മലയാളിയുടെ ഷിൻകാൻസെൻ (ജാപ്പനീസ് ബുള്ളറ്റ് ട്രെയിൻ) യാത്ര | Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train)

Shinkansen is the name for Japanese high-speed rail/bullet train. This video gives an overview of Shinkansen ride in Japan. And of course, this is a lot based on my personal experience of commuting in Shinkansen.

JR, Japanese Railways, is operating Shinkansen in Japan. You cannot board a Shinkansen from any JR station. There are designated shinkansen points/stations in JR network. Nearest shinkansen station for me is Nasushiobara which is in Tohoku line which runs the fastest service in the whole Japan (~320 kms/hr).

You can usually find enough parking spaces, car rentals and other facilities near a shinkansen station because shinkansen stations are near major destinations and transit points in Japan.

Shinkansen tickets can be bought from green windows (Midori madoguchi) or from ticket machines in JR shinkansen stations. You can buy a reserved or non-reserved seat ticket (jiyuu Seki). If you buy reserved seat ticket, you will have to board a specific shinkansen in which the seat is assigned for you. If you buy a non-reserved ticket, you can board any shinkansen which runs within the validity period of the tickets you bought. And you can only board a non-reserved compartment without a seat reservation. When you buy a shinkansen ticket, you are actually paying for 2 tickets; one for traveling from starting to end point (Base fare, 乗車券, jōshaken) and another for boarding the shinkansen (limited express fee, 特急券, tokkyūken), irrespective of whether you have reservation or not.

Sometimes, according to JR, both Base fare and limited express fee tickets will be combined. Below are the 2 conditions, they said, will combine both Base fare (乗車券, jōshaken) and limited express fee (特急券, tokkyūken) tickets:-

(1) When someone travel, from start to end, only in Shinkansen. Eg: as given by JR, when someone traveling from Tokyo to Osaka in shinkansen (both base fare and limited express fee are calculated from Tokyo to Osaka in this case). If the person is traveling from Chiba to Osaka, tickets will be separated (base fare need to be calculated from Chiba to Osaka whereas limited express fee need to be calculated from Tokyo to Osaka where that person will use shinkansen).

(2) Second case where tickets are combined is when tickets are printed in English. Machine seems to have designed in a way that, when requested for English copies, base fare and limited express tickets will be combined.

Reserved seat tickets are a little expensive than non-reserved seat tickets. But non-reserved seat tickets gives you the flexibility to choose shinkansen timing and in choosing seat within non-reserved compartment. Normally, in Japan, unless in peak like vacations, you will usually find vacant seats in shinkansen. You can even buy a round trip ticket for a shinkansen travel. I paid 10,780 JPY for a non-reserved round trip from Nasushiobara to Tokyo (around 150 kms/1 hr in one direction).

Once you buy the tickets, you have to enter to the shinkansen platforms, through ticket gates designated for shinkansen which are separate from ticket gates for other trains. Platforms are normally on top floors as shinkansen tracks are built higher than ground level.

In the platform, you have to find where the non-reserved car is going to stop and wait in the line. Japanese railway stations and road sides are marked with yellow bumps to assist and help sight-impaired. In Railway platforms, these lines additionally indicates the safe distance from track while waiting for a train.

Inside shinkansen, one can find an ambience of a flight. Most shinkansens are equipped with free wifi. There will be directions for garbage collection points, toilets etc.

There are separate toilets available for ladies, gents and to support people with infants. Shinkansen, toilets and generally all public places in Japan, maintains a high degree of cleanliness.

You can find space to place big luggages as well as for your carry bags. In front of your seat, there will be trays for placing your computer or to have your food; there will be one cup holder. You can find some promotional magazines also. One of the most important aspects of Japanese social life is the consideration for others. In those lines, you can find warning messages to take care not to disturb your fellow passengers even with your keyboard strokes. This shows how considerate Japanese people are for others.

You can find charging points for mobiles, laptops and portable devices in most of the shinkansens. You can recline your seats freely; but be considerate about your fellow passenger who sits behind you.

All seats are numbered and if you buy a reserved seat ticket, you have to find your seat number in reserved compartment.

Maximum operating speed for Shinkansen is ~320 kms/hr and that service runs in Tohoku Shinkansen line. Japan is currently building faster train system based in SCMaglev technology. Please watch the video for a better experience.

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