Pretty much everyone in the travelsphere has heard of Japan’s high-speed Shinkansen, or bullet train, which whips you around the country at a top speed of 320kph (approximately 200mph). The bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto makes the journey in less than three hours, when driving would take between 5 and 6 hours, and taking a bus would take close to 8 hours! I was looking forward to taking the Shinkansen during my recent trip to Japan, and it did not disappoint! The train was an awesome experience, and is highly recommended. They leave approximately every 20-30 minutes, and go direct to and from the center of each city, with only a few (very brief) scheduled stops along the way. Additionally, if you buy the Japan Rail pass before your trip, you can get a reserved seat on nearly any train you want.
The train I took was the 12:10pm from Tokyo-Shinagawa to Osaka, with the penultimate stop being in Kyoto, where I disembarked. The notations on the schedule are in Japanese, with English flashing up for about 2-3 of each 10 seconds.
The sleek-looking train arrives!
The interior was quite comfortable and had ample legroom, aisle space and storage for all of your luggage.
While traveling westbound from Tokyo to Kyoto, if you sit on the right-hand side of the train, you get beautiful views of Mt. Fuji and the Japanese mountains from the train. This is a great perk of the Japan Rail pass, as without the pass, a reserved seat costs extra.
I boarded the train in Tokyo at 12:10 and was walking through Kyoto station at 2:50. What a great and easy way to get between cities! They don’t really serve food on the train, save for a snack cart that came through only once during my 2 hour and 40 minute journey. So when you take the Shinkansen, be sure to stop at one of the many food stands in the train stations to get a fresh bento box lunch for under $10.
In all of my travels, this was definitely the easiest, most convenient and most comfortable way to get between two cities. I highly recommend taking the Shinkansen should you go to Japan!
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel.