While there is a new shinkansen in Kyushu that run between Takeo onsen and Nagasaki, I decided to take a slower train to do the route, riding the Two Stars 4047.
The train mostly run on the weekends and holidays, so make sure you look at the schedule before planning your whole trip around taking that train. It does the round-trip once during the day. The route is actually a circle, so you could take the train in both directions and would pass via different lines.
As I stayed in Takeo onsen the previous night, in the morning I only had to walk to the station to wait for my train. While I was waiting at the station, I got got some Ureshino tea as well as a local beer at the souvenir shops, then made my way to the platform, that is on the local train side and not in the shinkansen/limited express side of the station.
The train was easy to identify as it is all white with two stars on the front. When getting in the train, you will see that for the most part, he seat configuration is similar to most limited express train, but there is a section on each side with seats facing the window, for a more panoramic view. The car #2 is also special as it is the lounge as well as the sales counter for food and souvenirs.
Speaking of food, you can obviously eat in the train and they have different food items and drinks available. If you want to get the lunchbox, you will have to reserve it on the train’s webpage. The train will also make a longer stop at Kohoku station where a kiosk selling different items is installed, that include some lunch boxes and at Hizen-Hama station you can get an assortment of local sake at Hama bar.
I was sitting next to a Japanese woman who opened a can of beer minutes after the departure, then she dashed out of the train to get one of the lunchboxes, she obviously knew that they were selling it, then she got herself some sake from the Hama bar. When we left the station, she started to talk about her sake choices with the guy on the other side of the aisle. When I got my lunchbox that I reserved and my craft beer, that was enough to start a conversation with her. She was doing the whole loop on the same day, relaxing and drinking, just as the couple that I met on my previous scenic train experience. Obviously, speaking some Japanese made this much easier to exchange.
I cannot tell to much about the afternoon route, but it stops at Huis Ten Bosch and Arita, so it might be an option if you want to go there from Nagasaki.
Overall, the ride was nice, the train interior is beautiful and you can just take a more relax approach to moving from city to city. Even if the train took almost 6 times longer than the shinkansen (2h53 vs 31min) and is even slightly more expensive, for me the ride did not felt that long with the beautiful views, the food and my unexpected travel companion. You might also want to reserve your ticket as soon as possible as the train seemed to be mostly booked on the day I used it.