Nagasaki by Rail
In addition to JR, other trains running within Nagasaki Prefecture include the Matsuura Railway in the northern areas of the prefecture, and the Shimabara Railway in the southeastern area. The two local railroads introduced here run daily, and their charms will stir the hearts of travelers.
Matsuura Railway: Feel and Take in the Unadorned Landscapes
The Matsuura Railway runs for a total length of 93.8 km between Sasebo Station and Arita Station (Saga Prefecture). From this one-car local train, you can see a variety of lifestyles and landscapes along the tracks, such as rural countryside, the seaside, and pottery villages. Of its 57 stations, Tabirahiradoguchi Station is famous as the westernmost station in Japan using ordinary tracks that run on two rails. As a souvenir, you can buy a certificate that certifies your visit to this westernmost station. Additionally, the distance between Naka-Sasebo Station and Sasebo-Chuo Station is approx. 200m, the shortest distance between two stations in Japan. Sasebo-Chuo Station's narrow platform and the narrow streets that quietly connect to the shopping district create a mysterious atmosphere.
Matsuura Railway: Goods You Can Only Buy Here
Matsuura Railway sells original goods primarily at its 7 staffed stations of Sasebo, Sasebo-Chuo, Sasa, Tabirahiradoguchi, Matsuura, Imari, and Arita. In recent years, the "Nishiura Arisa" character from the "Tetsudo Musume (Railway Girls)" series has become popular. The Tetsudo Musume are characters who embody the qualities of each railway, and are cast as females working at the railway companies in various regions all across Japan.
Shimabara Railway: A Train Ride with Spectacular Views
The Shimabara Railway runs along the Ariake Sea connecting Isahaya Station to Shimabara Port Station, with 24 stops in between. If you are coming from the Nagasaki City area, you will depart from Isahaya Station. When you get into one of the yellow carriages, you can see the peaks of Mt. Unzen on your right, and Ariake Sea spread out before you on the left; giving you both the grand mountainscape and the shimmering ocean view. As you leave Isahaya Station and head for Shimabara Port Station, you'll encounter many different types of scenery including rice terrace, bamboo forests, farmland with traditional Japanese houses, antique-like retro stations, and of course the gorgeous ocean view of Ariake Sea. As you approach Shimabara City, you'll see more modern style buildings mixed in with traditional architectures. During this 1 hour journey, the sceneries that you'll see is nothing but captivating and awing!
※ The trains have Wi-Fi, and annoucements are also made in English.
Shimabara Railway's Café Train
The Shimatetsu Café Train, where you can enjoy lunch and sweets made with locally produced ingredients, runs 3 to 5 times a month on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. It is approximately a 2 hour trip from Isahaya Station to Shimabara Station. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket window at Isahaya Station after making a prior online reservation. Tickets also come with an admission ticket for Shimabara Castle and Shimeiso Spring Garden, as well as a regular train ticket for the return trip.
The Shimatetsu Café Train features two courses; a lunch course, and a sweets course. All of the ingredients used in the meal are provided by the shops along the rail line, and the train attendants will explain the ingredients used in that day's meal. In addition, the train attendants will also introduce some of the sightseeing spots in the Shimabara Peninsula area throughout the trip.
One British Traveller that went on this Café Train said that "I'm always busy dashing off to my next destination when I travel, but it is also important to have some time to relax with some drinks and a nice meal while traveling."
※ Free refills are available for coffee and Japanese tea.
Omisaki Station - A Station Just Steps Away from the Ocean
Omisaki Station is one of the stations along the Shimabara Railway line. This station is also known as "Japan's closest station to the sea". During high tide, the Ariake Sea is only a few steps away from the platform! A popular thing to do at this little station is to purchase a yellow handkerchief from the "Gacha Gacha" capsule vending machine. It is a custom to write a wish or a message to your loved ones on the yellow handkerchief, and then hang it at the designated area on the platform. The yellow handkerchief with the ocean view backdrop makes it a very picturesque scenery for photography enthusiasts.
※ For those that are on taking the Café Train, the train will stop at Omisaki Station for approximately 45 minutes.
Discover More Places with an Unlimited Pass!
Both the Matsuura and Shimabara Railways offer special pass for unlimited rides. This is a recommended option if you plan to stop at multiple stops ride.
Matsuura Railway: The One-Day Ticket can be purchased on the train, and at 7 manned stations along the rail line.
Shimabara Railway: The One-Day or Two-Day UNZEN・SHIMABARA FREE PASS can be purchased at manned stations along the rail line, and at ticket windows for buses and ferries. With the pass, you can have unlimited rides on trains, buses, and ferries operated by the "Shimatetsu" company.