Japan Railways’ high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains have, since their inception, been famous for their timely arrivals and paramount safety. But that record was marred today by a self-immolation suicide that claimed the lives of two people on board a train travelling between Tokyo and Osaka.
The N700 series Shinkansen trains have been in operation since 2007, and reach maximum speeds of 300km/h (186 mph). While not quite as speedy as Japan’s upcoming maglav train, these babies can get you from Tokyo to Osaka in just 2 hours and 25 minutes – they’re basically a miracle of modern engineering.
But it seems that some people out there do not respect the beauty of the Shinkansen. In fact, they look at all that shiny, white metalwork and see only one thing.
Can you guess what it is? Join us after the jump to find out if you, too, have the mind of an eighth-grader…
Riding the Shinkansen in Japan is always a fun experience. Not only does it go super-fast (you can totally feel those G-forces!), it’s also guaranteed to be quiet and incredibly clean. But with 323 Shinkansen trains departing from Tokyo every day, how do they find the time to clean all those trains?
Well, it turns out that it takes a highly synchronised team of mega-efficient cleaners only seven minutes to clean each train – since that’s all the time they have!. And here’s an incredible video of how they do it!
Every now and then, Japan takes a shine to something that’s new to it but much more common overseas. Chairs, for example, were pretty much nonexistent in the country until the late 1800s, but now you’ll find them in just about every home except the most bare-bones of bachelor pads. Beer (one of the greatest beverages to enjoy while sitting on said chairs) is another foreign concept that’s gained mainstream popularity.
Likewise, although it’s taken some time to catch on, the number of places offering free Wi-Fi in Japan has been steadily increasing over the last few years, and is now available on the Tohoku Shinkansen and all of the stations on Tokyo’s most convenient train line.
The steady expansion of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train lines is a project welcomed by everyone from train fans to average citizens who just wants to get around the country as easily as possible. Last Friday saw the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, the line connecting Tokyo with the Hokuriku region. The newest train stations are located in Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures, but all the attention on-line is actually focused on Fukui Station!
Though the Shinkansen line won’t actually make it to Fukui Prefecture until 2025, people still love the station, which currently serves a variety of JR and Echizen lines, thanks to its Jurassic Park-like scenery. That’s right, Fukui Station is overrun by dinosaurs!
On March 14, the new extension of the Nagano Shinkansen line will open, connecting Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures to Tokyo. This is exciting news for Chubu region locals and Tokyoites alike, as the trip from the northern central prefectures to Tokyo will take a mere 2.5 hours, so everyone is preparing for some fun day trips!
What’s the best part of Shinkansen day trips (other than effortlessly speeding through beautiful Japanese countryside)? Ekiben! Ekiben are lunch boxes sold in train stations, specifically to be taken on long train rides. One of our Tokyo-based writers visited a famous ekiben shop, which sells over 170 bento box options and ate the top three kinds. Do they deserve their rankings at the top?
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.
A trip to Japan is never complete without sampling the random chocolate and candy the country has to offer — the ultimate treat is trying all the different Kit Kats! But with so many flavors, it’s always hard to choose which ones to bring back as a souvenir. That’s why we suggest buying the newest one, created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the very first Shinkansen in Japan. (And no, it doesn’t taste like train).
For most people, getting to fly first class in an airplane to some far off destination is a fleeting dream, too expensive to actually accomplish. So for those of you wishing you could enjoy free slippers and a dedicated cabin attendant but don’t want to shell out half a year’s salary to do it, look to the first class section of the shinkansen, Japan’s high speed bullet train.
One of our Japanese reporters took a ride on the Hayabusa E3 Shinkansen in “Gran Class” from Tokyo all the way up north to Aomori and documented his luxurious trip. Take a look inside his first class cabin experience!
The Superconducting Magnetic Levitation Train (SCMaglev) has been in development by Japan Railways for decades and has already broken various world speed records for railed vehicles during test runs. However, it won’t begin operation in Japan until 2027.
That is unless you are one of the lucky few chosen for a series of test runs being conducted in November and December of this year. If you apply by midnight on 30 September you’ll get a chance to ride the train of the future today! What are you waiting for?! Go!
Actually, wait! There’s some useful information you should probably read here first. Then go!
You could argue that the Shinkansen is the greatest engineering marvel Japan has ever put together. Amazingly fast, the bullet train is also bulletproof in its reliability and punctuality, with almost no delays and not a single accident since the high speed rail service was opened in 1964.
To find a much cooler piece of Japanese technology, you have to go into the world of science fiction and anime robots. Now, some clever designers have put two and two together and created a transforming mecha character based on Japan’s fastest train.
Ask anyone in Japan if they love the shinkansen, and they’ll probably say yes. Commonly known as the bullet train, it’s convenient, handsomely designed, and the train’s aerodynamic nose is surprisingly an artisanal masterpiece, carefully formed by hand out of numerous metal plates in order to achieve the perfect curves.
Becoming a conductor of one is a typical kindergarten dream, and while a lot of kids grow out of that phase, some emerge as bona fide train fanatics who go by many monikers: tetsu-ota, tetchan, tetsu-kichi (as in “crazy”), you name it. Unfortunately, travel by shinkansen may be fast and luxurious, but it’s generally not cheap—for example, a three-hour one-way ride from Tokyo to Ōsaka can cost around 14,300 yen (US $140).
So what’s this about a 240-yen ticket in Nīgata Prefecture that has train enthusiasts all abuzz? A seasonal train station that’s actually part of a ski resort? A place called “Cowabunga” 125 miles north of Tokyo? Let comedian and self-declared train otaku, Ayako Suzukawa, be your guide today!
Two phrases sum up a distinct dichotomy of life in Japan. The first is gambaru, to do one’s best, and it lies at the root of so many of the country’s academic, economic, and scientific achievements.
On the other hand, you’ve also got gaman suru, to put up with things, which is why the same country which produces so many handy gadgets still seems largely fine making do without things such as garbage disposals and clothes dryers.
These two equal but opposite attitudes seem to have collided at Toge Station in Yamagata Prefecture, a distinctly low-tech structure with a connection to one of Japan’s most impressive engineering feats.
Japan first started issuing commemorative coins in 1964 to celebrate the Tokyo Olympic Games two specially designed coins face-valued at 100 yen (US$0.98) and 1,000 yen, respectively. They would be the first in a long string of special coins celebrating events such as an Emperor’s 60th year on the throne and the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition’s 50th anniversary.
October 1 marks the 50th anniversary of the Japan’s famous bullet train lines, and so the Ministry of Finance has seen fit to put out yet another pair of coins. The first one revealed puts the legendary train lines right up there with Japan’s other iconic symbols.
Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet train in the West, was the world’s first high-speed train running at 200km per hour, and today the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s most used high-speed rail line. Impressively, even with over 120,000 trains running on the line each year, the average delay time is a mere 36 seconds!
Part of the reason the bullet train system can run as smoothly as it does is thanks to the ‘hospitality group’ working behind the scenes of the sleek, futuristic facades of these famous trains. These cleaning crews are charged with covering every inch of a train’s interior when it arrives at its final stop and preparing it for the next wave of customers–and they have just seven minutes to do it.
No matter what language you speak, words can sometimes have a way of landing us in trouble. Sometimes we exaggerate for the sake of making a sentence simpler by saying things like “just a sec.” Other times idiomatic phrases like “talk someone’s ear off” can lead to absurd literal translations.
And then there are times when a simple turn of phrase can inadvertently lead to a major incident involving the police and talk of a potential terrorist attack.
As one of Japan’s largest train stations, Tokyo Station is the central hub for many of the JR lines as well as the Shinkansen (bullet train). You can expect some standard grub in most stations, but Tokyo Station has plenty of food places that go beyond the basics. Before setting out on a trip, why not arrive a bit early and enjoy a delicious breakfast before boarding your train? It’s the perfect start to your adventure. Here we introduce five of the best breakfast spots within the station itself.
On 13 May, JR Central released station design plans for their upcoming Chuo Shinkansen running from Tokyo to Nagoya and later Osaka. In the words of JR, these stations were designed “not to rely on traditional styles” and “to boldly pursue functionality and efficiency.”
However, when the details emerged to a train station loving public, the reaction was less than enthusiastic with comments along the line of “too bold.”
JR Central may want to consider banning the use of 10 yen coins from their mighty Shinkansen bullet trains due to the potential hazards they pose.
On 12 March a 400-meter, 715-tonne shinkansen train capable of 300 km/h speeds was pulled off duty because of a single 2.4-centimeter 10 yen coin.
Japan gets all the cool Kit Kats. Since 2000, Nestlé has introduced over 200 flavors and varieties of the chocolate bar to Japan, from chestnut and espresso to baked corn and soy sauce.
Some flavors come and go with the seasons and others are exclusive to certain regions; at the souvenir shops of my home prefecture Nagano you can find the tasty Shinshu Apple flavor and the questionable Ichimi Ground Red Pepper flavor.
One of our Japanese reporters recently came across a new variety of Kit Kat at Nagoya Station that we thought was pretty cool. While the Kit Kat bars themselves are the regular milk chocolate flavor—which, mind you, differs from country to country—the box art is inspired by the Tokaido Shinkansen line and should be familiar to anyone who has ridden the bullet train in Japan.