We were excited to ride the famous bullet train. First impressions were that it looked hi-tec and almost other-worldly. Secondly, I loved the way that there were numbers marked on the platform to indicate where each carriage would stop. Then you queue up at your designated number and get on the train – no hassle. Although it’s a small thing, it impressed me. I am used to trains when you have no idea which carriage will be where until the train pulls in – cue inevitable mass stampede from one end of the platform to the other!
The trains were amazing inside – wood paneled floors, clean, functional. The best thing EVER about these trains was that you could flip the seats around to face the direction of travel. On one journey we were going forwards, and then the train stopped somewhere and went back the other way – so we all had to stand up and flip the seats around so we were all facing forwards again. I loved that, as I hate facing backwards on a train. It’s the little things that count… 🙂
The ticket collector would enter each carriage and bow before inspecting tickets. And then bow again before leaving the carriage. And then stand on the platform to bow again to customers leaving the train. The customers didn’t bow back. I would always nod back to thank them, just as in England we would always thank a bus driver when we get off the bus.
The trains in Japan are reputed to be very punctual, and this was our experience too, by and large. However we can confirm that even Japanese trains are sometimes late! On our train journey to Beppu it was 1 hour and 30 minutes late. Dare I say it, we are used to train delays in England, so this wasn’t our first ever train delay 😉
The metro train system within Tokyo was also good. The only thing worth commenting on was my shock at the amount of pushing and shoving there was. In sharp contrast to the normal politeness, when it comes to getting on the train home, the gloves were off! I did not appreciate being physically pushed forwards. We were pushed on until as many people as possible fit on the train, like a can of sardines. This was only the case in rush-hour and normally it was fine.
I think Kyoto train station is also worth a mention – the most spectacularly modern impressive train station I have ever seen – photo below:-
And how could I not mention the snow-capped majestic Mount Fuji – which we saw from the bullet train.
Overall, train travel was an excellent way to get around in Japan. The railways seem to be well resourced, clean and efficient. It enabled us to travel large distances which I would not have liked to drive.
I understand that in Japan, train travel is prohibitively expensive, such that only business people can afford to travel that way. However as a tourist you can buy the “Japan Rail Pass” – which you can only buy before you arrive in Japan. This was fantastic, and gave us unlimited train travel for a fortnight. I would definitely recommend getting one if you want to explore Japan.
Next blog: Europe