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Japan is a hugely popular travel destination. Here we take a look at some of the best ways of getting about how to visit the country’s main sightseeing areas. Japan’s main island of Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido are served by a network of high-speed trains (bullet trains), known locally as Shinkansen, that connect Tokyo with most of the country’s major cities. Among them, the Tokaido Shinkansen operated by Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) connects Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas, Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, and is world-famous for their unparalleled punctuality, comfort and safety. This is one of Japan’s greatest technological achievements and rightly commands respect and admiration from around the world. If you’re visiting Japan, a ride on Shinkansen will give you a great memory that lasts a lifetime!
It takes just about 2.5 hours to travel the about 550 km between Tokyo and Osaka. The Tokaido Shinkansen departs every 3 minutes during peak hours! This service provides amazing transportation capacity, moving 477,000 passengers a day.
※Data above as of 2018.
The Tokaido Shinkansen has a proven safety record over more than 50 years of operation. The annual average delay per service is 0.9 minutes!
※Data above as of 2018.
The seats are wide and stable, giving barely any feeling of vibration, and the inside of the train carriages is spotlessly clean, adding to the quality of the journey. What’s more, there are no seat belts and you are free to eat and drink on the train!
Tokyo’s metropolitan region is the most populated urban center in the world, and home to towering skyscrapers, ancient art, and pretty cherry blossoms.
Go to the top of a skyscraper for views of Mount Fuji, before coming back down to earth in vibrant Shinjuku, home to many of Tokyo’s hippest shops and on-trend restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to see the country’s spiritual side at the temples in Asakusa, and wander through the past at the national museum and the palace.
Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto retains many of the temples, shrines, and palaces built within this period. Step back in time as you explore the city’s many World Heritage Sites, wander the landscaped gardens, picnic beneath the cherry blossoms, and indulge in a traditional tea ceremony and kaiseki meal.
Kyoto also has a modern side, so don’t miss the colourful restaurants at buzzing Nishiki Market and the sweeping views from atop the landmark tower, before getting up close and personal with the wild snow monkeys at Arashiyama and the giant salamanders at the aquarium.
Osaka is a charming, relaxed city best known for its food, fun and nightlife—with some history and culture peeking through. Osaka is about only 2.5 hours Shinkansen ride from Tokyo, but has a very different personality to Japan's capital city. Hop off the bullet train into an area of exciting nightlife, shopping, delicious food and straight-talking, friendly locals.
Osaka also has a historical side, the castle in Osaka city is a great place to discover more about Japanese history and to wander the beautiful grounds, especially during cherry blossom season in April when the sakura blooms and the weather is often at its best.
It is strongly recommended to pack lightly when travelling around Japan, as most trains do not provide space for bulky baggage. Note that a new rule for oversized baggage will come into effect in May 2020 along the Tokaido/Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo with Kyoto, Osaka and Kyushu: Passengers with oversized baggage, i.e. baggage pieces whose height, width and depth add up to greater than 160cm (total dimensions between 160cm and 250cm), will be required to reserve the “seat with oversized baggage area” which is located in the last row of seats (some trains have no seat with oversized baggage area). Not only will it become impossible to place such baggage in the space behind the last row of seats without a reservation, but it will also not be possible to bring oversized baggage into non-reserved cars. However, baggage measuring no greater than 160cm can be stored in the spaces above seats.
Japan has services for directly delivering baggage from airports and major railway stations to hotels and destination stations . This means you can avoid having to hurry with large pieces of baggage.
This is a temporary storage service for hand baggage, ranging from larger items such as suitcases to small items like souvenirs. It is available year-round. This service can be used for a flat fee, so you can enjoy peace of mind.
The Tokaido Shinkansen does not only boast the famous golden route (Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, etc.), but also connects you with one step further such as Shirakawa-go, Kumano Kodo, the Alpine Route, etc. , which are attractive World Heritage Sites that are popular with tourists visiting from other countries.
You may purchase the Shinkansen tickets either from the ticket office or ticket vending machines found at the JR station. All ticket vending machines at stations of the Tokaido Shinkansen are equipped with English menus and sell tickets with information printed in English.
You can make quick reservations through the JR Central’s official internet reservation service by registering your credit card from smartphone or computer. It even lets you change your reservation without any charge as many times as you want before departure!(You can do so from the day of your purchase until within 3 months rides. ) If you register your transport IC card, you can board your reserved Shinkansen simply by touching the ticket gate. Booking ahead is a good idea and means you can travel with peace of mind, knowing that your seat is secured.
※Reservation can be made from a month prior to the day of your travel till 4 minutes before the departure.
Shinkansen trains have various types of seats including non-reserved seats, reserved seats, and seats on green cars (first class carriages). There are also various economical tickets on offer.
JAPAN RAIL PASS is a special type of ticket that can be used by foreign tourist only. A joint offering of the six companies comprising the Japan Railways Group (JR Group), this is the most economical means of travelling throughout Japan by rail. There are also some restrictions on use; for example, JAPAN RAIL PASS cannot be used for travel on NOZOMI and MIZUHO trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines. However, aside from Shinkansen trains, it can also be used for buses and ferries.