The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan

The Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan

By CarolUpdated May. 14, 2021

Japan’s high-speed bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen trains, offer visitors an experience like no other, with speeds reaching up to 320 km/h! The main Shinkansen lines include Tokaido, Sanyo, Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano and Kyushu.

Popular routes include Tokyo to Osaka and Tokyo to Nagano, with frequent and punctual departures. Hop on and off the rails in cities like Kyoto, Nagoya and Yokohama along the way!


  • The Shinkansen bullet train in Japan is internationally known for its punctuality and speed.
  • The Shinkansen network consists of multiple lines, among which the Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo - Nagoya - Kyoto - Osaka) is the oldest and most popular.
  • The Japan Rail Pass (also commonly called JR Pass) is a ticket to ride the Shinkansen; it’s very cost effective.
  • Travel all around Japan with your JR Pass for the best price and discover its landscapes from a safe and comfortable means of transportation.
  • Japan Rail Pass holders can make seat reservations for free by presenting their rail pass at any JR ticket office across Japan.

Travel on the Bullet Train

Shinkansen trains mostly run on dedicated tracks and stop only at major stations. They are operated by Japan Railways (JR) Group companies and feature some of the fastest trains in the world, traveling at up to 320 kilometers per hour.

Riding the Shinkansen is a remarkable experience. With your super express ticket in hand, you arrive at the dedicated Shinkansen platform, which has its own gates. The train glides into position at the station right on time (the average delay is only 36 seconds), with the doors perfectly aligned along platform markings that indicate carriage numbers.

As far as comfort is concerned, it has a comfortable interior that meets various needs of passengers, such as wireless LAN Internet connection service in series N700/N700A available between Tokyo and Osaka,reading lights, reclining seats, even phone chargers. So don’t worry if you are taking a long trip on this train.

The Japanese Railway Network

The Shinkansen high-speed trains are the fastest way to discover all of Japan, and they’re operated by the Japan Railways (JR) network. There are 27,268 km of rail crisscrossing the country, and JR controls 20,135 km of these lines.The rest belongs to dozens of other private railway companies, especially in and around metropolitan areas.

The JR Group is made up of six regional passenger railway companies, which are JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu, and one nationwide freight railway company, JR Freight. Together they operate a nationwide network of urban, regional and inter regional train lines and the Shinkansen bullet trains.

The Shinkansen Bullet Trains

Japanese trains are among the most punctual and its train network it is also considered as one of the safest ones in the world. The bullet trains are one of the most popular means of transportation in Japan and often more reliable than flights.

The Shinkansen bullet trains serve all major cities on the main island of Honshu and also on Kyushu.There are no Shinkansen on Shikoku and none on the Okinawan islands. The Shinkansen lines consist of:Akita - Hokkaido - Hokuriku - Joetsu - Kyushu - Sanyo - Tohoku - Tokaido - Yamagata.

The first segment of the Shinkansen started running in 1964 when the Olympic Games were held in Japan;it is called the Tokaido Shinkansen. It is Japan’s busiest and most popular line, as it connects the three biggest metropolitan areas of the country: Tokyo to Yokohama, Osaka to Kyoto, and Nagoya.

Ordinary and Green Car

Many people misunderstand about the ordinary and the green cars.Green cars are business class, and ordinary cars are economy class. Green cars are clearly marked with the words “Green Car” in English and the four-leaf clover symbol.

Even the ordinary cars are usually sufficient. But if you want a little more space and a bit more peace and quiet, green cars tend to be less crowded because they are a bit more expensive than ordinary cars.Green car seats also tend to be more luxurious, with features like electric reclining and in-seat reading lights.Both, ordinary and green cars, are equipped with toilets inside the train.

Reserved and Non-Reserved Seats

Reserved seats sell out quickly in high season such as the ‘golden week’. During the rest of the time it's usually possible to purchase a seat reservation. Reserved cars tend to be quieter with less competition for luggage space. If you're in a large group, you can book seats together.

In addition to your base fare, it's optional to pay a seat reservation fee to book a seat on a reserved car.If you don't reserve a seat, you must sit in a non-reserved car where seats are first come, first serve. Some Shinkansen lines don't have this class.Seat reservations are recommended if you want to be sure not to have to stand.

Seat Reservation

Japan Rail Pass holders are entitled to book a seat on all Japan Railway trains free of charge. All seats should be booked before boarding the train. The JR Group does not allow to change to a reserved seat once you have boarded the train.

Booking a seat over the phone is not possible. However, seat reservations are available online. You can book a seat on a JR train up to a month in advance. If you do not wish to book seats online, seats can be booked in person at any Travel Service or Reservation Office. You will be asked to show your passport and your original Japan Rail Pass.

Tickets and Fares

Shinkansen tickets are available at the Midori no Madoguchi (Ticket Office) or the ticket machine. At the stations where the Shinkansen trains stop, there should be special ticket gates and platforms especially for them. So make sure you take the right one. In some stations, connecting ticket gates are available between the normal lines and Shinkansen lines.

Visiting Japan’s big cities with Shinkansen is the best option.If you get the JR Rail Pass, it includes unlimited rides, so you can explore more. The prices range from 29,100 yen up to 81,900 yen, depending on the class and validity.

The Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is a unique pass for visitors, allowing unlimited access to the Japan Rail network, for a period of 7, 14 or 21 days. The Japan Rail Pass is the most economical and convenient way for those wanting to explore Japan by train.

Japan Rail Pass can be used by foreign tourists only;the pass can be purchased via the internet or a travel agent outside Japan. You will then receive a voucher that has to be exchanged to the actual pass inside Japan within three months of purchase.

The Japan Rail Pass price really depends on the period and the class. If you wish to take the green car (business class) it’ll cost more than the ordinary class. The ordinary class,for 7 consecutive days will costs 33,000 yen, 52,000 yen for 14 days, and 65,000 yen for 21 days. The green car will cost 44,000 yen for 7 days, 71,000 yen for 14 days, and 90,000 yen for 21 days.

The pass is valid on almost all trains operated on the nationwide network of JR (Japan Railways), including the Shinkansen, the limited express, express, rapid and local trains. It’s also valid on Tokyo Monorail to/from Haneda Airport, the JR ferry to Miyajima, the local JR buses and a small number of non-JR trains that access remote areas.

Generally, the Japan Rail Pass is your ticket, no other ticket is needed. When passing through ticket gates, Japan Rail Pass holders cannot use the automatic ticket gates, but have to pass through the manned gate and present their rail pass to the staff. On rare occasions pass holders can be asked to show their passports too.

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