Japan - Steam, Volcanoes and Bullet Trains

Golden Temple, Kyoto – © Bob Cable
Kagoshima Japan with Sakurajima Volcano – © Sean Pavone/shutterstock
Oigawa Railway - © Bob Cable
Two N700A Shinkansen Trains - © Alex Morley
Tokyo Tower, Tokyo
Umekoji Steam Museum - © Bob Cable
Yamaguchi Go Steam Train - © Bob Cable

Holiday Highlights

  • Sightseeing in Tokyo, Beppu, Kagoshima, Nagasaki and Kyoto
  • Travel by Steam on Yamaguchi Go, SL Hitoyoshi and Oigawa Railway
  • Himeji Castle and Kinkaku-Ji UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • Travel on Japan’s famous Bullet Trains
  • Scenic rail journeys
  • 2 night stay in a Traditional Japanese Onsen (Spa) Hotel
  • 20 Days from £5,760pp
Tailor this tour for independent travel

Tour Dates:
Wednesday 16 September to Monday 5 October 2020

This exciting tour to Japan features Kyushu, the southernmost of the main islands. A sub-tropical world of spectacular coastlines, mountains and smoking volcanoes. We also combine journeys on railways, both old and modern, with some wonderful city sightseeing.



Day 1 – Flight to Tokyo

Overnight flight from London Heathrow to Tokyo.

Day 2 – Arrival in Tokyo

A morning arrival into Tokyo Narita Airport and we transfer to our city centre hotel for the next 2 nights. The afternoon is free and our hotel is located close to Shinagawa Station, a convenient transport hub for getting around Tokyo.

Day 3 – Sightseeing in Tokyo

A day sampling Japan’s vibrant capital. Either join a tour with your guide or strike out on your own on the immaculately clean and efficient metro and rail system.

Day 4 – Shinkansen

Morning departure by ‘Hikari’ Shinkansen to Himeji where we head for the historic Himeji Castle, acclaimed as the most spectacular original castle in Japan. We depart Himeji by ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen and head to Kokura, our home for the next 2 nights.

Day 5 – Yamaguchi Go Steam Train

We once again board the ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen for a short trip to Shin Yamaguchi, the starting point for the steam hauled ‘Yamaguchi Go’ train. Travel through rural Yamaguchi Prefecture to Tsuwano and enjoy some free time in this attractive mountain town, famous for the many roadside channels teaming with carp.

Day 6 – Onwards to Beppu

Free morning in Kokura or why not join the guide for a trip to one of Japan’s oldest and most historic stations, Mojiko Station. We also visit the Kyushu Railway Museum before heading back to Kokura to depart on the ‘Sonic’ Limited Express for the journey to Beppu for an overnight stay.

Day 7 – Free Day in Beppu

A free day in Beppu, perhaps Japan’s most famous Spa town. Several very worthwhile rail journeys are possible here using your Japan Rail Pass.

Day 8 – Around the Coast of Kyushu

We head South by ‘Nichirin’ Limited Express train to Miyazaki for lunch before boarding the ‘Kirishima’ Limited Express service. After a particularly scenic section of the line we arrive in Kagoshima and check into our hotel for a 3-night stay.

Day 9 – Chiran and Kamikaze Museum

A full days sightseeing by coach as we head south down the Satsuma Peninsula. We visit Chiran with its wonderfully preserved Samurai Street then continue on to the Kamikaze Peace Museum, a monument to over 1000 young lives lost in WW2. Continue to Makurazaki, the most southerly railway line in Japan. Return to Kagoshima by coach or opt to return on the local coastal line.

Day 10 – Sakurajima

A free day to sightsee, ride the trams or simply relax. This afternoon there will be an optional trip by ferry to Sakurajima and the visitor centre on the edge of the lava flows.

Day 11 – Hitoyoshi and Kumamoto

Depart Kagoshima Chuo station by ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen and head to Kumamoto, our home for the next 2 nights. After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we make a return trip on the ‘SL Hitoyoshi’ steam train. This railway follows the Kuma River, a dramatic river valley with numerous bridges and tunnels. We arrive at Hitoyoshi in the Kyushu Mountains soon after midday where there is time for a leisurely lunch before making our return journey back to Kumamoto.

Day 12 – Free Time in Kumamoto

A free day for sightseeing, further rail travel or you can explore the city’s tram system. We recommend a trip on the local Kumamoto Electric Railway along the Misumi line to its coastal terminus where the views and seafood are good!

Day 13 – Ferry and Rail to Nagasaki

We take an unusual and interesting route to Nagasaki. First to Kumamoto Port and then by ferry to Shimabara. We join the third-sector Shimabara Railway and travel to Isahaya where we change to a JR ‘Kyushu’ train to our final destination, Nagasaki.

Day 14 – Sightseeing in Nagasaki

A full days sightseeing in vibrant Nagasaki using the city’s tram system, with its mixture of vintage and modern trams. We visit the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park, the Glover Garden and Dejima, the recreated historic trading enclave.

Day 15 – To Kyoto

Departing Nagasaki by ‘Kamome’ Limited Express we travel to Fukuoka where we change to a ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen. We break our journey in Hiroshima where there is a little over 2½ hours for some independent sightseeing and lunch before boarding another ‘Sakura’ Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka, where we change to a ‘Hikari’ service for the final leg to Kyoto.

Day 16 – Nijo Castle and the Golden Temple

A full day of sightseeing in Kyoto with its wonderful temples and unspoiled Japanese architecture. We visit Nijo Castle and its very attractive gardens before continuing to stunning Kinkau-Ji (Golden Temple), just one of over 2,000 in the city, but probably the most famous. You can choose to visit other cultural sites or visit Kyoto Railway Museum, the largest in Japan, with a live roundhouse full of steam locomotives, several active and in full running order.

Day 17 – The Oigawa Railway

Travel by ‘Hikari’ Shinkansen to Hamamatsu and transfer to the old Tokaido main line (3ft 6in gauge) to Kanaya. Here we join the Oigawa Railway. This charming steam train ride repeatedly rumbles across the Oigawa River and travels through miles of bright green tea plantations and sleepy villages. At Senzu we transfer to the upper end of the Oigawa Railway and travel as far as Sessokyo Onsen enjoying the spectacular scenery en route. After a short break here, we retrace our route as far as Okuizumi from where we transfer to a local coach service to the traditional spa town of Sumatakyo Onsen where we check into a traditional Japanese style Onsen Hotel.

Day 18 – Sumatakyo Onsen

A free day to enjoy the peaceful Sumatakyo Onsen. Take a walk in the surrounding mountains or a gentle stroll down the picturesque village street. You may opt to take the bus back to Senzu or Okuizumi, the nearest station on the northern end of the Oigawa Railway to photograph the steam train or take another ride down to Kanaya.

Day 19 – Return to Narita

Return by bus and train to Shin Kanaya, the headquarters of the Oigawa Railway. We have just over an hour to view the locomotive depot and the ‘Plaza Loco’ Museum and shop. Continue on a local JR service to Shizuoka and change to a ‘Kodama’ Shinkansen and head to Odawara. Depart Odawara on the adjacent Odakyu Electric Railway, one of Japan’s early private railway companies and one of the most innovative, to the railway’s Tokyo terminus in busy Shinjuku. From here we ride the Yamanote Line to Nippori to join the Keisei ‘Skyliner’, the fastest way to Narita Airport. We check into our hotel for an overnight stay.

Day 20 – Flight to London

Depart Tokyo and arrive in London Heathrow same day.

Tour Route

Tour route map

Selected Hotels

Keikyu EX Hotel Shinagawa, Tokyo

JR Kyushu Station Hotel, Kokura

Kamenoi Hotel, Beppu

JR Kyushu Hotel Kagoshima, Kagoshima

New Hotel Kumamoto, Kumamoto

JR Kyushu Hotel, Nagasaki

Hotel Vischio Kyoto, Kyoto

Suikoen Hotel, Sumatakyo Onsen

Hotel Nikko, Narita Airport

Please note - hotels can be subject to change

Price Includes

  • Flights in Economy Class by scheduled airline
  • Accommodation in good quality hotels on bed and breakfast basis
  • Special welcome dinner
  • 14 day first class Japan Rail Pass
  • Entrance fees and excursions as detailed
  • Services of a tour leader from London and throughout the tour plus local English speaking guide

Price per person

Escorted holiday: £5,760
Single room supplement: £265
Deposit for this holiday: £200

Booking form

Download your tour booking form here.


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