Bullet Trains

4 Feb
The rail network in Japan is without peer as the best in the world. Clean, efficient, punctual – very impressive. From local rail to bullet trains, the who network runs on time and is well organised. It really does make a mockery out of rail systems in other parts of the world. The post however is talking about the bullet train – otherwise known as the shinkansen. One of the most symbolic icons of Japan, they have been operating since 1964, and if you’ve never travelled on one, pencil it in as a ‘must do’ when you visit. I recommended purchasing a Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in the country. If you are planning on seeing the country, the Rail Pass is essential. From memory they can only be purchased outside of Japan, and are available in consecutive 7, 14, or 21 days passes. The pass can be used on most trains, buses and ferries (though not the Nozomi trains). There is a downside in that once the pass has been validated, the pass is then available for the next 7, 14 or 21 days – which means you are constantly on the move. But given that these machines travel at 270+ km/hour, you really have no difficulty gettng from one location to the next in no time at all. The massive concrete walls which house the shinkansen rail lines, cane be viewed from car or domestic train all over the country. I have travelled on many bullet trains and to give you an example of their speed; one time I was approaching Niigata Station on a bullet train when I spied the logo of a Recycle store I shopped at, as we approached. It was only five minutes from when I saw the shop to when we stopped, and I decided to retrace my course, by walking along the shinkansen line back to the shop. Some time later I arrived at the shop. It was quite a walk that’s for sure ! So never underestimate the speed of which the bullet train is travelling at ! Many stores in Japan have advertising situated high up so that they can be seen from a distance. So here’s the deal, purchase your Japan Rail Pass before you arrive in Japan. After you’ve seen enough of Tokyo, get your pass validated, jump on the bullet train and you are away. Another bonus of having a pass is not having to wait at turnstiles an the train stations. You just walk to the side where the JR attendant will be and they will sight your pass and allow you through – thus avoiding the large queus. The bullet trains, like all trains in Japan operate to the clock – and if the train is meant to arrive at 8:17 PM it will be there at 8:17 PM. There are smoking and non smoking carriages so be aware of that. A JR train attendant will push a service trolley through the carriages selling bento boxes, drinks and candy. There are also telephones and vending machines (jidohainbaiki) on board as well.
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