I finally had my first ride on Shinkansen – better known as the “Bullet Train”.
Why is it called a Bullet Train?
Because it’s faster than a speeding bullet, of course!
Okay not really. A bullet fired from a gun travels around 1,700 MPH. The bullet trains that run across Japan can reach speeds of up to 374 MPH – considerably slower than a bullet. Still running at respectable speeds, Japan’s bullet train currently holds the record for fastest train in the world.
With the bullet train running so fast, it was also designed to be very aerodynamic. With a slick front, all of the bullet trains are smooth and curved, much like myself!
What’s it like to ride a bullet train?
So, I tried to take a picture of this for you guys, but as you can imagine we were moving too quickly to really get anything other than a blur. I felt like I was on Catbus! I thought I might get sick looking out the windows, but as long as you focus on something far off in the distance like the mountains, it was a wonderfully scenic view with more tunnels than I expected.
The train itself is air conditioned, with seats that recline almost all the way back! Much like an airplane, you can also pull down a tray that is attached to the seat in front of you. The option for assigned seats and different classes is also available – for an extra fee of course!
Before I left the hostel, it was suggested to me by a friend I made in my sushi making class that I pick up a bento box and eat it on the train.
The train platform is filled with vendors of all types. Newspapers, manga, coffee, booze and bento – oh my!
I stopped at a vendor and picked up a bento box. Luckily, there was a picture and English description of what was in the box (this strongly influenced my decision). My bento was one of many choices – from sushi to pork, octopus to eggs you could have almost anything in a bento. The only common theme I saw across them was rice, naturally.
My box was kept in a chilled area of the store. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that – chilled pork and rice. I’m normally a ‘hot foods should be hot’ kinda gal (my chilled Hainanese chicken in Singapore was quite a surprise), but I was pleasantly surprised.
Once I found my seat on the bullet train and we departed (PROMPTLY at 2:03), I pulled my tray down and dug into my bento. Just like in every anime I’ve ever seen, it was beautifully arranged and freakin’ adorable.
I may or may not have squealed a little when I opened it. Like “eeee!!!!“. Not in a cute anime voice mind you, but in a “I’m-so-excited-I-can’t-handle-my-shit” kinda voice.
The food was great – being chilled was not a problem! The rice was yummy, the veggies fresh and the pork crunchy. It came with chop sticks, and a side of some sort of thick sauce that I poured all over the rice.
How much time did the bullet train save you?
Assuming that I lived in Japan and had a car, it would have taken me 4 hours to drive from Tokyo to Nagoya. That’s not including any stops or traffic jams. There would also be tolls that I would have had to pay if I’d be driving.
The bullet train got me to Nagoya in 2 hours flat. Japan is known world wide for having incredibly prompt trains – the reputation is well earned. We departed Tokyo at 2:03 on the dot, and arrived in Nagoya at exactly 4:02. On the way, we made several stops at other cities, each with a calculated amount of stopping time.
God help you if you’re running late for your bullet train.
How much does it cost to ride the bullet train?
Just like trains across the world, the price will vary a bit depending on how far you need to travel. Since I knew I would be doing a lot of traveling in Japan, I opted to purchase a Japanese Rail Pass.
Also known as the JR pass, for $600 I can ride the bullet train as much as I want, along with any JR train lines in Tokyo. Japanese rail passes can be purchased in increments of 7 days, 14 days and 21 days.
Fun Fact: You cannot buy a Japanese rail pass in Japan. It has to be purchased outside of the country. I managed to snag mine while I was living with my host family in Vietnam.
For short rides, fares tend to be around $75 each way. Since I’ll be visiting many cities across Japan, and traveling around Tokyo quite a bit, the JR pass seemed to make the most sense for me.
As I near the end of my trip, Japan was the absolute perfect note to finish on. So far, everything here is exactly as I hoped and dreamt. I feel like I am an anime, and I can’t wipe the smile off my face. It’s like a mushroom trip gone wrong – my face is starting to hurt from smiling so much.
I’ll be leaving Nagoya soon, riding the bullet train once again. I’m excited to head to Kyoto, my next destination! I’ll be getting a professional Geisha makeover, and exploring the city known to be “old world Japan”.
Don’t worry, I’ll give you the full report!
Is Japan on your bucket list? How about the bullet train? What other things would you want to do here?