Considering a trip to Japan? I say Go For it! It’s a wonderful, fascinating, and friendly land. And when you go, you have to check out the Japanese “Bullet Train.” Train travel is probably the most efficient and cost effective way to travel throughout Japan. The Bullet Trains, actually called “Shinkansen,” provide the fastest travel along five routes connecting most major cities. Speeding along from city to city at speeds reaching a maximum of 300kmph (187 mph) the Shinkansen is a best friend for the traveler.
Having never been to Japan before, I thought I would make my first visit a simple “taste test” type of adventure. Tokyo is a rather large city, it’s full of sites, history, museums, etc. – so I figured I would confine my first Japanese visit to Tokyo. This would allow me a chance to experience a bit of the country and culture. And a single city trip would allow me to avoid the various headaches associated with making additional transportation and hotel plans that go with a multi-city itinerary. After all, I speak no Japanese – I can’t even recognize the characters used in their “alphabet!” So I’m looking for simple!
But I was in for a pleasant surprise. In my trip planning research I discovered the wonders of the Japanese Train System. Working through Japanican.com I was able to easily put together my independent travel plan that took me via Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. Later I traveled from Kyoto to Hiroshima on Shinkansen Nozomi/Hikari Super Express Train. All travel was via “Bullet Trains” with great hotels at each destination. Everything was easy to schedule, arrange, book, and confirm before my departure from the US.. My domestic train travel and hotel documents for Japan were delivered promptly, as promised, to my hotel in Tokyo. And the prices via Japanican.com were discounted considerably from what I would have paid had I booked these items separately.
I can’t begin to say how happy I am that my plans evolved beyond a single city trip to Tokyo. I have to say that the experience of train travel in Japan was an outstanding experience in itself. The train system is clean, fast, and highly efficient. I mean, these trains travel on time! Be aware -best to get to the station a bit early. Staff are extremely helpful, and as with everyone I met in Japan, very polite. On board, the trains are fast but nice and smooth and quiet. Station arrivals are announced at the front of each car via electronic signs with messages in Japanese and (thankfully) English. All train staff coming through the car – checking tickets, selling snacks and Bento Boxes ( a little sushi for your travels?), etc – immediately remind you, by their politeness and courtesy, that you are in Japan. All staff actually bow to the passengers as they enter the car and then turn and bow to the passengers as they exit the car as well. The total experience shows how pleasant and efficient train travel can be.
My visits to Kyoto and Hiroshima added immeasurably to my travel adventure in Japan. Hiroshima is full of emotional impact and the nearby area of Miyajima is a photographer’s heaven. Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, is an awesome collection of traditional temples, festivals, and gardens. (You may have noticed that I use one of my photos from Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion in the main page heading on my site.) I’ll detail more about these cities and other aspects of my Japan travels in future articles. Did I mention? I loved the trains! Can’t wait ’til my next trip. If you want more detailed information about Rail Travel In Japan including schedules and Rail Passes go to www.japanrailtravel.com
For Now – Remember To Enjoy The Adventure!
Dr.B. The PhotoTrekker
© 2011, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D.. All rights to all content including photos reserved.