Tuesday, December 5, 2017

5 Tips for Taking Public Transport in Kyushu (Japan)

When we have decided to travel to Kyushu (Japan), the first question that our children asked was, "Are we driving?" Well, a year before we visited Kyushu, we went to Okinawa (read our Okinawa travelogue here). In Okinawa, the public transportation system is not very developed, therefore we did self-drive tour. That was why the children had an impression that going to Japan = self-driving! While we could have considered driving in Kyushu, we decided to take public transportation since the places that we visited were accessible by public transportation.

Tips #1. Take trains in Kyushu for special travel experience

Taking trains enhances our travel experience in Kyushu! We planned our itinerary in such a way that we could take as many sightseeing trains as possible. These are some trains that we have taken during this trip.

Nishitetsu Tabito (旅人) - read our experience in this post.

Japan Rail Yufuin no Mori ((ゆふいんの森) - read our experience in this post.

Japan Rail Aso Boy! (あそぼーい!) - read our experience in this post.

Mojiko Retro Train Shiokaze-go (潮風号) - read our experience in this post.

Japan Rail Limited Express Sonic:

Does the head rest look like Mickey Mouse's ears? The leg room for the seats that we had was so big that we had to lean forward to eat the lunch bento!

We took Limited Express Sonic from Beppu to Hakata. When the train reached Kokura Station, interestingly, some passengers stood up and turned their seats to face the reverse direction! Then I realised that the train reversed its direction and moved on to Hakata! What a special experience!

Japan Rail Shinkansen (bullet train):

Getting from Hakata to Kumamoto (100+ km apart) took only 30+ minutes! It is even faster than getting from Changi to Tuas!

If you are a railway fan, you would be delighted when you are waiting for your train at the platform, because you will get to see other beautiful trains.

Japan Rail Huis Ten Bosch

Japan Rail Kyushu Odan Tokkyu

Nishitetse Suido

Nishitetse Suido

When you are taking sightseeing trains, remember to collect the souvenir card and stamp on it!

Tips #2. How to ride subway / train in Kyushu

If you are not using any transport pass (we shall elaborate on this in Tips #4) or prepaid IC, then you have to purchase your subway / train ticket from the ticketing machine.

Check the fare on the sign board above before you purchase the ticket. Select the language, select the fare on the screen, select the number of adults and / or children on the left side of the screen, then put in money, collect the tickets and change. So simple!

Insert the ticket into the ticket slot when you walk through the gantry. Don't forget to collect it back after you walk through the gantry! And please don't lose your ticket which is quite small in size. The ticket would be collected by the gantry at your destination, so take a photo with it before you exit!

At big train stations like Fuokuoka Station, there are many platforms. So how do we ensure that we board the correct train?

There are displays at the station, so check which train line and which direction that you are heading towards, then look for the the train number. Check the last column of the display which indicates the track number.

Go to the platform, look at the signs on the ground or above you to find Car No.

Tips #3. How to ride a local bus in Kyushu

At the bus stop, you can check the schedule. The left hand column (e.g. 8, 9, 10...) is the hour, then the second column is the minute. "平" means weekdays, "土" means Saturday, and "日" means Sunday. So for example, a bus would be heading towards Yokoku Station (暘谷駅) at 952 hr, 1132 hr and so on.

In Singapore, we board the bus from the front door. However in Japan, we have to board the bus from the back door. For payment, you can use prepaid IC card, which is similar to our EZ-link card.

Alternatively, if you can pay your bus fare by cash. First, take a ticket from a machine next to the back door when you board the bus.

How much bus fare to pay? Check the display in front of the bus, and look for the number on your ticket when you alight from the bus, the bus fare is displayed below that number.

In our example, the number on our tickets was 5. So when we were approaching our destination, we checked the bus fare under number 5, the display showed 170 yen. This is the bus fare for adult. For child above 5 years old, the bus fare is half, but have to round up to the nearest 10 yen, so in this case, each child had to pay 90 yen.

When we paid by cash, we were glad to see that there was a change exchange machine next to the bus driver. Just slot in our dollar notes, then it would exchange coins for us! After that, we just dropped the exact amount into the cash box. We encountered a nice driver who did everything for us - from changing 1000 yen note into coins using the machine, to calculate the total amount for 4 of us, and drop the coins into the cash box!

Tips #4. How to save money on Kyushu public transportation

There are many transport passes available. When you are using the pass on bus or train, you just need to show the pass to the bus driver or the staff next to the gantry of train station.

Let us share with you those that we had purchased during our trip.

Japan Rail (JR) Pass
As we are tourists, we can purchase JR Pass, in particular, we purchased JR Northern Kyushu Rail 5-Day Pass. Adult pass is 10000 yen (about SGD124), while child pass is 5000 yen (about SGD62). We visited a few places - Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Mojiko and Oita. If we do not have JR Pass, the total train fare per adult would be about 25000 yen! Getting JR Pass saved us about 15000 yen (SGD186) per adult, that is a substantial amount of saving!

You can purchase JR Kyushu Pass directly from selected JR stations in Kyushu, Hakata Port Beetle Counter, or TISCO Travel Information Counter at Fukuoka International Airport. Alternatively, you can purchase an exchange voucher in Singapore first, then exchange the actual JR Pass at selected JR stations in Kyushu. We bought our exchange voucher from Klook, it was cheaper than other places when it had promotion, but be ready to wait for a few days for them to send you the vouchers. Once we arrived in Kyushu, we exchanged our JR Pass at the ticket office at Hakata Station. You can specify that date that you want the pass to be valid. For example, when we exchanged our JR Pass, we informed that staff that the first day to use the pass was 2 days later.

In addition, do reserve your seats, especially for sightseeing trains and long distance trains. This can also be done at ticket office. Before we departed Singapore, I already filled up the rail pass reserved seat application form to indicate all the reserved seats that we needed for the trip, so I exchanged our JR passes and reserved the seats at the same time.

Information on JR Pass:
JR Kyushu 
Japan National Tourist Organisation

Fukuoka Tourist City Pass
We purchased Fukuoka Tourist City Pass 820 Yen Pass when we reached Fukuoka Airport.

On our first day, we travelled from Fukuoka Airport to Hakata Station via subway, then we took JR trains from Hakata Station to Uminonakamichi Park, and back to Hakata Station. Therefore, this pass saved us some money!

The other type of pass is 1340 Yen Pass covers Dazaifu area. We did not get this pass for our trip to Dazaifu on the second day, because it turned out that we would not save any money!

To use the pass, just use a coin or key to scratch the silver part of the pass on the date that you wish to use it. Please do not scratch the wrong date, otherwise you have to purchase a new pass!

Information on Fukuoka Tourist City Pass
Fukuoka Tourist City Pass Guide
Yoka Navi

Kumamoto City Tram One Day Pass
At Kumamoto, one of the main public transportation is city tram. The tram fare is fixed at 170 yen for adult and 90 yen for child per ride. Therefore, if you are going to take the tram 3 times and above within a day, it would be wise to purchase Kumamoto City Tram 1 Day Pass from Kumamoto Station, it is 500 yen for adult, and 250 yen for child.

Information on Kumamoto City Tram One Day Pass
Kumamoto City Transport Bureau

Other Public Transport Discount Passes
Nishitetsu Discount Tickets

Tips #5. Useful websites and smartphone applications

I usually use Yahoo Transit website. This website is available in Japanese only. I find it easy to use even with my half-past-six command of Japanese language. It has information on the cheapest / fastest / most convenient method to get from one place to the other, the duration and the fare, it even has information on which train track to board the train.

For English, you can use:
  • Hypedia - timetable and route search for railway and flight within Japan
  • Jorudan (iOS / Android) - transit planner which searches for the route, fare and schedule of trains and airplanes in Japan

Our Japan (June 2017) Travelogue

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