Shinkansen N700 bullet train Kyoto station

Japan: Riding a bullet train for the first time, Tokyo to Kyoto

Date: 22nd March, 2015

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.

Tokyo railway station shinkansen line
Tokyo station is so huge that it can often be a bit confusing at first
Tokyo shinkansen station platforms
Fortunately Tokyo station has English-speaking staff to help confused-looking first time tourists like me

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.

Inside Nozomi shinkansen Tokyo
I quickly got into the car/coach which was nearest to me as soon as I entered the right platform. I knew this wasn’t my seat but I figured I would move to my seat after the car doors closed and the train began to move.
Inside bullet train Tokyo Japan
The regular cars have a 3 by 3 seating arrangement. The premium Green cars have 2 seats on either side of the aisle. You have reserved (pre-reserved) and un-reserved seat cars too.
Tokyo neighbourhood houses Japan
The bullet train does not travel very fast while cruising through Tokyo

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.

Toilets inside bullet train Japan
This is the toilet car and wash area
Smoking room shinkansen Japan
These are enclosed smoking bays. Smoking anywhere else in the train is strictly prohibited.
Green car interior Nozomi bullet train
This is the premium Green car. A ticket for the Tokyo – Kyoto journey would cost around ¥18000
Bridge boat club Japan
Given the speeds at which we were travelling, I had to take snaps of the outside world at a rather high shutter speeds
Bridges countryside Japan
I was looking for Mt. Fuji as I read that on a clear day, you could see the iconic mountain on the right hand side as you head towards Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka
Sony Panasonic factory Japan
I saw quite a few factories of notable Japanese companies along the way
Agriculture fields Japan
I did get glimpses of rural Japan too
River stream Japan countryside
It was nice to see a different side of Japan that wasn’t too modern
Nagoya city Japan
We made a brief stop at Nagoya
Rice fields Japan
Rice fields?
School basketball volleyball Japan
I’m guessing this was a school
Charging phone inside shinkansen
I charged my phone using the plug points near my seat

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 🙂

Shinkansen N700 bullet train Kyoto station
I finally had a chance to take a photo of the Nozomi train I travelled in

And soon after, the train set off for Shin-Osaka:

Kyoto station shinkansen rail track
And it was gone
Bullet strain Kyoto station
A few seconds later, another bullet train arrived at Kyoto station
Kyoto station platform shinkansen Japan
This is the shinkansen platform

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).

Kyoto station taxis Japan
Whereas if you take the train, you arrive in the heart of Kyoto city
Kyoto station panorama Japan
This is the massive Kyoto train station, a tourist attraction by itself. I have another post for it later.
Kyoto tower Japan
Right opposite Kyoto train station is the Kyoto Tower which houses an observation deck and rotating restaurant

I chose to stay at Shiori-an Guesthouse, a hostel that’s a 10-15 minute walk from Kyoto station.

Kyoto cycle lane pavement Japan
Wide footpaths with dedicated cycle lanes. Kyoto also felt far less populated when compared to Tokyo.
Old house Kyoto Japan
Kyoto’s renowned charm is instant, old houses are everywhere
Old palace Kyoto Japan
This old boundary wall houses the Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji Buddhist temples. I would visit the place later.
Shiori-an Guesthouse Kyoto Japan
In a narrow lane just off the main road is Shiori-an Guesthouse

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.

Ambulance passing through traffic Kyoto Japan
Cars stopped in their tracks at signals to allow an ambulance to pass through
Cocoichibanya restaurant Kyoto Japan
I eventually sat down at CoCo ICHIBANYA, a curry house chain
Coco Ichibanya curry meal Kyoto
I had a plate of rice and curry with two pieces of fried fish, cost ¥540 (₹290/$4.5/€3.9)
Shiori-an Guesthouse reception Kyoto
Post-lunch, I went back to Shior-an Guesthouse to see if my dorm bed was ready
Shiori-an hostel dorm bed Kyoto Japan
A dorm bed at Shiori-an Guesthouse costs ¥2900 (₹1570/$24/€21) per night
Shiori-an Hostel dorm room Kyoto Japan
I was in the Mixed Dormitory. Shior-an has single and double rooms upstairs.
Shiori an hostel toilet Kyoto Japan
Shiori-an Guesthouse is fairly new and has all the requisite facilities
Shiori an hostel bathrooms laundry Kyoto
Enough shower rooms
Shiori an Guesthouse dining kitchen Kyoto
This is the dining room and kitchen area

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.

Next posts in this series:

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishi & Higashi Honganji, Shijo street, and Gion

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Nishiki market and Teramachi

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Fushimi Inari-taisha, and climbing to the mountain top

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Kinkaku-ji and Kiyomizu Dera temple

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Gion Corner Cultural Show

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Monkey Park in Arashiyama

Japan 2015: Kyoto Station, and arriving at Himeji by shinkansen

Japan 2015: Himeji Castle, and the unexpected air show

Japan 2015: Nadagiku Shuzo Sake Brewery, leaving Himeji for Tokyo — and my last bullet train ride

Japan 2015: Nakamise street, Senso-ji temple, and Ueno Park sakura at half-bloom

Japan 2015: Ueno Zoo – pandas, a lonely polar bear, and more

Japan 2015: Shibuya – the busiest crossing in the world, and home to a loyal dog

Japan 2015: Nishi-Shinjuku — views from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building sky deck

Japan 2015: Shopping in Shinjuku, and exploring Kabukicho

Japan 2015: Denboin garden, near Sensoji Temple

Japan 2015: Cherry blossom celebrations by Sumida River

Japan 2015: Boat ride to Odaiba; giant Gundam statue at DiverCity Mall

Japan 2015: Cherry blossoms at Tokyo Imperial Palace east garden

Japan 2015: Cherry blossom sightings at Shinjuku Gyoen

Japan 2015: Harajuku on a Sunday – Meiji shrine and Yoyogi Park

Japan 2015: Harajuku at night — Takeshita Street

Japan 2015 – Visiting Akihabara a second time, because why not?

Japan 2015: Cherry blossoms in full bloom at Ueno Park

Japan 2015: Rikugien garden’s weeping cherry blossom tree

Japan 2015: Getting to Hakone; Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise

Japan 2015: Hakone ropeway; onsen at Hotel Green Plaza

Japan 2015: Ōwakudani sulphur springs, views of Mt. Fuji — and last night in Tokyo

Japan 2015: Getting to Narita Airport — and flying an Airbus A380 for the first time

Previous posts in this series:

Japan 2015: Walking around Akihabara and Ginza

Japan 2015: Going to Akihabara, and spending way too much time in Yodobashi Akiba

Japan 2015: Landing in Tokyo… and using a communal bath for the first time

Japan 2015: Kyoto – Gion Corner Cultural Show

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