Great news for all you One Piece fans out there!
To commemorate the reopening of the Minamiaso Railway that suffered severe damage in the Kumamoto Earthquakes of 2016, the railway has teamed up with One Piece to create the One Piece Sunny-go Train!
The Sunny-go is a special train decorated both inside and out with all things One Piece! From the headrests decorated with manga panels to the lights made to look like straw hats, the train features tons of small touches that fans are sure to enjoy. There are also a number of One Piece-related secrets hidden along the train ride, so keep your eyes peeled!
For a good look at the inside, check out this article (in Japanese). More info and pics will be added here once we get the opportunity to ride!
The train started running July 22nd, 2023 and makes a total of 3 round-trips per day on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (except for Aug 10-15, 2023 when it is scheduled to run every day). The train runs between Tateno Station and Takamori Station in Aso.
To put the schedule in English, there are three trains per day from Tateno Station (which connects to the JR line) at 12:07, 15:10, and 17:36, and three trains going the other way from Takamori Station at 9:10, 14:32, and 16:39. The two trains listed in yellow (the 9:10 from Takamori and the 12:07 from Tateno) are when the Sunny-go runs by itself, while at other times, the Sunny-go will be connected with a normal train.
This schedule is in effect until the end of November 2023. There may be changes to the schedule after that, so be sure to check actual running times beforehand.
The most convenient spot to get on the train for most people is going to be Tateno Station. Tateno Station connects the Minamiaso Railway line with the JR Hohi line that runs between Kumamoto and Oita. If you’re coming from Kumamoto or Oita, take a train to Tateno, then switch to the Minamiaso Railway there.
There isn’t too much to do around Tateno, so try and schedule a train that gets to Tateno just before the Sunny-go leaves. If you end up with a little bit of time to kill during transfers, the newly built Tateno Dam is nearby and is good for a quick visit.
Tickets are ¥490 for adults and ¥250 for children for one one-way ride. The Minamiaso Railway is a separate company from Japan Rail, so you cannot use a JR Pass on the Sunny-go and will need to purchase a ticket.
The Minamiaso Railway also only accepts cash at the current time, so make sure to have cash on hand when riding the train. You will need to take a ticket as you board the train, then pay when you get off.
Are there any One Piece statues nearby?
If you plan things well, you can visit a couple One Piece statues by train before and after you ride the Sunny-go. The easiest statue to visit is that of Franky. Franky is right in the parking lot of Takamori Station and is impossible to miss.
The next easiest statue to visit would probably be Usopp. Usopp greets visitors as they leave Aso Station, which is just four stops down the JR Hohi line.
Next up is Zoro. Zoro is a 5-10 minute walk from Higo-Ozu Station, also on the JR Hohi line just two stops away from Tateno.
Next is probably Robin. Although her statue may look easy to get to on a map, it’s somewhat inconveniently located halfway between to JR stations on the other side of a river. The easiest route on foot would probably be to get off at Tateno Station and walk, but the walk takes an hour one-way. If you can catch a taxi from Tateno, the ride takes only about 15 minutes, but taxi availability may be limited at both the station and near the Robin statue. Robin is also located within a memorial museum for the Kumamoto Earthquakes that is closed on Mondays and some other special days, so please check that the memorial so you don’t find yourself locked out after spending an hour walking there.
Finally, if you get up really early in the morning and are starting your trip from Kumamoto City, you can probably swing by to visit Luffy and maybe even Chopper. These statues are accessible via the Kumamoto City Tram but require a bit of walking from the nearest tram stop. If you’re willing to brave the somewhat confusing bus system, there are buses that can take you right to the statues.
If you’d like to visit the other statues, you’re going to need to either rent a car or charter a taxi as they are located far from easily accessible public transportation.
Check out our article here for more info on each of the One Piece statues.
The Sunny-go is planned to run for only about a year or so, so be sure to come for a ride before the train is gone for good!
Official Sunny-go Train webpage: https://op-kumamoto.com/train/