Limited Express Sonic 54 from Oita to Hakata Train Review
The Limited Express Sonic is a frequent limited express train plying between Ōita and Hakata via Beppu and Kokura along the Kagoshima Main Line and Nippō Main Line, with around 2 trains per hour and varying stopping patterns. Heading back to Hakata, I took the Limited Express Sonic on the full service route from Oita to Hakata, even though my journey may have been faster if I were to have caught the Shinkansen from Kokura for the final stretch.
The façade of Ōita Station.
Heading through the fare gates at Ōita Station.
Train information is displayed on multiple screens on the concourse.
My Limited Express Sonic 54 will be departing from Platform 3.
Heading up to Platform 3 with the escalators.
My Limited Express Sonic 54 is operated by a 885 series EMU, part of Hitachi’s A-train family of multiple units. This was a lucky catch indeed, as I did indeed want to catch the 885 series EMU, but Sonic train services operate with both 883 and 885 series EMUs, and JR Kyushu’s English website seems to suggest to passengers that only the 883 series EMU operates, until passengers scroll down to the train configuration.
I had wanted to try the 885 series EMU as I ironically had tried out the UK’s version of long-distance Hitachi A-train EMUs first, instead of the original Japan one. Riding the 885 series EMU would get me a proper experience.
The 885 Limited Express Intercity Around The Kyushu branding on the side of the 885 series EMU.
Sonic 885 series EMU Green Car
I headed to the Green Car for a quick peek before departure.
The Green Car door is opaque, perhaps for the passengers’ privacy.
The interior of the Sonic 885 series EMU Green Car. Seats are laid out in a 2+1 configuration. Seats are rotated to face the direction of travel.
Quite interestingly, all seats are physically single seats, as the side laid out in pairs can also be individually rotated. Personally, they look like office chairs to me.
A mobile phone room is available on board the Green Car with counter tables for passengers to take phone calls without disturbing other passengers.
The toilet available on the Green Car.
The train configuration is installed as a light box by the train doors and vestibules, making it feel like a shopping mall or hotel lobby instead of a train.
Sonic 885 series EMU Reserved Seat Car
Heading to my booked reserved seat at Car 3.
The interior of the Sonic 885 series EMU Reserved Seat Car. Seats are laid out in a 2+2 configuration. Seats are rotated to face the direction of travel.
My booked window seat at 7A.
An overhead storage bin is available.
The legroom on board the Sonic 885 series EMU Reserved Seat.
A ticket holder with the Kamome logo is available on the seat back in front. This is used if you don’t feel like saying hello to the conductor to check for tickets in the old system. Tickets are now checked on the conductor’s mobile device.
A side table is flipped out from the central armrest.
A 2-pin Japanese power socket is available near the floor by the window seat.
A mobile phone room is also available on board the ordinary cars with counter tables for passengers to take phone calls without disturbing other passengers.
The vestibule areas are decorated with calligraphy.
Sonic 885 series EMU Non-Reserved Seat Car
There is not much difference between the Sonic 885 series EMU Reserved Seat and Non-Reserved Seat Cars, other than the seat covering being fabric instead of leather. I’m not sure if this is consistent across all train sets.
Seats are laid out in a 2+2 configuration. Seats are rotated to face the direction of travel.
The regular toilet is quite compact, with the strange angles, and not maximising the space that it actually has.
The accessible toilet is thankfully wide.
This Sonic 885 series EMU still bears the Kamome branding on some fittings.
The 885 series EMU was originally divided into 7 Shiroi Kamome sets with yellow lining and 4 Shiroi Sonic sets with blue lining. The entire fleet is now interchangeable, with all sets repainted with blue lining.
This was an original Shiroi Kamome set.
Train information is displayed on the LED scrolling bar.
For dinner, I bought a clearance Bento box from one of the shops at Oita Station for only 300 yen, along with a Highball as one does in Japan.
My Limited Express Sonic 54 departed from Oita on time at 6.43pm.
Not much photos to take out in darkness.
Making a brief stop at Beppu Station where more passengers boarded.
Making a brief stop at Nakatsu Station.
Making a brief stop at Yukuhashi Station.
Before arrival at Kokura Station, the usual arriving announcement was made, and instructions for turning around seats was followed, as the Limited Express Sonic 54 will change directions.
Passengers will turn the seats around by ourselves.
Making a longer stop at Kokura Station with many passengers alighting, and for the crew to change cabs. Passengers who want a faster journey to Hakata will alight at Kokura Station to change to the Shinkansen.
However, I remained on board as I wanted to take the full route of the Limited Express Sonic 54.
Seats are easily rotated with a step on the pedal to unlock the mechanism and then turning the seat around freely.
My self-service rotated seat.
For comfort, I flipped the empty seat in front of me too so I get proper legroom.
Departing from Kokura.
The conductor will also rotate empty seats while checking reserved seat numbers, but will not disturb of passengers are sitting on reversed seats, or if reversed seats will intrude into passengers’ space during the rotating process.
Making a brief stop at Kurosaki Station.
Making a brief stop at Orio Station.
Making a brief stop at Kashii Station.
My Limited Express Sonic 54 arrived at Hakata Station at 8.52pm – 2 minutes delayed.
It will just be a quick drop-off stop before the train heads to the depot.
Heading down the escalator to the exit.
Heading down another set of stairs to the exit.
Heading out of the ticket gates.
The façade of Hakata Station at night.
It was the last train leg of my full day around Northern Kyushu, which got me a little bit tired already. The nighttime scenery on this frequent line was good too, since I could spend less time taking photos and enjoy my dinner on board and appreciate the train ride without much distractions.