Kyûshû Shinkansen   九州新幹線

JR West Japan's class N700 set (end car no. 781-7003) in Shin Tosu station on a train to Kagoshima Chûô, which will then return as a through service to Ôsaka. (2016)

JR Kyûshû Class 800 (no. 2) at Kagoshima Chûô, the southern end of Japan's Shinkansen network. Ahead is the active volcano Sakurajima. (2010)

The Kyûshû Shinkansen is the continuation of the Sanyô Shinkansen from Ôsaka (Shin Ôsaka station) via the extreme western end of Japan's main island Honshû and through the new Kanmon Tunnel (opened 1975) onto the island of Kyûshû. Sanyô Shinkansen trains, operated by JR West,  end at Hakata station in the city of Fukuoka. (For the Hakata Minami line see separate entry.) From Hakata southward the Kyûshû Shinkansen largely follows the existing Kagoshima Honsen, traditionally Kyûshû's most important north-south connection. However, as the Kyûshû Shinkansen is a high-speed railway it just serves the most important cities as well as a few junctions, from where larger towns can be reached.

A very large part of the Kyûshû Shinkansen runs through tunnels; the eight longest tunnels are: Between Hakata and Shin Tosu (11935 m), between Izumi and Sendai (9987 m), four tunnels between Shin Yatsushiro and Shin Minamata (6991 m, 6040 m, 5160 m, 4680 m) and two tunnels between Shin Ômuta and Shin Tamana (6757 m, 5415 m).

The Kyûshû Shinkansen is built to 1435 mm gauge, the current system is alternating current 25 kV / 60 Hz, trains run at speeds up to 260 km/h. The length of the line from Hakata down to Kagoshima Chûô (Kagoshima Central) is 256, 8 km. The southern section from Kagoshima Chûô up to Shin Yatsushiro was completed first and opened in 2004. The northern section from Shin Yatsushiro to Hakata went into service in 2011. Until completion of the northern section intercity express trains "Relay Tsubame" bridged the gap between Hakata and Shin Yatsushiro, using the class 787 rolling stock originally built for the whole Kagoshima Honsen from Hakata to Kagoshima.

Around 13 million people per year are transported over the Kyûshû Shinkansen today. Looking back, the reduction in time for a journey from Ôsaka via Hakata down to Kagoshima is truly remarkable. In 1971 this journey took about 17 1/2 hours, very likely by sleeping car from Hakata to Kagoshima. In 1988 journey time was down to 3 hours from Ôsaka to Hakata, followed by 4 1/2 hours on to Kagoshima. Today a through Shinkansen train from Ôsaka to Kagoshima takes a little over 3 1/2 hours. From Hakata to Kumamoto journey time in 1971 was about 1 hours 40 minutes, in 1988 it was down to 1 hour 20 minutes, and now the Shinkansen takes around half an hour.

Services are provided by the Sakura Express between Kagoshima and Ôsaka (Shin Ôsaka station) about every half hour, with further trains between Kagoshima and Hakata. In addition, very fast Mizuho Express trains run at between one and three hour intervals between Kagoshima and Ôsaka. Sakura and Mizuho Express trains basically use eight-car units class N700 owned partly by JR Kyûshû and partly by JR West. Hourly Tsubame Express trains operate mainly between Hakata and Kumamoto, using six-car units of class 800 owned by JR Kyûshû.

The violent earthquakes of April 2016 in the Kumamoto – Shin Yatsushiro area severely disrupted the Kyûshû Shinkansen. One whole train was completely derailed south of Kumamoto (fortunately without casualties), and after heavy repairs on the line only very slow running was possible until July.

JR Kyûshû class 800 set (no. 6) at Shin Tosu. (2016)

Before the northern section from Hakata to Shin Yatsushiro went into operation services here were provided by "Relay Tsubame" trains of class 787 over the Kagoshima Honsen. Coach MOHA 786-307 at Hakata station. (2010)

Entering Kumamoto from the south. (2018)

After the Kumamoto earthquakes Kyûshû Shinkansen trains ran very slowly over this section between Kumamoto and Shin Yatsushiro. View from the Kagoshima Honsen of a class 800 train near Matsubase. (2016)

From the train between Shin Yatsushiro and Kumamoto, in the region of Uto. (2018)

View from the Kyûshû Shinkansen crossing the Kumagawa river near Shin Yatsushiro. (2013)

From the train between Sendai and Izumi. (2018)