I’ve long been intrigued by the Japanese high-speed rail network. If nothing else, the trains themselves look really futuristic. This journey was somewhat unplanned, but in the end it worked out much better than the flights we were originally planning on. I have also written out the AVE High Speed Train we rode in Spain. I love to fly, but trains are still a great way to travel.
As I mentioned, due to the weather delay on our inbound flight from Chicago, we missed our planned flights, so we booked rail tickets direct to Kyoto. We took a local train from Narita to Tokyo Station, where we caught the high-speed Shinkansen train with limited stops to Kyoto station. Our first journey was after dark, so it was hard to see much, but when we returned to Tokyo we were traveling in daylight. In both directions we were on the Tokiado Shinkansen, a busy route, with frequent service. We took the Nozomi train, which is the fastest of a few options. Departures are usually multiple times each hour.
Waiting for the train at Kyoto station
Just like Aviation geeks, I’m sure there are some train geeks out there. I took a video of a train coming into the station, which shows the unique design of these Shinkansen cars. Enjoy!
Once on board, the cabin was fine, nicer than a typical economy class seat on a plane. Our reserved seats were in the ‘ordinary’ cabin, with 2-3 seating across. The seats are wider and with more legroom than a typical airplane. There is also Green cars with a 2-2 configuration, and free food, but for the relatively short trip, I didn’t think the premium was worthwhile. The trip between Tokyo and Kyoto was a little over 2 hours. Stops en route include Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.
view of Shinkansen Nozomi train cabin
Once on the train, there is minimal storage for large bags, but there is some space near the ends of each car, which is first come, first served. Small bags can fit on racks above seats. Larger bags might have to remain in front of travelers legs. There is food/drink service by trolley, but I think most riders brought their own.
Back in Tokyo, we spent our New Years Eve at the Marriott. It was the only place we could find with availability for points on the holiday. Cash prices were understandably expensive. It was a perfectly nice place, but the location was pretty poor. Unless someone has business in the area, I wouldn’t really recommend it. One convenient factor was that the hotel was walking distance from Shinagawa station, so we just walked once our train came in, and then returned to the metro station there to get around the city.
Shinkansen approaching (lower right) into Tokyo Shinagawa station
The Shinkansen was a quick easy way to get around Japan. There are many more lines than just the Tokiado line we used. More info in the Japan Guide site here. If there is train service near where you are trying to get to in Japan, I certainly recommend utilizing it rather than flights. It ended up being much easier for our needs. Plus, the concept of high speed rail seems sadly novel to this American.
Have you ridden high speed trains in Japan?
For an introduction and index of posts for this series, please click here.