In my previous MoVernie BLOG, I talked about the benefits of purchasing a JR Pass and where you can purchase it. In this MoVernie BLOG, I will share with you my experience of riding the shinkansen high-speed train, aka Bullet Train, provided by Japan Rail (JR), what it’s like riding from Tokyo Station to Osaka Station at a speed of 300+ km/h on the track.
Additionally, I will share with you some tips that will make your JR ride more enjoyable and efficient.
We had received our JR Pass vouchers in Toronto prior to our trip to Tokyo, Japan. The moment we arrived at the Haneda International Airport, our flight landed at a time that the JR Rail office was closed. Thus, we couldn’t redeem our JR Pass vouchers immediately. But that’s ok, we purchased a single ride at the machine conveniently located at the train station in the airport and we took the JR line to our hotel that evening, so it’s all good if you don’t have the JR Pass.
MoVernie TIP #1: Check when your flight lands at the Haneda International Airport when you are planning to book your flight. Ideally, since the JR Rail office isn’t operating 24 hours, it is much preferred if you book a flight that land before its closing time. If not, try to plan the nearest JR Rail office in the city so that you can redeem your JR Pass vouchers on the next day or whenever you decide to visit the office to exchange for your official JR Pass.
MoVernie TIP #2: Since the friendly staff at the JR Rail Office prepared our JR Passes, she also helped us by reserving our seats on the Bullet Train. My advice to you is that…..if you clearly know the date and the time you would like to travel on the Bullet Train, it’s highly recommended that you book your seats prior so that it’s more peace of mind knowing you had reserved your seat especially if you plan to board on a train during peak hours. The train has a number of compartments (cars) with certain sections that are strictly dedicated to the reserved seating. Meanwhile, other sections are non-reserved, so you can choose to seat wherever you like, the only thing is that….during peak times, you may not have a seat and jam packed with people on the train.
However, if you prefer to be free style and you like to go with the flow and not plan on whatever date or time you want to ride the train, then non-reserved seats is the way to go as you have more freedom and flexibility of when you will like to hop on the train.
In the official JR Rail website, it has nicely summarize the description of its bullet train, “The shinkansen high-speed trains are the fastest way to discover all of Japan, reaching a speed of 320 km/h (199 mph). The Japan Railways (JR) network, which can be accessed by the Japan Rail Pass, practically covers all the country, with the addition of the new Hokkaido Shinkansen, and the popular Tokaido Shinkansen.”
The bullet train that we departed at the Tokyo Station was the JR line that was called the “Tokaido Shinkansen“.
Here are the following train stations that Tokaido Shinkansen will stop at:
Tokyo – Yokohama – Nagoya – Kyoto – Osaka
NOTE: Since I only had a certain number of days to visit Japan on my 1st ever Japan trip, I could only visit Tokyo and Osaka in a very reasonable amount of time. Thus, I didn’t get a chance to visit other cool cities such as Yokohama; Nagoya and Kyoto. I didn’t want to rush or just visit these cities for half or 1 day as I really want to get to know and experience these cities. I guess I will have to come back and visit these cities in the near future.
But if you have your vacation planned out, and you have enough time, you may consider visiting these cities along the way when taking the bullet train. If you have the JR Pass, you may as well maximize the benefits it brings when you are riding the JR line to visit these wonderful places.
When we arrived at the Tokyo Station, there were lots of people and we weren’t sure where to go. Luckily, there were lots of staff around the train station to assist tourists such as myself and they speak English, which makes our life easier to find our way.
After a short 5 minutes walk in the underground of the train station, we have find our Tokaido Shinkansen JR Line. There was still plenty of time for us before we hop on the train, so MoKenny decided to buy some coffee (much needed for me to wake up every morning). Then, I went and purchased the famous Japanese bento boxes for us for breakfast.
Let me tell you, every bento box looked so beautiful that it’s hard to pick one over another and they were all reasonably priced, it really comes down to what you prefer to eat. Most bento boxes are freshly made the day prior and they usually include rice, vegetables and sweet food items. It’s quite interesting. We bought them to the train (eating and drinking are allowed on the train).
As per usual, the Japanese is always punctual. So, our train arrives on time. We let some of the elderly people hop on the reserved section first. A few days during our visit at the JR Rail Office, the friendly staff made the reserved seating for us, and she printed hardcopy tickets for us, it will show you the exact section and the exact seating (keep the hardcopy in case if the train attendant checked your tickets). For me, we were located at section 6 and we hopped on. The compartment (both outside & inside) will display the word “Reserved” both in Japanese & English so you will know if you are seating at the right reserved section.
One side of the train had 2 seats and on my side, there were 3 seats. I chose aisle seat as I always prefer aisle seat so I can stretch my legs and have the freedom to go to the washroom whenever I need to. But again, some prefer the window seat. However, I have not heard from anyone that they prefer the middle seat, LOL.
On each side of the train, there was a luggage rack, we placed our luggage at the top of the rack. Surprisingly, the rack could withstand the weight of the luggage. I placed my carry-on in front of my seat. There was surprisingly lots of leg room for each seat. Each seat comes with a table tray, similar to the one you have when flying on a plane. The seat was very comfy, clean and modern.
As the train began to leave the station, the speed remained relatively steady as I suspect that within the big city, the speed limit is still kept at a reasonable speed. But as we got further out from Tokyo, I could feel the speed of the train began to accelerate. Bullet trains (depending on the specific line and peak/non peak hours), as I was told, can reach over 300 km/h and that’s super insane! And that’s the reason why people can travel from Tokyo to Osaka in just 3 hours!!!!! That’s super efficient and quick!
Mind you, the train made a few station stops along the journey to Osaka, so technically, you could travel from Tokyo to Osaka in way lesser time than 3 hours if they didn’t make any stops in between. That’s even more ridiculously quick. But I am happy with the 3 hours of travel coz riding on the Bullet Train was always part of my bucket list, it’s a dream come true to experience such a fast machine that our planet Earth has developed.
MoVernie FUN STUFF: Every single staff on the train that walks past all the riders, they will stop at the entrance door, turned back towards the riders and they bow before they walk out of that compartment and walk to the next one. I am assuming each staff does that for every compartment that they need to walk through. That’s an interesting custom that I have never seen in any other countries, so it was quite cool to witness this in person. That’s just show you the high level of politeness, respect and professionalism Japanese exerts to other people in its society.
Summary: Overall Experience
Overall, I really enjoyed riding the JR Rail (Bullet Train), it’s clean, organized, on-time, comfy, modern and just flat out the best transportation option to travel from 1 place to another in Japan. You may experience the fast acceleration at the beginning when the train leaves a station and slowing gain speed, but to be honest, you really don’t feel the 300+ km/h speed as the train continues to pickup more speed, coz the ride is steady and you don’t even really feel you are travelling at such a fast speed. The ONLY indication that you know you are travelling at high speed is when you look out at the window and you see how quickly objects pass by you, but you couldn’t really even see the object properly coz the train is travelling super fast!!!!!!!!!
If you never tried the bullet train, it’s a MUST TRY especially when you visit Japan. It’s readily available for you to try on a number of JR Rail lines. It’s safe, efficient and what a wonderful experience!
MoVernie TIPS: Below are some of the tips and recommendations I would like to share with you when riding the JR Rail (Bullet Train) to other cities. I hope these tips will enhance your train ride experience and making more enjoyable for you.
– Be on time! Japanese people are very punctual and their trains are always on time. So, don’t be late or else you will miss your train. If your train is at 8:30 am, be there at least 20 minutes early so that you know where your track number is and know which compartment your seats are located, whether if your seats are reserved or non-reserved.
– There is a waiting room that you can rest up and just chill. However, it could be jam packed during peak hours (as was the case when we were there), but it’s a nice alternative spot for you to sit and wait before you board on the train.
– When the train departs from the Tokyo Station towards the direction of Osaka, try to book or find a window seat that is located on the right side of the train in the direction it is going. That’s coz during daylight, you will see the famous Mt. Fuji along the ride. On a clear blue sky, you can see Mt.Fuji very closely. You sure don’t want to miss that breathtaking view. I would say, you will see Mt. Fuji within the first 30 minutes of your ride, so don’t miss out on such a beautiful view.
– Food and drinks are allowed on the train. So, I highly recommend you to go to the stores at the underground and purchase whatever food and beverages you would like to enjoy while travelling on the train. In particular, I highly recommend you to buy the bento boxes. They are reasonably priced (range from $7-$15 CDN), depending on the ingredients or food items you want. The bento box is the best way to try the Japanese authentic classic food items that you normally wouldn’t be able to try in other parts of the world.
– There are washrooms on the train, they are typically very clean and efficient. So, if you didn’t go to the washroom prior to the train ride, it’s ok. You can use one on the train.
– Food & beverages also being served on the train. The staff will push a cart twice to see if you need anything. They are mostly pop drinks, coffee/tea, snacks such as chips or Japanese snacks. If that’s all you need, that’s great. Otherwise, I recommend you to purchase food at the Tokyo Station prior to boarding the train.
– Speaking of food, did you know that Tokyo Station is where the famous Tokyo Ramen City is located? It features 8 popular ramen shops located at the underground. You can’t miss it, coz there is always a long lineup of people waiting as long as 1 to 2 hours to get their taste buds on a bowl of the ramen. So….if you have plenty of time prior to boarding your train, you may consider checking out the famous Tokyo Ramen Street.
Click here to check out my ramen experience at one of the 8 famous shops at Tokyo Ramen City. Although, I didn’t indulge the ramen prior to my bullet train ride, but I did visit this magical place on another evening and it’s highly recommended.
– Although there are racks at the top of each side of the train, it does require some strong muscles to lift up our heavy luggage and put it up onto the rack. If you are unable to lift such heavy objects, don’t be shy, ask someone for assistance, coz you surely don’t want to injure yourself during your visit in Japan.
– Most Japan transportation or eatery, people tend to stay quiet and be clean. So, try not to talk too loud or make a mess with your food. Always be courteous, respectful and be considerate. Clean up your food or seats after you finish eating your food and drinks. Small quiet conversation is fine but don’t talk 3 hours long for a 3 hours train ride.
– There is a power outlet located on the window seat ONLY (at least for the train that I rode) on every row on both sides of the train, so the outlet isn’t available for every seat (middle or aisle). I assume most local Japanese people have their own rechargeable portable batteries that not everyone needs a power outlet. But if you need a power outlet, either try to book or find a window seat or ask your neighbour politely if you can charge your phone, I am sure he/she will be ok if you ask.
– Wherever you walk around any Japanese spots, you will notice some people wear a face mask, some even have cute animated design on them. Don’t be alarm if you see them on the train. Most of these people who wear a face mask aren’t sick or have a flu, the logic is that these people don’t want to catch any germs or catch a cold in public places. So, they wear face masks for self-prevention more than them being sick. So, don’t get scare if someone sits beside you is wearing a face mask. Either way, it’s for your own good, whether they are indeed sick or just for self-prevention.
– When the train makes a quick stop in various stations, have a look at the local people walking around the train platforms, it’s always nice to feel the vibe and observe the local people, just to get a small idea the life around the area. It’s also cool to check out the view of the areas when the train departs the station. For example, I saw farmlands and old traditional Japanese houses when the train leave the station, it’s very cool! I definitely felt the difference between the busy Tokyo city and the quieter farm area in the suburbs.
For this Japan trip, our team used the Japan Rail Pass as our official mode of transportation, which these JR passes were provided by Japan National Tourism Organization (courtesy from the assistance from both Tokyo & Toronto branch locations). However, as always, the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
I would also like to give a special thanks to Air Canada for providing the return Signature Class flights from Toronto, Canada to Tokyo, Japan. Without such hospitality and assistance by Air Canada, this Japan trip would not have been possible.
Japan Rail Pass
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) – HQ – Tokyo Location
Address: Headquarters 4-4-1 Yotsuya Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo 100-0006, Japan
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) – Toronto Location
Address: 481 University Ave, Toronto, ON M5G 2E9
Phone: (416) 366-7140
JR East Travel Service Center
Located in: Shinjuku Station
Address: 5 Chome-24-５５ Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0051, Japan