Japan Journal #5: Riding the Shinkansen

After a very short flight from Naha we landed in Fukuoka. We got off the plane, picked up our bags (which was stalled by a little girl playing on the baggage claim track), got a taxi, arrived at the station, got our tickets and boarded our train in about an hour’s time.

Our first sight of the station, or rather, first sight of the exterior, was worrying. It was such a zoo that our taxi had a hard time getting in and getting us a spot. Once we unloaded and stepped inside, the first sight of the interior was just as nutty.

It was expansive, crowded, and at first glance, all in Japanese. After wrestling with a map to no avail, we found the ticket counter. The machines wouldn’t accept our card (but had a pretty easy to use English menu if you have the cash for it), so we lined up for a ticket, which also ended up being fast, despite the line, and easy.

Once we stepped out of the ticket office, we suddenly noticed the gate signs flashed between Japanese and English, so we were able to easily find our train – as in less than 2 minutes after buying our ticket we were standing waiting for it to arrive.

The sight of the other Shinkansen got us excited – such amazing trains! As we were walking I saw one I assumed was ours and pulled out my phone. It arrived in a smooth, quick and quiet glide before us – a very impressive display for us eager to ride our first Shinkansen.

We were happy to find that in our non-reserved seats we had room for our luggage and it wasn’t overly crowded. Also, there’s decent time to board and get sorted, especially at major stations – and the Japanese are very good about letting people get off before they get on.

We were even happier when we got moving. Smooth as silk, relatively quiet (for a train moving like this), and super, super fast.

Insanely fast.

From Fukuoka to Hiroshima, the view was astounding. Such a fun ride!

Quick tidbits for anyone looking to ride the Shinkansen:

  • The stations have English and are very easy to navigate
  • If you’re worried or still having issues, they have customer information staff that speak English quite well. They have tiny little desks with “i” on them.
  • Getting tickets is pretty easy, so is getting your JR Pass, and that makes life very easy (make sure you start that process before you leave! Ask your travel agent).
  • There is room for luggage on the non-reserved seats.
  • They take time at each station for you to get up and leave, and the Japanese are very good at waiting for everyone to get off before they get on (mind you, other tourists are not).
  • There are trays and it is okay to eat on the train.

 

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