Sasebo-sen 佐世保線

After splitting at Haiki this portion of the train continues to Sasebo. Seen from the rear cab of the Sasebo element of the train, class 783, coach KUROHA 782-103. (2013)

Local train leaving Arita. The train set is class 817, no.25. (2013)

This line is the direct continuation of the Nagasaki Honsen westward from the junction at Hizen Yamaguchi. It runs through of Saga Prefecture to the world famous ceramics and porcelain production centre of Arita, and then crosses the mountains into Nagasaki Prefecture to the city of Haiki. The distance from Hizen Yamaguchi to Haiki is 39, 9 km.  From here the Sasebo-sen runs up the coast for a further 8, 9 km to Sasebo, which has always been an important naval base and today sees a high level of activity by the Japanese Self-defense Forces and the US navy. Sasebo has a population of around 252'000, down from around 288'000 in 1970.

Since 1992 Sasebo-sen trains also work southward from Haiki on the Ômura-sen for 4, 7 km to the huge theme park of Huis Ten Bosch (pronounced Haus-ten-bos), modelled upon a Dutch city with a large palace and numerous canals with little Dutch houses. The Sasebo-sen (including the section to Huis Ten Bosch) was electrified in 1976 with AC 20 kV / 60 Hz.

#In 2018 Huis Ten Bosch is no longer a theme park recalling life in the Netherlands, though the buildings still stand. Rather, illuminations and fireworks form the main attraction.#

Originally the Sasebo line, built 1895-1897, was part of the main line to Nagasaki. In 1934, when the Nagasaki Honsen was completed along the Ariake Sea, it became the Sasebo-sen. Through trains from Tôkyô or Ôsaka – most of then including sleeping cars – ran until 2000. Freight services ended completely in 1996, since when Arita Freight Terminal is served by road trucks.

Express trains today run from Hakata station in Fukuoka, at first over the Kagoshima Honsen for 28, 6 km to Tosu, and then over the Nagasaki Honsen for 39, 6 km from Tosu to Hizen Yamaguchi. Trains for Nagasaki and for Sasebo used to split at Hizen Yamaguchi, but today intercity expresses serve the two destinations separately roughly every hour, with a local service in between. Many Sasebo-sen trains split at Haiki, with the rear part reversing and continuing to Sasebo, and the front part continuing to Huis Ten Bosch. There is also one through train a day in both directions linking Haiki with the third-sector Matsuura Railway north of Sasebo; this train is worked by an MR diesel car.

The train sections running to Huis ten Bosch are being refurbished and repained orange. Here is end car kuroha782-504 in Kitagata, west of Hizen Yamaguchi. (2018)

An express train class 783 passes through Mimasaka, east of Arita, headed by the Huis-Ten-Bosch portion of the train. Leading coach KUROHA 782-502. (2013)

The line climbing into the mountains east of Arita. The porcelain and pottery trading store Marukei posts its advertisements along the line. (2013)

Huis-Ten-Bosch, with an express train for Hakata standing at the platform. The leading car (class 783, KUHA 783-109) will couple up to the Sasebo portion of the train at Haiki. (2013)

The leading coach of express train set 783-108 (no. KUROHA 782-508) waiting at Sasebo endstop. From here military vessels can be seen, belonging either to the United States Pacific Fleet or the Fleet Escort Force of Japan's Self-Defense Forces. (2018)

View of Sasebo Bay from the station. In the background a military vessel, probably belonging to the United States Pacific Fleet. In front is one of the many ferries (here the "Ferry Namiji") which set out from Sasebo to the islands in the west. (2018)