High speed bullet trains were born in Japan. It’s where they began and one of the countries that are most famous for this exciting way to travel!
We decided to catch the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto while we were in Japan, rather than catching a flight between the two cities. It was such an easy and fun way to travel, avoiding airport baggage lines, long queues to board and disembark planes, and so spacious and comfortable!
About shinkansen in Japan
Japan’s bullet trains are called Shinkansen (新幹線) and are operated by Japan Railways. They run at speeds of up to 320 km/h and are known for their punctuality, comfort, safety and efficiency. These trains run on time to the second and are a very cost effective way to travel around Japan. They are the best way to travel between major cities all over the main islands of Japan, including Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido.
Travelling by shinkansen
Most shinkansen trains offer both reserved and non-reserved seats in separate cars. Whilst reserving a seat can sometimes cost almost as much as the train ticket itself it is definitely worth it! We were able to have a great four seater booth for our trip down to Kyoto, which gave us the luxury of spreading out and getting comfortable.
And of course, we were guaranteed our seats rather than having the anxiety of getting onto a train and not knowing where to go. In some cases people will get on and take reserved seats that they haven’t paid for, but if anyone is in your seat you can politely ask them to move and show them your ticket. Seat reservations cost different amounts at different times of the year so make sure you confirm the price when purchasing.
Bullet trains will also have a small food cart moving through the carriages with a selection of snacks, drinks and boxed meals available to purchase. Some trains will have vending machines and pay phones. All bullet trains have toilets on board. There are luggage racks for suitcases and oversized luggage, as well as the regular overhead storage.
The Nozomi Shinkansen
The best choice of bullet train if you’re looking to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto is the Nozomi Shinkansen. Nozomi is one of the fastest trains in Japan and with the limited number of stops along the way they are able to travel across great distances at a super fast speed in a very short space of time.
To get to Kyoto by bullet train you will need to jump onto the Nozomi train that’s travelling along the Tokaido line, which connects Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. Going west from Tokyo a Nozomi train departs at least every 10 minutes, so there are heaps of options throughout the day if you’re trying to choose the best time to travel.
The trip from Tokyo to Kyoto takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes by shinkansen, with only a couple of other stops along the way. It’s definitely the best way to travel between the two cities, with so much more room than a plane as well as less hassle, a nicer boarding process and less people around you.
Tickets for the Nozomi Shinkansen
At the time of writing this post a ticket between Tokyo and Kyoto on the Nozomi Shinkansen costs ¥13,910, which is about $185 AUD. Travelling on the Nozomi is not included on the Japan Rail Pass, so you will still need to purchase an additional ticket if you are planning to travel via the Nozomi train.
Find out more about travelling on the bullet trains on the Japan Rail Pass website.