These aren’t your regular trains in your home town. Shinkansen, or "Bullet Trains", are a high-speed train that connects Tokyo with most of Japan's major cities.
This train system is a great alternative to traveling by air, and if you’re not from Japan, there is a great deal available to use the system for a steal.
The Shinkansen rail system is a great way to travel throughout Japan. These futuristic trains certainly don't look like they could be the same mode of transport as our Metro trains back home. It's just another way Japan looks 50 years ahead of the rest of the world in technology. The trains themselves look unique with 15+ carriages and a very sleek design. Watching these smooth trains whip around on the tracks is like watching a game of Snake back on your old Nokia.
As the map shows, there are Shinkansen lines that can get you across the majority of Japan. Reaching speeds of up to 320klm, at these speeds you can get from Tokyo to Kyoto (513klm) in a little over 2 hours.
Full service rail
The trains are spacious and all regular seats offer ample leg room and a generous recline, they can also be turned around 180 degrees so you can sit in either direction. The amazing Japanese hospitality doesn’t stop whilst on board. Throughout your journey a service attendant with a food cart will pass through each carriage selling drinks, snacks and Bento Box meals. Their routine is down to a tee with entering and exiting each carriage with a bow. All trains have all the amenities you would expect: full bathrooms, storage for bags and even amenities you might not expect, like vending machines.
How much does it cost?
A one way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto will cost around 8000 Yen, for a non reserved seat or about $80AUD. Now travelling around Japan these can add up, the further you travel the more it costs, and if you want a reserved seat, that costs more.This is where being a foreigner pays off.
A fare deal for international tourists
If you traveling to Japan you are eligible for the JR rail Pass. (Que angelic sounds)
This magnificent pass MUST be purchased prior to arriving in Japan. It entitles you to unlimited use of all JR rail lines and Shinkansen networks in Japan for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. It can also be used for the Narita Express high speed train connecting the airport to Tokyo.
Take for example; you wanted to travel from The Airport to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Kyoto. A few days later down to Hiroshima, then return to Tokyo. And in a few days back out to the airport. Paying for tickets on just the Narita express and Shinkansen this would cost
A JR Rail pass would have covered you for all the trips plus any local JR trains and only costs:
You could purchase a “Green Car” JR rail pass, which costs more and entitles you access to the Green Car carriages on a Shinkansen. These are the 1st class carriages, offering larger seats and more comfortable surroundings. However most find the regular carriages far nicer than any normal train or economy on a plane anywhere.
Remember you can use the pass to use any JR trains in Japan. Just show your pass at the station entrance and you’re in.
(full terms and conditions see: http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html)
The real thing to figure out is if JR pass going to be worthwhile for you?