It was another early morning wake up for me. Yesterday was a pleasant first day of sightseeing in Akihabara and Ginza, but it was time to leave Tokyo already. My plan was to go to Kyoto and Himeji before returning to Tokyo in time (hopefully) for the sakura bloom across the city. I planned to go to Kyoto by the Nozomi shinkansen — the fastest bullet train in Japan. The Nozomi (N700 series) travels at a top speed of 300km/hr, whereas the Hikari trains run slightly slower and stop at a lot more stations. This being my first time in a bullet train, I figured I might as well experience the best.
I bought my ticket at the counter at Tokyo station. It cost ¥13080 (₹7100/$109/€96) — a lot of money for a one way trip. But I really wanted to get on the fastest train in Japan. For those who are wondering why I didn’t buy a JR Pass, the minimum cost of a JR Rail Pass is ¥29,110 (₹15810/$243/€215) and that’s valid for 7 days. Now, as per my itinerary, I would be taking at the most 3 train trips and after calculating the cost of each journey (you can do that on this website), I realized I would be spending slightly less than that. Also, the Nozomi trains are not included in the JR Passes, which is stupid because the fares for some routes are the same whether you ride the Nozomi or the Hikari.
I had to board my train quickly as I only had a few minutes before its scheduled departure. For routes on the Tōkaidō line, there are trains leaving every 10 minutes or so. The bullet trains don’t stay too long on one platform — and if you haven’t heard, the trains in Japan are extremely punctual! I couldn’t even take a photo of the train before it departed because I was rushing to get in before the doors closed.
It was past Yokohama that the Nozomi really started to hit top speed, and you could feel it! Like the force pushing your body back as the velocity increased. After I felt stabilized, I got up to find the right car and my seat as per my ticket.
Like most train services, you have food service carts passing through each car/coach selling snacks and drinks. They accept credit cards too. I sat down and enjoyed the rest of the journey.
Here’s a video I took just after the train had departed Tokyo station followed by some clips once the shinkansen hit top speed:
And 2 hours 18 minutes later, I arrived in Kyoto not a minute later than scheduled. By the way, the distance from Tokyo station to Kyoto station is 513 kms/320 miles. Journey time: 2 hours 18 minutes, by land 🙂
And soon after, the train set off for Shin-Osaka:
So how was my first bullet train experience? Pretty awesome. The shinkansen has long been the crowning glory of Japan and one of its most famous engineering achievements. Sure, China and France have since developed trains that go even faster but Japan did it first, and their Maglev trains have already broken speed records at its trial stages. The shinkansen isn’t cheap but if you want to get to Kyoto the quickest, taking the Nozomi is your only option. Kyoto is served by Kansai International Airport, which also services the cities of Kobe and Osaka. From Osaka airport, you then have to take the train or bus to get to Kyoto city center (an 1 hour-long journey it seems).
I couldn’t check in as I was early and my bed was not available just yet. So I left my bags at the reception area and stepped out to have an early lunch. I walked around looking for eateries. There weren’t a whole lot of restaurants where I was staying, which was one slight downside.
I went back out again to begin my sightseeing. I first went to Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji before taking the bus to Shinkyogoku and walking to Gion — but all that’s in the next post.