The Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, is a legendary feat of Japanese engineering. I remember reading stats about how fast it was years ago, seeing Logan fighting atop it in The Wolverine, and hearing my dad ask me if I was planning to ride it every time I talked about my trip to Japan.
When the time came to leave Tokyo behind and head to Kyoto, the opportunity presented itself. The bullet train isn’t the cheapest way to get to Kyoto. On paper, it’s the most expensive, although once one factors in travelling to and from the airport it is cheaper than flying. Obviously the night bus is cheaper than either, but far less comfortable and taking three or four times as long.
Buying a ticket was as easy as using a little machine in Tokyo station, which was all in English and let me buy a ticket there and then for a train only half an hour away for no more than booking in advance online.
I made my way to the platform, stopping only to pick up the traditional bento box to enjoy for my lunch on the journey.
The train pulled in. It was pretty slick and new looking, but nothing mind blowing. I boarded the spacious cabin, found my seat and put my obnoxiously heavy backpack on the overhead rack. We were off.
At first it didn’t feel much different to any other train ride I’d been on. All trains are pretty fast, really.
Once we got out of the city, though, I could feel it accelerate. I don’t think I’ve ever properly experienced a sense of motion like this on a train ride; it wasn’t far off the feeling of an aeroplane racing towards takeoff.
At times, as we curved around corners, the speed of the train felt almost like a rollercoaster.
Despite this, the journey was comfortable. Just like the little metro journeys I’d been making in Tokyo, it was so much nicer than a British train. Nobody is being loud and obnoxious, the conductors trust that everyone is playing by the rules, it’s great.
On the ride, the prettiest parts as we were passing through the mountains and by the coast, we were mostly travelling through tunnels which was a shame. Nonetheless, I did get my first proper look at Mt Fuji, having found the weather not quite clear enough while I was in Tokyo.
Also, the little boxed lunch I picked up at the train station was nicer than most meals I’ve had from restaurants in the UK.
That’s me out of Tokyo and arrived in Kyoto. Bye bye Kanto, hello Johto!