I remember seeing the movie, the bullet train when I was barely 7 years old. It was about the Shinkansen (Japanese term for Bullet train) and despite all odds and dangers the gallant crew ensured that the train reaches its destination on time...not even a single minute late . I remember praying to be able to travel in the bullet train one day
Wishes Get Granted....Sometimes!
Cut to 27 years later and I find myself on the Shinagawa station waiting for guess what- the SHINKANSEN!!! I was waiting in excitement with my wife and kid hoping to the catch the first glimpse of the train. My child was even more excited waiting for "zupp" ( has to be said with a movement of your hand going forward to indicate speed), the train that goes so fast.
I looked at the clock and it was almost time.I turned around and there it was with its long aerodynamic nose and gleaming white exterior .It had managed to sneak in behind me and I saw it standing at the platform waiting for the passengers to board, We boarded the train bucolic and open mouthed in awe at this marvellous piece of engineering
With speeds reaching 320 km/h, the Shinkansen is known for its punctuality ,comfort, safety and efficiency. The trains depart and arrive on time to the second. The importance given to safety is highlighted by the fact that there has been no fatal accidents in its history
Inside the Bullet Train
The interiors of the Shinkansen look like an aeroplane with comfortable reclining seats. The seats were 2x2 and spacious with enough space on the overhead shelves for luggage. The seats were all forward facing and very comfortable. Well, what else do you expect from the Japanese. It has be the best in class!
Soon the train started moving and we were thrilled with excitement . What struck me the most was the silence and smoothness of the ride. Not one jerk, one movement. It was as if the train was floating ! My son was a bit disappointed because he still thought that the train was stationary. Only when I made him look outside the window, did he realise the speed with which we were moving
Amenities & Comfort
The train has both reserved as well as unreserved compartments. There are washrooms at both ends of each compartment with a wash basin right out side. The loos have those multiple buttons like a typical Japanese loo. Typical of anything in Japan, they have made it foolproof and have even indicated the correct way of sitting on the loo! The toilets are spacious and have enough space for wheel chair users.
A few trains also have vending machines for food and drinks. Furthermore, pay phone facility is also available in the train. At one end of the compartment there is surprise surprise - a smoking room! The Japanese do know how to do things in style. The compartments are interconnected and one can move inside the train from one end to another easily. They even have the instructions in braille for the visually impaired passengers! Where else would you find such consideration for people with special needs but in Japan.
Feel like having a quick smoke? No problem Each compartment of the Shinkansen comes equipped with a smoking room where the smokers can go and smoke all they want without bothering their co-passengers
The Japanese hospitality
We also witnessed the Japanese hospitality and courtesy. Every half an hour a lady with a cart would come, greet us by bowing down and walked across compartment. She would leave by again bowing down in courtesy. Same went with the ticket conductor. Perhaps the only words we heard were "arigatou gozaimas" (thank you in Japanese)
The fare of Bullet Train ranges between 320 to 720 yen depending on the season. If you are going to be in Japan for long time then the Rail pass can make your commute really cheap. There are two categories of seats- Ordinary and Green Car. Some of the new trains have "Gran Class" which is super comfortable and luxurious. There are reserved and non-reserved categories of cars which is indicated on them. The bookings can be made online or at the ticket counters and vending machines at the station. Each traveller is allowed to bring only two pieces of luggage apart from small bags (details given in the following sections).The train can reach speed of 320 km/h but inside, you will not feel a thing!
Important Tips to keep in Mind
• There is a train every 8 minutes to Kyoto and so you need not worry about reservation
• It is recommended that you write your relevant details on a piece of paper to make your ticketing process hassle free. Details required are:
o Number of travelers
o Date of travel
o Departure Station
o Destination Station
o Ordinary or green car
o Reserved or non- reserved seat
• Talking on phone in the train isn't appreciated so refrain from doing so or keep your voice super low
• A good book, and a headphone is definitely recommended
• Soft toy or any game for kids to keep them engaged is also a good idea
• Stand in line at the station at the designated place for ease of boarding and alightment
• Each traveler is allowed upto two pieces of luggage onto a train excluding small bags with max weight of each luuage being not more than 30 kilos and dimensions not being more than 250 cms when adding width, height and depth
But the most important fact about the Shinkansen is that despite of being the fastest, Shinkansen has never broken down and got late, ever!
So if you have ever been on this beautiful beast, share your experience with us and tell us about the most exciting moments. If you are planning to get on to one of these and have any queries, shout out to us and we will help you!