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How to ride a bullet train

The shinkansen or bullet train in Japan is unlike any train you have ever been on and it is worth being prepared for its different rhythms. They run like clockwork, and if they don’t the apologies will be profuse. They are ultra-modern, sleek and part of Japan’s fascination with innovation and efficiency. You might be hitting speeds close to 200mph but these trains, and their passengers, are quiet and respectful.

You can’t travel everywhere in Japan on the bullet train so make sure you understand the network. This basically links the cities and regions of Honshu.

When it comes to tickets, be sure to invest in a Japan Rail Pass. This gives you the best value as soon as you make more than a couple of journeys and covers you for periods of up to 21 days. Take note though – you will need to purchase this before you arrive in the country.

Baggage requirements are specific – you can take a small overnight bag with you on the train. 

The train stations in Japan almost have their own language, despite many signs being in English as well as Japanese. Stations are busy, and trains are hardly ever late so give yourself plenty of time to be in the right place as well as soak up this unique atmosphere. Acclimatising to the organised chaos will actually help you find your way around far more quickly.

Once on the train, bear these top tips in mind:
  • Pack extra layers to keep warm in the efficient air conditioning
  • Don’t talk loudly or on your phone
  • Take some snacks on with you. The refreshment trolley may be limited
  • Relax – this is an opportunity away from the bustle of Japan’s vibrant cities

Find more inspiration to start planning your luxury holiday to Japan.