The A-Train Sightseeing Train
The A-Train (A-Ressha de Ikou in Japanese) gets its name from the jazz song “Take the A-Train” made famous by Duke Ellington. The train connects Kumamoto with the islands of Amakusa, which might be where the train gets its A from.
The design of the train, done by Eiji Mitooka, is retro and western in style, inspired by the strong historical western influence on Amakusa. Amakusa is close to Nagasaki, the only port open to foreign trade for 200 years starting in the mid-17th century. Foreign and culture, notably Christianity, spread to Amakusa and still inform the local culture to this day. The train features stained glass accents throughout its interior as a nod to Amakusa’s Christian history.
While the interior is gorgeous, the real star of the show are the views from the windows. The train runs from Kumamoto Station through the small city of Uto before turning west to run along the coast of the Ariake Sea towards Amakusa. On clear days, you’ll be able to see the volcanic Mt. Unzen across the water in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Misumi Station is the terminus and although it ends just before Amakusa proper, just across the street is Misumi Port where you can catch a ferry to Matsushima. On normal days, the ferry schedule works together with the A-train schedule, so you can catch a ferry right after you arrive in Misumi.
Misumi Station itself is nicely renovated but, being a pretty minor station, there isn’t much to do in the immediate vicinity. Instead of trying to find something to do near the station, we recommend either taking the ferry to Matsushima, or taking a taxi to Misumi West Port. Misumi West Port is a historic port and part of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution World Heritage Site. The site features a couple 19th-century western-style buildings, great views over the water, and a cozy cafe.
All-in-all, the A-train is a beautifully decorated train with great views but not much to do at Misumi Station unless you continue further. As such, it isn’t that appealing for JR Rail Pass holders, but instead appeals more to locals looking for a weekend rail excursion.
- Views of Mt. Unzen
- The Okoshiki Kaigan at low tide, where the shallow mudflats form a striped pattern that looks especially great at sunset
- Tasty highballs with made with local citrus
Pairs Nicely With
- The shinkansen from Kagoshima or Fukuoka (transfer at Kumamoto Station)
- The SL Hitoyoshi from Tosu (transfer at Kumamoto Station)
- The Aso Boy from Oita (transfer at Kumamoto Station)
Electrical outlets: No
Food: Very light fare (various kinds of highballs, delicious salt chocolate, ice cream, etc.)
Included in JR Rail Pass: Yes
Reservations required: Yes (try to get a D window seat)
Extra fee for reservation with Rail Pass: No