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15Jul/190

Chizu Express and Tsuyama – May, 2019

After a fantastic nights accomodation in Hayabusa, I was off to Tsuyama via the Chizu Express railway. The trip started from Hayabusa Station where the 8:51am service took me to Koge Station. This saw a transfer onto the 9:02am Super Hakuto, southbound to Chizu Station.

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To transfer to the Chizu Express Railway, you have to exit Chizu Station and walk around the outside of the building to a separate entrance. In the foyer, you'll find a station employee ready to sell you tickets to your destination. I was off to Sayo, with a small stop in-between!

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Koi-Yamagata Station

The Chizu Express runs cute little DMUs, that resemble the Super Hakuto livery, and I chose the local service for the first leg of my journey. The second stop along the way is Koi-Yamagata Station and also happens to be a timing-point/passing-loop on the single line. This was fantastic, as I wanted to actually stop at the station to take random photos. I confirmed how long the train would stopped for with the driver before hopping off onto the platform!

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Isn't it cute? The prefix 'Koi' means romance and, well, they've gone nuts with the pink! It was actually really nice that both DMUs stopped for over a minute next to eachother. Maybe it's destiny to meet someone else from the other vehicle? I surely didn't.

Awakura-Onsen Station

We were then held for 7 minutes at Awakuraonsen Station. This station is another timing-point which lets a Super-Oki bolt past in the other direction. I was too busy taking panorama shots and forgot to wait for the express to come through. I was totally not ready when it did!

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It was actually a really nice place to stop-over. I couldn't see where the actual onsen was located, but a bunch of grandparents got off for a bathe. A bunch of American teenagers then got on to go through to Osaka. I overheard them fighting over which train to transfer to... and so quickly interrupted them and sorted out their predicament. The funniest part was when the most incorrect of them agreed with me afterwards, saying "oh yes, of course that's the way to go."

Sayo Station

Although bound by concrete buildings, Sayo Station also had quite a pleasant demeanour. Maybe it was just the constant hum of diesel engines bolting through. It was quite a busy station!

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Watching grandparents drink beer on the platform at ~1030 in the morning was a treat. I wonder if they were off to the onsen also?

Tsuyama

There's an old roundhouse here that is now a museum and I'd wanted to visit it for quite a while! The DMU above took it's sweet time to get to Tsuyama, but that was a good thing... it was a beautiful ride through the country-side. There was one grandpa, fluent in English, who decided to tell me otherwise: that this slow little train took too long. He also wanted advice on a hotel in Tsuyama, of which I had nothing to give, as I was heading back to Shin-Osaka that afternoon.

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Out the front you'll find a stuffed-and-mounted C11 looking splendid!

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Hahahaha... that hurts my eyes... but hey, I nearly succeeded. I then caught a taxi to a local Hard-Off ... which I didn't take a photo of. Maybe because I was distracted, talking to the driver about finding treasure in the junk corners. He was very surprised that someone would travel to central Honshu just to visit a Hard-Off... I mentioned it was also for the roundhouse and he was happy to wait outside the shop, before proceeding to take me to my other destination!

Tsuyama Roundhouse

This is so beautifully presented! There's nearly zero english, so don't go there to learn things... but do go there just to see some beautiful old JNR-era rolling-stock up close!

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I couldn't quite stop taking photos... the weather was a little overcast, but the scenery was fantastic! There was even a diorama of the actual yard... the roundhouse was perfectly represented.

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I then quickly strolled back to Tsuyama station to catch the Kotobuki to Okayama.

500-series Ex-Evangelion Shinkansen

I think? The colour-styling made it feel like something from the anime. I loved the controls up the front also. I also loved the fact that I had the whole train to myself! It was a Kodama after-all and I suppose people prefer the faster services.

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Even though it was an all-stops, it still felt like a fast trip back!

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12Jul/190

Wakasa Railway – May, 2019

I'd made it overnight from Tokyo to Izumoshi with the intent on getting to Wakasa Railway from the northern side of Honshu. After transferring at Tottori I travelled south through to Koge Station which happens to be the location of the branch to Wakasa. The Wakasa Railway runs services through from Tottori Station, but chose to take the Super Hakuto instead.

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To ride the Wakasa Railway, I purchased a ticket from the kind ladies behind the information desk inside the Koge Station waiting room. It doesn't quite look like a ticket counter, but rest-assured they have everything you need! After purchasing, I re-entered the Koge Station platforms on my new ticket (rail pass is no good here!) and found that a DMU, named Sakura #4, had arrived and was ready to take me two stops through to Hayabusa.

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I don't know who the character is on the side!

Hayabusa

When booking this trip, I'd initially intended to stay in Tottori. I was going to follow the usual rule of staying in a bigger town; better options to eat/shop/sleep, etc. It turned out that Tottori hotel prices, for that specific weekend, were exorbitant! I still haven't worked out why... but I imagine there was a festival of some sort on. In the end it turned out to be a blessing in disguise! A little further searching let me stumble across BASE 8823 Hayabusa.

This guest house is built to support motorcyclists touring the area. It turns out that, due to the name of the town, many Suzuki Hayabusa owners frequent the area for the winding mountain roads. All I can say is: the place is absolutely beautiful! The hosts are awesome (both motorcycle enthusiasts themselves) and will look after anything you require. Dinner was a slight issue, as everything was shut by the time I was ready to eat... but there was a Lawson convenience store a short bicycle (free rental from the guest house!) ride away. And riding through the ride fields at dusk on a summer night in the middle-of-nowhere was simply perfect!

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As you can see, the guest house itself is a converted farm house. The owners have fitted it out beautifully into dorm-style accommodation. Breakfast was even provided, Japanese-style, and it was delicious! But that's enough about the lodgings... highly recommended!

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Before I even checked into the accommodation, I'd spent a little time wandering around Hayabusa Station. The next northbound service of the Wakasa Railway was to come through shortly and it turned out to be the DMU with a full Hayabusa motorbike livery... it was really quite stunning! There's also a stuffed-and-mounted electric freight locomotive and passenger car in the vicinity.

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I then walked to the accomodation, checked in and borrowed a bike to ride back to the station. The sun was already fading, but it'd be worth the trip to see the pink stuffed-and-mounted steam locomotive at the end of the line.

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The Hayabusa DMU came back through Koge-bound before my service was to head up into the mountains.

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That last picture is actually a note on the side of the electric locomotive where the numberplate should be. Someone has stolen it and they're asking for assistance! What a bunch of assholes...I wonder if it was a baka tourist.

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Hayabusa Station has another guestbook like that back at Nishi-Oyama. I didn't leave a note this time...

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There's also a cool amount of paraphernalia in the station house itself. They're very aware of Suzuki and the Hayabusa Motorcycle! I wonder if there's actually a real connection to the name; did the designer come to this area of the world and decide to name the bike after it? Or is there a further meaning to the word 'Hayabusa'? Sounds like fast-something. Update: Turns out Hayabusa is the Japanese word for Peregrine Falcon, something I just found out thanks to hearing about Hayabusa2's landing on an asteroid!

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Before long, my Wakasa-bound service arrived.

Wakasa Station

The goal was to ride the Wakasa Railway and also see the famous 'pink' C11 steam engine that was up in the station yard. As I was checking in to the accommodation above, I was actually informed that they had re-painted it to original black around 3 days earlier! Hah, what timing.

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My Hayabusa DMU dropped me off and then the staff changed over so the maintenance crew could take it to the shed.. it had done it's job for the day! Without a tripod, I then tried to line up some night photography of the yard. There was nothing easy about finding a good angle and then a good resting position for a steady camera. Luckily it was a warm night and my hands were steady!

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Wakasa Town

There was time before the return service and, although the railway staff had already offered to drive me back to the accommodation (talk about Japanese hospitality!, the accommodation was a 20 minute drive away), I was happy to wander around and check the place out further.

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The dolls were slightly creepy, but supposedly a 'thing' for the area. Otherwise, everyone was watching TV or having dinner. I skulked around town, trying to get nice angles and be as inconspicuous as possible. The water coming off the mountain was running down all the open street drains and gave the town a beautiful background soundtrack.

Back at the station I finally found the pink SL! You could even pay to drive this one!

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The railway also has a few more DMUs that have been lovingly restored and customised. When returned to the accommodation, I was told this maroon version had beautiful wooden floors. Too bad I couldn't check it out.

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My DMU arrived from Koge for it's final return shuttle. I purchased a normal ticket, but the station staff (the same employee who offered me the lift home) gave me the 'vintage' version!

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I just had to add in that last picture... the dolls are everywhere!

Early-morning departure

After a delicious breakfast at the guest house, I wandered off for the station. The weather and scenery was beautiful!

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Yes! The maroon DMU with the wooden floors! It was very nicely outfitted. From here it was back to Koge to transfer south through to Tsuyama... with a stop along the Chizu Railway first.

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11Jul/190

Tokyo to Izumoshi – Sunrise Seto – May, 2019

This was a fun trip! I had wanted to ride the Sunrise Izumo/Seto for a while.. especially as all the overnight trains are going the way of the Dodo! This service departs Tokyo at 10pm each night and splits at Okayama to to then arrive at either Izumoshi or Takamatsu (sometimes extended to Kotohira.) I was intent on visiting the north coast of Honshu and so chose the Sunrise Izumo. Thanks to the JR Rail Pass, it's easy to get to Tokyo in time for dinner, with the train then waiting for you at Tokyo Station for the 10pm departure. The train cannot be boarded in the Osaka area as it passes through at around 4am.

Not wanting to waste a trip to Tokyo, I got there mid-afternoon and went up to the usual Urawa area for a few photos.

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There wasn't much happening, and I wanted to get to Akihabara for a bit, so I left earlier than expected... but not before I realised that there was a Hard-Off in the Urawa area!

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Much time was then spent in Akihabara where I picked up a new Xperia 10 Plus and a Fujitsu Q506ME tablet. Both from a second-hand chain and both seemingly foreign to Japan as there were absolutely zero accessories available. I had to then survive 2 weeks without protection on the phone, but it worked perfectly regardless!

Tokyo Station

There's always something interesting to see here... During the evening peak you'll find intermittent express services to whisk people away to places further afield. Below is a Shonan Liner which'll take you to Odawara.

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And, interestingly enough, here's another Shonan Liner which'll also take you to Odawara!

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And a Hitachi ready to head north...

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Before long the Sunrise service pulled in... I was in a 'Single' Room on car 9. Thanks to the platform signs, it's easy to know where to be in-advance...

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Once aboard, you'll find the aisles to be quite narrow. You'll then, if you're anywhere near 186cm, find the rooms to be slightly ... restricting. Turns out the bed was long enough though, just watch your head when entering and exiting the room.

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Unlike previous trips (Twilight Express) on overnight trains (Hokutosei), this train is all about travel and less about amenities. There's a shower, and a really nice 'lounge' area (last image above), but otherwise no food or drink. Actually, I lie, there's a tiny vending machine... no beer though! We departed perfectly on time at 10pm and there wasn't much else to do but sleep!

Oh, Deer

I had awoken at around 3am and noticed that the train had stopped. I could also hear radio-transmissions meaning the guard was wandering around and something was up. Looking outside, I saw Ogaki station... definitely not a place we were meant to pull up at, but I wasn't interested in sticky-beaking and so just rolled over and passed out. The next time I awoke, it was just after 5am and the sun was well up. We were sitting on one of the platforms at Shin-Osaka station and I'd actually been awoken by the conductor announcements. I could just make out 'ofurete', 'gomenasai' and 'if you want to get to your destination on time, then please transfer here for the Shinkansen.' We were around 2 hours late!

I stayed on the delayed train as I wasn't in a huge hurry; at the end of his announcement about transferring, the conductor had described the revised timetable which would see the train arrive at Izumoshi at around midday. I could deal with this! From the lounge area, I then overheard some other passengers discussing the cause: the freight train in front of us, somewhere near Ogaki, had cleaned up a deer on the tracks and we couldn't pass. We'd been held for over 2 hours whilst they dealt with the mess. It was all a little bittersweet: I was unhappy to be running late, but really happy to have full daylight outside whilst express-running. It's awesome when you're not stopping at stations and just flying through towns. Even better when there's a beautifully-large window and comfortable seats!

Just before Okayama, the conductor came back on with alternative options for those not wanting to meander... it turned out that if one changed to the Limited Express Yakumo here, you could get to Izumoshi one hour quicker. Now, I don't actually get this.. a whole hour!? We're on a train that has less-than-or-equal stops to the Yakumo between Okayama and Izumoshi, but the Yakumo can get there one whole hour faster? Can't they just schedule our train outta here right now and let us run in front? Maybe it's because the Yakumo can tilt? Maybe I don't understand the pathing? Either way, I'd already slept on the Sunrise Izumo and was happy with the decision to save an hour and ride the Yakumo. Before that though, I had time to watch the Sunrise do its thing...

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And then it was a short bolt to the next service...

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What a beautiful relic!

The North Coast

Once at Izumo City, I ventured to the nearby heavenly-palace... but it was terrible... no hobbies and very few electronics... Off-House is not Hard-Off!

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There was a silver lining though... I got to see a cool view of the Yakumo that had taken me to Izumo in the station from street-level. Sure, it's not that interesting, but I loved the angle.

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Before-long I was back on another DMU off along the northern edge of Honshu. Next stop was Nogi station.. but before getting there, we were actually going to have to pass the Sunrise Izumo!

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Hah, so I get to ride it and take a photo of it running in daylight! Win-win. Next win was just south of Kogi Station. Many good things found...

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Yonago Station

I then walked to Matsue Station from Hard-Off... let me tell you that was quite a trek! Especially when the temperature is up in the high 20s! Grab a taxi if you choose to follow this path. Somehow I perfectly caught the next express through to Yonago.

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Tottori Station

From Yonago, there was a fight to get onto the Super Oki which was running 10 minutes late. It was also jam-packed and is only two cars with one being fully reserved and booked out! In the end we all made it on and bolted through to Tottori where much fun was had, once again, rummaging through the junk corner...

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Hard-Off was hard-ly across-the-road from the station, so it was an easy stopover before returning to take the next southbound DMU through to Koge and Wakasa!

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2Jul/190

Tosu, Kikitsu, Sasebo – May, 2019

Heading to the places in the title of this post when starting from Miyazaki requires a transfer through Kagoshima. I hadn't actually Google'd if Kagoshima had any Hard-Offs on the initial trip through, so I was happily surprised to find one in the vicinity of Taniyama Station. Thanks to departing earlier-than-expected from Nichinan I managed to see Umisachi-Yamasachi again and visit another Hard-Off! Awesome!

Taniyama, Kagoshima

This mini-stopover turned out to be a little bit more effort that I expected. The walk to-and-from the station was pretty tough with an already-heavy bag an some very warm weather for 10am in the morning! Regardless, I made it there and picked up a Densha-de-Go controller for the PC!

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The station itself was actually a new build! It's been elevated and they're busy renewing the entire area underneath. I caught my favourite train back towards Kagoshima-Chuo and was presented with another bonus for the morning: passing the Ibusuki No Tamebiko! It's actually a really crazy-looking train with its 50/50 black/white cab!

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At that point, Kagoshima was totally ticked off the list. It was time to head north and tackle the final blue 200DC.

Tosu and Shin-Tosu

Of course, there's always time for a detour. I'd Google'd the crap out of the Seven Stars In Kyushu tour train and, intially, worked out that it'd be visiting Nagasaki on the Sunday that I was departing Kyushuu. After I'd booked everything, I then realised I'd calculated by a standard off-by-one error and that the Nagasaki visit was the day before and that the train would be passing through Tosu when I was! A bonus, but the initial plan was to catch it at Kikitsu... oh well.

From Kagoshima, it was a very quick trip north to Shin-Tosu with a just-as-quick transfer to Tosu station. From here, it was just convenience-store lunches and platform waiting. There was a delightful amount of interesting things to check out!

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That middle witches hat above is hilarious. 'Pidgeon' in Japanese is 'Hato' and it's warning you not to sit on the bench as you'll get shat on!

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And then the main event...

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So bloody fancy! I never intend on ever spending that much on a train fare... but it did look overly pretty (shiny)!

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There's also a cute stuffed-and-mounted steamer on the stadium-side of the station. I'll research more to work out what it is.

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Also a fantastic story describing the impact of smoking... I've seen it before but it's always great to refresh the memory.

I finally boarded a Kamome Service to Nagasaki, transfering at Isahaya to get a local through to Ichinuno.

Ichinnuno

Yup, not Kikitsu... Ichinnuno. I skipped past where I was going to stay as there was enough time to check out a shop... I bet you can't guess which!

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Kikitsu

I then returned to Kikitsu and stayed overnight at the Kikitsu Station Hotel. The hotel was nice and clean... but I got there at dinner time and the restaurant wasn't open in the evenings. The bathhouse was also shut, but I didn't ask if it was renovations or completely closed. Luckily the room had a nicely outfitted bathroom.

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The lack of dinner was unfortunate though, as the town also had zero options at that time on a Sunday. Then again, now that I look at a map, I realised I should have crossed the railway down to the main road and hunted down dinner.. but I was exhausted and happy to sleep.

The next morning saw an early start, taking the first train towards Sasebo. Before that, though, I quickly checked out the Kikitsu Station precinct. Between the hotel and the station was a level crossing. This had a pedestrian overpass...

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...but it was actually a ruin! Closed to pedestrians, who then had to perilously navigate the side of the road on the rail-level crossing. Crossing the rails provided a nice treat though! There was an old computer shop which seemed to specialise in junk!

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Too bad it was super-early and the shop was shut! I really would have liked time to check out the warez. Would've been very interesting to see what I could fit in my backpack. I think that they proprietor would really be hoping the customers knew what they were looking for, though... as rummaging through that shopped looked nigh impossible!

Haiki

From Kikitsu, it was time to get to Sasebo and tick-off westernmost JR train station! The Seaside Liner actually takes you all the way from Nagasaki through to Sasebo and is a fantastic ride. As I've mentioned before, the 200DC has a beautiful sound!

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There was a quick stop-over at Haiki to allow the collection of passengers on the Huis-Ten-Boch who had come from Tosu. Here I actually changed to an express... just because I could.

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The ex-Relay-Tsubame 787 Series EMUs really are delightful.

Sasebo

It was time to tick off the westernmost extent of the JR network. Sasebo isn't actually the 'westernmost railway station of Japan', but it is the limit of the JR Rail Pass. It was actually pretty hard finding the plaque/monument to officially signify this and I ended up having to ask the travel information desk. They promptly walked me straight the ornaments.

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And then you get to check out the cute little Sasebo Railway and, of course, more DC200s... but this time they cheated and also painted a KIHA in the same blue.

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I just happened to ride the KIHA back to Hui and it turns out that they're actually promoting and thanking the unit for its service!

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Hui

This is a small stop on the way back to Tosu. You get one guess as to why I ventured there...

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On the way to and from Hui station to Hard-Off, there was a beautiful uphill road that crosses the railway where the railway is also crossing a river. It would've been a great spot to grab the blue Seaside Liner passing, if I hadn't wanted to ride the next service! I really need to start spacing out these trips and just taking my time.

Haiki, Shin-Tosu, Home...

The next service was taken out of Hui where one has to change directions to get back to Tosu quicker. The Seaside Liner continued on to Nagasaki, but a Midori Express + Huis Ten Boch came through Haiki not long after. The train actually joins here... one half from Sasebo and the other from the Huis Ten Boch park itself.

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The trains are really quite stunning design-wise. Super comfy and clean too... but that's just Japan, right? Before I knew it we were stopping off and it was time to trek to the next Hard-Off. Actually, this time I hailed a taxi as it was pretty muggy outside.

On the way back I admired the view of the Shinkansen tracks over rice fields... and a stockpile of vending machines!

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And then beautifully-fluked intercepting the southbound freighter!

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Back at Shin-Tosu I was on the first eastbound Sakura... Thanks again, Kyushu!

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