trains to save money, but I was quite lucky. I was on a special Pokemon branded train. The kids who boarded with me were more than excited to ride this special train. I was also pretty excited, as were some of the adults.
The interior was free of any Pokemon stuff, but very well designed. The window shades were made of real wood slats and the seats were comfortable and very big. The branding also coincided with a stamp rally where the all of the major train stations in Kyushu had Pokemon stamps in the station. After collecting some stamps you could send in a form and receive special cards or a pen case. Information on the stamp rally, and when the Pokemon train is running is available on this site [in Japanese]. Sadly the rally ended in August.
It won't be till 2011 till the line opens all the way till Kokura, but until then if you find yourself down in Kagoshima try riding the Tsubame. It's great!