Saturday, 10 September 2011

Tracking by High Speed Train

When you think about travelling around Japan one mode of transport immediately comes to mind…the famed ‘bullet train’, or as it is officially known in Japan, the Shinkansen. If you wish to travel to any of the major cities you can certainly fly there in about an hour, but with the added time of getting to the airport and making your way through the dreaded security it becomes a much longer operation than expected. There is also the added cost to consider, as it is generally much more expensive by air. Therefore the value and convenience of the Shinkansen often makes it a more favoured option. For us the station is only half an hour away by train and with little waiting time with pre-purchased tickets we can be on our way within an hour of leaving home. With typical Japanese efficiency the trains departs on time every 10 minutes or so, heading off to all parts of the country. As it pulls into the station, the train itself has a look that is unlike no other you have ever seen. Bigger in size than regular trains, with a sleek and aggressive appearance that suggests that this machine is built for one function only…speed!! Having an allocated carriage and seat makes boarding amazingly orderly and time efficient (although there are also carriages available for unreserved seating). While the airplane style seats are a little small for most of us westerners, there is plenty of legroom and porthole style windows to view the passing scenery. Moving through the suburban areas, the speed appears to be relatively slow, but this can be somewhat deceptive. For instance, if you were travelling to Kyoto from Osaka it would take around half the time of a regular local train. As the speed picks up you are none the wiser until eventually you realise that you are now actually out in the country and the world is passing by at very rapid rate. At it’s top speed of over 300km per hour it remains an amazingly comfortable ride and a very time efficient way to travel. Apparently the trip to Tokyo from Osaka used to take around six hours, but has now been brought back to around two and a half hours as a result of the high-speed train. With over a hundred and fifty million Japanese commuters travelling on the Shinkansen every year it certainly remains a very popular way of getting around. For us, on our journeys to Tokyo and Hiroshima, it was as much about the experience of travelling on this great train as simply arriving at our destination.

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