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I rode on Japan’s world-famous bullet train that reaches speeds of up to 186 miles per hour. It was an incredible way to travel.

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The Shinkansen has been in operation since 1964, and has an impeccable safety record with no fatalities due to derailment or collision since its inaugural service.

Japan Shinkansen bullet train.

tackune / Shutterstock.com

Source: BBC, Japan Railways Group

The trains are easy and convenient as they run on dedicated tracks and only stop at major stations.


A Shinkansen bullet train.


Source: Japan Railways Group

The busiest line is Tokaido, a westbound train that connects Japan’s major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.

Osaka Castle with green trees.

Osaka Castle.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: Japan Railways Group

According to Shinkansen operator Japan Railways Group, the Tokaido line “has literally supported Japan’s economic growth,” saying over 6.4 billion people have used the line since its inaugural service.

People waiting to board the Shinkansen train in Tokyo.

People waiting to board the Shinkansen train in Tokyo.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: Japan Railways Group

On a recent trip to Japan, I rode on the famous Tokaido bullet train. Here’s my experience in first class.

A selfie of the author on the bullet train.

A selfie of the author on the Shinkansen bullet train.

Taylor Rains/Insider

My journey started at Tokyo Station where I boarded an 8:00 a.m. train to Shin-Osaka Station. I paid $200 for my one-way ticket.

Tokyo Station with Japanese flag waving in wind.

Tokyo Station.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Finding the Shinkansen line was easy thanks to the multitude of signage pointing me in the right direction.

Signage pointing me towards the Shinkansen lines.

I followed the signs for Shinkansen. Everything was in English and Japanese.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Although I pre-booked my train online, I had to pick up my tickets at the station. My confirmation email said I could use a kiosk or ticket booth, and I opted for the latter.

The kiosks at Tokyo Station.

The kiosk (pictured) was a little confusing, even in English, so it was easier to just go to an agent.

Taylor Rains/Insider

The line was long, but luckily I wasn’t pressed for time because I got to Tokyo Station at 6:30 a.m. instead of the suggested 7:30 a.m.

The line to see a ticket agent.

Get to Tokyo Station early in case you get lost or face a long line at the ticket booth.

Taylor Rains/Insider

After about 20 minutes, I got my ticket and headed to track number 19 for boarding. The track was displayed on screens in both English and Japanese.

The author holding her ticket.

I held onto my Suica metro card to use in Osaka.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Two other bullet trains — Hayabusa and Komachi — bolt at 200 miles per hour, but do not serve Osaka.

Hayabusa Shinkansen

Pictured is the Hayabusa bullet train. This and the Komachi trains run north and are attached up until a certain point where they detach and go in separate directions.

REUTERS/Kyodo Kyodo

I boarded “Green Car” number 9 and made my way to seat 4-D — a window seat. I luckily didn’t have anyone in the aisle seat next to me for the whole ride.

The author's seat, 4-D in car number 9.

Nobody checked my ticket to make sure I was in the right seat.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Configured in a 2×2 layout, the “Green Car” is for first class and is quieter and more spacious than ordinary cars. Though, it is about $40 more expensive than coach.

The bullet train "Green Car" seats.

The coach seats were also comfortable, but weren’t as big and didn’t come with the side table.

Taylor Rains/Insider

The car had mostly forward-facing seats, but there was also a quad-seating arrangement in the middle of the car.

The quad-seating in the bullet train.

The quad-seating in the center of car number nine.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Settling into my seat, I was impressed with the comfort of the lounger, which was huge and nicely cushioned. It was definitely better than airline domestic business class.

The author’s first class seat on the bullet train in Japan.

The seats has wings around the headrest.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…a second smaller table that stored in the side armrest…

The side table flipped out.

The side table was small, but perfect for a small cup and snack.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…free WiFi, though I’ll it was a little spotty…

A screenshot of the free WiFi instructions on my phone when I connected.

There were stretches of time where the WiFi wouldn’t connect.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…a power outlet for each passenger…

My power block plugged into the outlet located in front of the seat.

The outlet is the same as used in the US.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…a good-sized seatback pocket…

The seatback pocket had plenty of space.

The pocket was big enough to fit a book or water bottle.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…a reading light and an adjustable window shade…

The reading light on the lounger and the window shade half closed behind it.

The window shade blocked out a lot of light but it wasn’t fully dark.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…and more than enough legroom for even the tallest travelers. I’m 5’3″ and could stretch my legs out.

The author's red shoes on the footrest.

I’m a thicker person, and I also felt I had enough seat width as well.

Taylor Rains/Insider

There was also plenty of storage space for my carry-on and small duffel bag. I also had a backpack, but no one checked how many pieces I brought onboard.

The storage space above the seats.

Everyone had enough space for their luggage.

Taylor Rains/Insider

However, there are some restrictions for oversized luggage. Select reserved cars have racks near the restrooms for big suitcases…

The luggage racks were between the cars, which could lock luggage into place using a metro card to avoid theft.

The luggage racks were between the cars, which could lock luggage into place using a metro card to avoid theft. But, these were out of service during my ride.

Taylor Rains/Insider

…while other trains require a special seat assignment. So, be sure to check during booking if your ticket comes with oversized bags.

A yellow suitcase in the space behind one of the seats.

Oversized luggage can be placed behind specific reserved seats.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Shortly after leaving Tokyo Station, the train started whizzing past the beautiful Japanese countryside — my favorite part of the journey.

Greenery, buildings, and mountains in the Japanese countryside, taken from the bullet train.

Views of the Japanese countryside.

Taylor Rains/Insider

I loved seeing the small towns and architecture, but the most incredible view was Mt. Fuji, an active volcano and Japan’s tallest mountain.

Mt. Fuji in the distance towering over the green Japanese landscape, taken from the train.

We could see all of Mt. Fuji from the train.

Taylor Rains/Insider

Its snow-covered peak was in full view thanks to clear skies. As someone who loves hiking and prefers mountains over beaches, I was thrilled to see it.

Mt. Fuji's snow-covered peak towering over the green landscape.

Mt. Fuji.

Taylor Rains/Insider

As Mt. Fuji faded from view, I explored more of the train and was amazed at how clean it was.

A view of the entire train taken from behind.

Each car had dozens of rows of seats.

Taylor Rains/Insider

The carpets and seats were well-maintained…

A view of the front of the seats.

A pair of Green Car seats.

Taylor Rains/Insider



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