Kyushu by rail

Isaburo/Shinpei is among the trains connecting Kumamoto to Kagoshima.
Isaburo/Shinpei is among the trains connecting Kumamoto to Kagoshima.PHOTO: JR KYUSHU
People along the tracks waving as the train passes by, in a gesture known as "tewofu-rail".
People along the tracks waving as the train passes by, in a gesture known as "tewofu-rail".ST PHOTO: CALVIN YANG

Explore an active volcano, soak in a sand bath and dip into hot springs while crossing the island in south-west Japan on a scenic train journey

As the powerful steam locomotive rumbles and roars through the rustic Kumamoto countryside in Kyushu, a party of four grey-haired ojisan (Japanese for uncles) clumsily clutch their beer cans with one hand - and wave the other excitedly at some middle-aged women. 

The women - one with rollers in her hair - are sitting on the wooden veranda of a traditional Japanese house just 10m from the track. They return the gesture, giggling like schoolgirls. 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 09, 2018, with the headline 'Kyushu by rail'. Print Edition | Subscribe