Ibusuki no Tamatebako: A Pleasant Scenic Ride in Kagoshima
If you are looking for a unique experience around Kagoshima, never miss the famous Ibusuki no Tamatebako, or also known as Ibutama!
With a monotone exterior, this limited express train was designed with a local folktale in mind. In my previous post on Reasons why you should visit Kagoshima, I have briefed a little on the naming of the train. The name of this scenic train was behind a legendary Japanese folktale called Taro Urashima, as Ibusuki is the base of this story, and “Tamatebako” means “treasure box”, which is the most essential part of the folktale.
The Folktale surrounding Ibusuki no Tamatebako
In the folktale, there is a place called the Dragon Palace (Ryugyu-jo) under the sea. Urashima Taro, a fisherman, journeyed there and was entertained by their princess as a reward for saving a turtle. Taro spent three days with the princess, and wanted to return home to see his mother. The princess gave him a box and told him not to open it as it will protect him from harm.
When he arrived home, everything changed. His home is gone, and his mother is no longer in sight. When he asked around, 300 years have passed (In some versions it’s longer, there are different versions of this story but this version is what my Japanese teacher taught me). Out of grief, he opened the box and smoke emerged with a sad yet sweet voice. Taro instantly turned old with long beards and bent back. That sweet voice told him that the box contains his old age – which is why he shouldn’t be opening the box.
The train gives the same feeling, in my opinion. Everything is beautiful inside and time passes so quickly throughout the train ride!
Ibusuki no Tamatebako connects Kagoshima-Chuo Station and Ibusuki Station. Compared to the original, standard train that will take about 1.5 hours to reach there, this train takes only 55 minutes!
Along the journey, you can see Sakurajima from the train, purchase snacks, drinks or souvenirs from the crew while hearing guides about the scenery along the way!
As the train runs along the Kagoshima bay, or called Kinko bay, Sakurajima’s view will surely be memorable throughout the train ride. As this train runs faster than standard trains, it only has three stops including the terminal stations: Kagoshima-Chuo Station, Kiire, and Ibusuki.
The interiors of the train
Ibusuki no Tamatebako has an interesting exterior and cozy woody interior. If you love photos, and something Instagrammable, wear pretty clothes! It has many spots for photos, whether with the staff, with the train, or with their uniform of Ibutama! I personally love the aesthetics of the train because of the warm and cozy vibes, with the large windows that makes the scenic view even better.
In the train, they also sell special snacks and drinks! You can also purchase some nice souvenirs. There was also a fun quiz related to Ibusuki too!
I also love how the train was decked in old fashioned seats! The arrangements feels nostalgic. Its beautiful interiors, scenic views, and the smooth ride makes this ride memorable. Usually, you will be stuck in your assigned seats as you need to reserve your train tickets before boarding (you can reserve for free with your Kyushu Area Pass), but if there were unoccupied seats you can get more freedom to move around.
If you wanted something that screams Kagoshima, try the black sesame pudding! It uses local ingredients and this flavorful pudding is only limited on Ibutama itself! It’s a delicious dessert to enjoy while you enjoy the views.
The enjoyment and recommendation
If you are looking for a special experience, then try scenic rides in Japan! It’s so relaxing and it changes how you see the country on a different pace. Best of all, free reservations with a JR Kyushu Pass! You can reserve in advance in any JR Stations in Kyushu that has a Midori no Madoguchi, or do it in Ibusuki Station/ Kagoshima-Chuo station if there are slots left.
It is also enjoyable to see the locals here. Whenever this train is departing or arriving, the locals give you a friendly farewell with flags. You also get a free souvenir of a stamped card to say you went on the train ride.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable and fun scenic train ride. There are three trains per day, usually at 10am, 1pm and 3pm unless there will be schedule changes later of the year (since we are in a pandemic wave as I write right now). However, since it is popular, I recommend reserving in advance!
If you’re looking for JR Pass, feel free to contact us at his.com.my!