Shinkansen Bullet Train

Japan is well known for the world’s most efficient and convenient rail service. The Shinkansen or Bullet Train is the jewel in Japan’s rail crown. Their tightly scheduled, safe, prompt and super fast service is astounding. It is the best way to travel a long distance throughout Japan.

Shinkansen bullet train

JR has been running several different models of Shinkansen for over 50 years. In that time, they have carried over six billion passengers, that’s the entire population of earth. The Shinkansen service has have never had a single serious accident with trains that travel at speeds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour. JR is currently testing a new generation of vehicle that has reached over 500 klm per hour during test runs. There are Shinkansen services pretty much all over Japan, and many new services are planned or are under construction.

To catch a train, you essentially purchase a ticket from the ticket machine, or counter, line up for the train to arrive and get on. It is a quick and exceptionally easy process. If you have purchased a reserved seat, you will know exactly where to line up on the platform; with such a precise train service, the platforms have the carriage numbers marked on them as the Shinkasen stops in the same spot every single time.

One of the most popular routes is the Tokaido Shinkansen which connects Tokyo with Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, The Nozomi service takes about 2 and a half hours to travel from Tokyo to Osaka, which counting airport transfers and baggage collection is much faster and easier than flying. The Nozomi is the high speed service and only stops at the major stations. There is a cheaper Hikari service which takes about 30 minutes longer, because it has more regular stops. The slowest service is the Kodama which makes even more frequent stops. You will find trains from Tokyo to Osaka leave about every 5 minutes in daylight hours, which is quite astonishing taking into account each train holds around 1600 people.

Travelling on the train is nothing short of pleasant. There is much more room than in a commercial aircraft. Plenty of leg room and a choice of smoking or non smoking. Seating is allocated to reserved or the cheaper non reserved seating. Vending machines and toilets are plentiful, and a snack service is offered with food and drinks including liquor.

Tourists have the option of purchasing JR rail passes before they leave for Japan, but check for conditions carefully on JR’s website as some services like the Nozomi service are not available on the pass.

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