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Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

Listed under Train Journeys in Tokyo, Japan.

  • Photo of Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
  • Photo of Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Photo of Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Photo by flickr user OiMax
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At speeds of 210km per hour Japan’s famous Shinkansen or bullet train was the fastest train around when it was launched in 1964 - and it's still the fastest. Top speed on some of it’s lines now reaches 300kms an hour, with the record so far set at 581km.

The bullet train network links all the major cities on the mountainous islands of Honshu and Kyushu, instead of going over or around obstacles - Shinkansen goes through them.

Some people feel nervous about travelling on trains in Japan, mostly to do with the stories about guards physically cramming people onto them, but long distance trains aren’t like that at all. This is a pretty civilised way to travel, it’s smooth, quiet, comfortable and usually runs to schedule, more like travelling on a plane than a rickety train. It’s also cool to be going so fast! The price is also comparable to air flight but the advantage is you arrive in the centre of town.

If you’re going to be in Japan for a while a Japan Rail Pass which allows you to use most national and local trains is probably best value. Most trains have both reserved and unreserved seating, if you have a Japan Rail Pass you can reserve your seat for free, otherwise you may have to pay. You usually need to go to the ticket counter to buy bullet train tickets - if you can’t speak Japanese it’s a good idea to write down what you want - the killer question is do you want a green ticket or a regular fare - green tickets are first class but if you don’t know that already it can cause a lot of confusion. Green tickets add another 40ish per cent to the ticket price. Once you’re inside the paid section there are usually signs in both Japanese and English. You’ll notice people lining up on marked areas of the platform, this is because drivers are trained to brake precisely so people can queue in front of where the doors will be. How civilised.

More about the Bullet Train.

Written by  World Reviewer Staff.

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The Silver Bullet

Known in Japan as Shinkansen, the Silver Bullet trains travel at 300km per hour and their network runs from Hachinohe in the north right down to Kyushu. Almost as much of a national symbol as Mount Fuji, these trains are not meant for scenic trips but to get from one place to another and, for the uninitiated traveler, the thrill of the ride!

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