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Kumamoto – May 2019

Thanks to the Kyushu Shinkansen, it's now really easy to make a stop-over at Kumamoto when on the way further south. The travel times are as good as getting to Tokyo and it's always nice to ride on the Tsubame class! I've also wanted to check out the Kumaden for a long time... and realised there was a Hard-Off nearby, so it was time to visit!


The morning started with a spirited run to Shin-Osaka Station to get the first westbound Shinkansen. Being that I hadn't eaten yet, I utilised the facilities on the platform!

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It was then a very non-eventful trip on the Sakura to Kumamoto, the service itself continuing south to Kagoshima.


Kumamoto Station is one of the few where the Shinkansen hasn't caused a 'Shin-' station to be built. Therefore it's a very quick transfer to get down to the local lines below. One goal for this Kyushu trip was to see all three colours of the 200DC diesel series. I was straight away presented with a perfect specimen in red.


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I used it to transfer through to Kami-Kumamoto Station, slightly north-east of the main Kumamoto station. Here you will also find the terminus of Kumamoto Electric Railway's Kikuchi Line.


Thanks to the careful consideration given to transferring between trains in Japan, the timetables often line up perfectly and a short stroll gets you to the Kumaden with a train waiting to depart within minutes.


As with most private railways, Kumaden also uses hand-me-downs from other railways. This one just happened to be a Kumaden 200 Series EMU which is really a recycled Nankai 22000 Series. The unit was in good condition for its age. As you'll see later, Kumaden is constantly working on their vehicles, so I'm sure this one gets TLC!


I rode two stops through to Ikeda Station. This is a cute little single-platform station with a perfect view of the first tunnel.


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From here, it was a hike up the hill to Hard-Off where much junk was bought. They had a great 'Junk Corner' here where I found random old ISA Sound Cards and even a Roland SC-88!


The view of the station as you're coming back down is lovely... especially when it stops raining. I wanted to stay and take a picture with a train in it, but my timetable actually demanded that I ride that same train.


And in short time it came back through the tunnel. This actually happened to be the return service of the one I'd caught to the area.

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Patronage was light-on, but consistent. The interiors where of a 'local service' bench-seat style and very clean and tidy! For those people without an electronic ticket, you would take a paper ticket from the dispenser next to the entrance. You then give this to the driver at your destination and he'll calculate your fare. The machine in front of the driver also gives change from notes and 500yen coins.


Trams! - KamiKumamotoEkiMae Station

Sorry, that capitalisation above is all mine... it's in an effort to help you understand what that name means. Kami-Kumamoto is the area, "Eki" means station and "Mae" means in-front-of. Pretty self-explanatory actually! This is the name of the tram stop out the front of the JR KamiKumamoto Station.


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That last poster is hilarious... they must really have issues with zombies using their "smart"-phones and getting in the way of railway vehicles. I'm not surprised... I'm still to be found on the footpaths shoulder-barging people who can't be bothered to look up or keep-left.

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The station also has an engine-shed associated and there were quite a few trams, of assorted models, either resting or under repair. I ended up riding the one pictured, through to town for lunch.. with a new objective! I wanted to go and see the green frog! But, back to the tram... from the outside, you can get a hunch that it's also a private railway in need of more love. The inside was just as ... romantic.

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Beautiful velour seats (Hankyu-esque?), wooden floors and cable ties! The mechanical side was fantastic though; that tram purred it's way down the center of the streets with zero effort.


From here it was back to Kumaden once more. The 'green frog' that I eluded to above is none other than Aogaeru, the famous ex-Nankai Zoom Car that Kumaden (used to) run. I say used-to as I expected it to be running when I was there... I was sorely mistaken to hear that they'd taken it out of service 2 years earlier! Now it's all bloody Kumamon!

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Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I'd transferred from the Tram back to Kumaden and faced off with Kumamon on the railcar. Instead of running in fear, I negotiated the ticket system and rode through to Kita-Kumamoto (North Kumamoto for those playing at home) and was presented with a beautiful station, something akin to an Oigawa Railway scene!

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I spent quite a lot of time at this station... Once Kumamon was out of the picture, the colour-tones of the rail vehicles settled back into a normal palette... all except one, really...


There you are! Aogaeru! Wait... The 'Aoi' part of 'Aogaeru' means 'Blue'... it's green. But that's a-whole-other fight to be had with the Japanese language. And what? There's only half the train there. Turns out the other half is in Shibuya, Tokyo! I've even seen it there and didn't think that it was half of this set! Anyway... there was much more to see around the yard.

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There was a miriad of different company railway cars under all phases of restoration. That's a Tokyo Metro EMU right there, in pieces. It was even being driven back and forth single-car style! I would have thought that it'd have some kind of fail-safe tech to stop it working without further cars attached, but they obviously managed to override those sensors?

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Oh ... Kumamon really does pop-up everywhere... Of course, it's the #1 advertising element of Kumamoto City, so I suppose I can forgive them.


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Numerous services came and went before I took the Kikuchi Line back to Kami-Kumamoto. It was an easier transfer to the Shinkansen at Kumamoto station and I wanted to check out the full length of the line.


Not that it's a long line... or branch. From the map above, Kita-Kumamoto is at the junction down below where the branch joins. This poor 200 series was destined, all day?, to run back and forth between 5 stops.


I was then off to South Kagoshima... but I'll save that for another post!

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