Before we travelled to Japan I read a lot about how the train worked, where to get tickets and so much more. BUT what I found when I travelled on the Bullet Train was completely different. So I share with you ten things I learnt whilst riding the Shinkansen.
1. Train Signs on board and in the stations are also in English.
This is a massive help! On board the train signs will tell you the next stop and keep you updated on the journey progress.
2. The Bullet Trains run on dedicated Shinkansen Tracks that will be clearly marked in the stations.
Make sure you leave enough time to get through the station as some of these, like Tokyo station, are vast. We were lucky to have a hotel guide from the Shangri-La Tokyo to get us on board and pick us up. They can get platform tickets to get you right up to the train door which was a massive massive help.
3. The Shinkansen don’t stop long
Like 90 seconds or less. Unless you are getting on at the start of end of the line, you will have about 90 seconds to get on or off. You will have a reserved seat which will correspond to a place on the platform and the driver will stop bang on the mark so you just need to be quick!
4. You have to pay extra for large luggage on the Bullet Train
Much like an airplane, the Shinkansen has small overhead rack for luggage. There is space between the carriages or at the end of the carriages for luggage – but you need to reserve and pay for these ahead of time. The luggage spaces between carriages have locks on them and you will be given the code when you book, You can, like us, wedge the big cases up high but I don’t recommend it! Look to book seats with luggage space. Our initial tickets didn’t have luggage space but I managed to swap the return tickets for seats with extra space which was a relief!
5. The Windows are small but you can still see some great views!
We were lucky to see Mount Fuji as we raced from Tokyo to Kobe.
6. You can eat & drink on the train.
In fact there is a trolley service that will come to your seat. They offer a selection of snacks, cold and hot drinks. You have to try the egg sandwiches – they are just incredible!
7. There is power on every seat.
You can charge your laptop or ‘phone. However, these require the Japanese plug so you’ll need to bring your adaptor – you can’t just plug into a USB.
8. There is on board WIFI
If you need to connect you’ll will find details on your seat back for how to connect. We had 4G connection the entire journey so didn’t try the WIFI.
9. You can smoke on the Bullet train
But only in the designated smoking carriage. This is usually the green carriage but do check.
10. The Train Toilets are something else!
And they are much nicer than the British trains) but there are dedicated urinal toilets for gents, leaving more space for normal toilets. Like in most public toilets these also have a child seat where you can park your little one whilst doing your business.
And finally, my favourite revelation…
When the ticket inspector, or the on board security person leaves your carriage, they will stop, turn around and bow before moving onto the next carriage!
Our trip on the Bullet Trains were certainly memorable. I have to admit the lack of luggage bookings on the way out was a little stressful but I could relax on the way back with it all sorted. A quick chat with the ticket office, using Google Translate, allowed me to swap the tickets at no extra cost.
I hope you find these tips useful and do stick around to see my other stories from an amazing two week Japan Cruise.