Speeding Bullet

Our short stay in Tokyo is over (so long and thanks for all the fish!), so it's time to kick off our journey properly and that means catching the bullet train to Kyoto.

We rushed, dodged and weaved our way through Shinjuku Station like salmon moving upstream; the Japanese flow like a river around you and this was used to our advantage. We finally made it to a train bound for Tokyo Station where the Shinkansen (bullet train) departs from.

With our JR rail passes (like a travel card for tourists) clutched tightly in our hands, we waited in suspense for the bullet train to arrive, a sea of Westerners gathered along the designated platform, clustered around the pre-prescribed gate numbers marked along it. Honestly it was like the Queen was about to arrive, men in uniform were out looking at watches and then down the track, back to watches, track, watches, track in nervous anticipation. An army of cleaning staff stood to attention in their pink attire (Japan loves uniforms it seems, note to self: must do a post on that alone), two to a carriage, ready for cleaning action. The police, on the other hand, nonchalantly gather at one end looking unfazed by the excitement.

The train silently arrives in at the platform. It has the air of a rail-bound Concord, its sleek lines and ergonomically moulded nose drawing gasps and wonder from the passengers as it rolls past them. The elongated shape of the nose and the featureless carriages make the styling look like the train is doing 300mph even though it is standing still.

A uniformed guard opens the driver's door, you expect a wooosh of air like a decompressing space station door, this starts a sequence of events to get the train underway, cleaners are in and out in a flash, prepping, priming, pruning the carriages of detritus (of which I suspect there is very little). We board the incredibly spacious carriage, it is like a aircraft but with way more legroom and aisle space, we settle down and look out the window, people with clipboards tick boxes, fingers are raised and pointed in agreement that perfection has been obtained and slowly we exit the station... one minute early.

Bullet Stats

  • Max speed: 200mph (test runs have reached 275mph - Maglev trains have reached 361mph)

  • Safety: no fatalities

  • Cleaners: seven minutes to clean the whole train https://youtu.be/rFXi1cM9vO0

  • Reliability: in 2012 the average delay was 36 seconds (including uncontrollable causes including heavy rain and earthquakes)

Stats source: https://discoverjapannow.wordpress.com