The Kyushu Shinkansen (九州新幹線, Kyūshū Shinkansen) is a shinkansen line that connects Fukuoka (Hakata Station) in the north with Kagoshima (Kagoshima-Chuo Station) in the south of Kyushu. The southern half was opened in 2004 and the northern half in 2011. A branch line to Nagasaki is planned.
Most trains along the Kyushu Shinkansen provide through service with the Sanyo Shinkansen to/from Osaka or provide a quick and easy transfer to/from a Nozomi train at Hakata Station. Trains along the Kyushu Shinkansen are operated by the Kyushu Railway Company, commonly known as JR Kyushu.
Three train categories operate on the Kyushu Shinkansen:
The Mizuho is the fastest train category, stopping only at Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo. It provides through service to the Sanyo Shinkansen to/from Osaka. However, currently there are only around half a dozen round trips per day, mainly in the mornings and evenings. The Mizuho is one of only very few JR trains that cannot be used with the Japan Rail Pass. However, it is covered by the Kyushu Rail Pass.
The Sakura is the second fastest train category along the Kyushu Shinkansen, serving a few more stations than the Mizuho. There are usually two departures per hour, with some providing through service to the Sanyo Shinkansen to/from Osaka.
Two types of train sets are used as Sakura trains. The 8-car sets have green car seats in only half of car number 6, while reserved seating comes in rows of 2x2 seats that are almost as comfortable as the Green Car seats, and non-reserved seating with rows of 3x2 seats. The 6-car sets have no green car, but all seating comes in rows of 2x2 seats that are almost as comfortable as Green Car seats.
The Tsubame is the slowest train category along the Kyushu Shinkansen, stopping at all stations along the way. Most trains only operate between Hakata and Kumamoto. The Tsubame uses 6-car train sets that do not have a green car, but come with seats in rows of 2x2 seats that are almost as comfortable as Green Car seats.
Note: For simplification, some rare train compositions and stopping patterns are omitted.