The Ultimate Shinkansen Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Taking a Bullet Train
December 13th, 2017 | Carey Finn
Wondering whether the shinkansen(that’s thebullet train) might be the best way to get from one part of Japan to another? You’ve found the right article. This is Shink 101, a comprehensive guide to taking some of the fastest trains in the world. It covers everything from speeds to seat reservations, with a few fun factoids thrown in for good measure. Let’s begin with the basics.
This question needs to be rephrased. Why not? The shinkansen is one of the quickest, easiest ways of traveling between major cities in Japan. Boarding at Tokyo Station? You can be in Osaka in just over 2.5 hours on the fastest class of bullet train. With maximum speeds of 320 km/h, the shink will get you from Point A to B, wherever that may be, in no time at all.
Japan Rail Pass
The JR Pass is a 1 week pass that allows unlimited travel on Japan Rail lines throughout the country. This ticket is extraordinarily good value for long distance and inter-city travel. *Restrictions: Can only be purchased by temporary visitor visa holders not already in Japan. ...
The shinkansen is more comfortable than taking a bus or flying economy class, as well as more convenient (it doesn’t require schlepping to any rural airports). It also works out cheaper, if you take advantage of a Japan Rail Pass—more about that below. Shinkansen routes run all across the main island of Honshu and up to Hakodate in Hokkaido (as of March 2016), as well as down to Kyushu. You can step onto a train at Hakata Station all the way south in Fukuoka Prefecture and step off in Hakodate ten hours later—it’s mind-blowing.
These trains are also super safe. Launched ahead of the first Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Japanese bullet trains have ferried more than 10 billion passengers over the years, with zero fatalities due to derailment or collision. That’s some safety record. The Tokaido Shinkansen (which connects Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto and Nagoya) has something like 323 trains running every day—and there are hundreds more on the multiple other lines. The average delay, across all lines? Under 60 seconds, even in extreme weather conditions.
Low carbon footprint travelling on the Shinkansen
The Shinkansen (especially the newer generation trains) have a lower carbon emissions compared with most other forms of transport. The Shinkansen is powered by electricty and (according to JR) emits carbon at rate of 0.0093kg per km (per seat) where as a regular JR train runs at 0.019kg / km – twice as much. The precise emissions will depend on the power source behind the electricty, and currently most of Japan’s nuclear power stations are offline, so much of the Shinkansen network will still be running off electricty sourced partly from fossil fuels (Japan runs havev a mix of renewables, nuclear and fossil fuel). Either way though, the Shinkansen is a very efficient mode of transport and is still likely the lowest emission option for travelling longer distances in Japan.
Carbon emmissions travelling between Tokyo and Osaka