Anmona Handique Mahanta
When it comes to Japan, we all know about its magnificent Bullet trains and without them, one can never imagine this country being the most iconic images of modern Japan. Operated by the Japan Railways (JR) Group companies, Bullets trains not only depicts the higher end of technological advancements of this country but also remains one of the unique hallmarks of Japan’s culture symbolizing the idealism of punctuality and discipline. The Japanese word for Bullet train is known as Shinkansen which means ‘new trunk line’ and also can be known as ‘the super express trains’ in English. And today, through this column, I would like to pen down my experience when for the very first time I got the sudden surprising opportunity to take a ride on this Shinkansen. In this article, definitely, I would not talk about the technical aspects of these trains, as it’s a huge concept and would rather narrate out some basic nuances of Shinkansen and my small experience of whatever I have seen and felt while riding on this super express train.
Nozomi Shinkansen at Tokyo Station (Photo: Nabarun Goswami)
So, it was during our Kyoto trip when we decided to board a Shinkansen to our place at Nagoya. After a long tiring day exploring the Kyoto Town, we didn’t gather any strength to sit and wait for another long 3 hours by boarding a local train. It was around 4 p.m. and being the month of October dusk approached too soon to turn the whole place darker by 4:30 p.m. And that is how we finally decided to buy Shinkansen tickets and I was all excited to feel the much-awaited Shinkansen for real.
Now, why Bullet trains are so unique and special? It dates back to 1964, where Shinkansen is said to have born with the Tokaido-Shinkansen line and since then models have been modified and some say more new models are coming up in near future. Shinkansen are unique and special because its super comfortable, super-fast, extraordinarily punctual and the finest railways in the whole world, where million passengers can reach in any nook and corner of this country within a short span of time on any day at any point of hour. For instance, while travelling from Nagoya to Tokyo or vice-versa a general local train would take almost around 6 hours with several transfer stoppages in between while the same destinations you can cover in just around 1 hour 40-50 minutes through Shinkansen. But yes, all it matters is the lucrative ticket prices which is although worth the cost for the superb services it offers to its passengers. The prices of the tickets depend on the distances covered and on the basis of the seat preferences(reserved/non-reserved). And this was one reason why I haven’t got the opportunity to take a Bullet train on any casual day! Needless to say, Shinkansen are usually seen hired by passengers unless it is too urgent, you’re all way to save time, or up for a business trip or as a tourist if you have enough savings to experience this amazing ride.
Well! How many different types of Bullet trains are there in Japan? So far, there are three different types of Shinkansen under the categories of – Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. So, out of all the super-fast Shinkansen is the super-express Nozomi, and the latest model is N700 which can run at a speed of 500 km/hour in 2 hours 50 mins. There are altogether four models of Nozomi (Source-Internet). The other two trains are Express Hikari and local Kodama trains, where Nozomi is the fastest of all. Express Hikari makes a few more stops while boarded and Kodama is the one that makes stops at every station so it is also recognized as ‘stop-at-every station Kodama’.
Useful information mentioned on the seats
The Shinkansen we rode while departing from Kyoto to Nagoya was Nozomi which took hardly 35 minutes which a local JR train would have taken around 2 hours 15 minutes ride to Nagoya and another 20 minutes to reach our destination. Above that we need to change two trains in between if that’s a local train. We took two non-reserved seats as reserved seats comes expensive and that was not required in our case. As we waited for the train in the designated platform, we saw two different queues for reserved and non-reserved seats. And the moment the Shinkansen arrived; I was just stunned to see her beauty. The train was just long and graceful just as if a stylish white Python had gushed out from a stream of tracks. Unlike the earlier Bullet trains, which had snub noses at the front with white livery, these new models look very stylish which are sleek with sharp coned noses with a combination of white-blue livery and some were with duckbill noses. Thankfully, that very day there was no such rush and we could get available non-reserved seats and so comfortably we chose two good seats. Yes, it is known that when it comes to non-reserved seats and supposedly it’s the peak hour you might also have to keep standing while traveling.
Inside of the Bullet Train where a female crew was attending a passenger
As we entered inside the train, there was a notice board that explained all the facilities, directions of the particular requirements and features of the train.Similar to flights, seats were arranged on both sides leaving an open space in between like a corridor. The crews of the train were very well dressed in their uniforms. Some passengers were seen to buy food before getting into the train while some opted for food provided as onboard sales. They mainly consist of soft drinks, alcohol, souvenirs etc. There were also proper restrooms available with all facilities.
Information board near the entrance door of the train
Other services that a bullet train offers here are - WiFi services (however not all Bullet trains has started this service) carrying bicycles along which are folded ones, small pets are allowed which weigh less than 10 kg and in fact, these trains are also accessible and super-convenient for oldies who depends on a wheel chair or move around with strollers and these are not chargeable unless you manage to follow all the rules.
Coat hanger facility near the seat
Hence, I would say, if one has to reach anywhere in quick time and want to experience a relaxed convenient journey especially in order to shorten the length of the journey, Bullet trains are the best means of commute and a respite. And in Japan, every train journey is actually so comfortable and convenient, especially these Bullet Trains or the Shinkansen, the cars and flights can be used as a second option. And nonetheless, if one has the JR pass then the prices of Shinkansen offer a small discount and that’s seem reasonable to budge into them else it becomes too expensive almost equivalent to the cost of a flight ticket or sometimes even higher. But still, if I am asked to make an option between flights and Bullet trains, I would happily choose for a Bullet Train i.e. the great Shinkansen Ride.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]