What is Shinkansen in Japan? Introduction and usage Shinkansen

Hi, This is Yohji! Today, I would like to introduce you to the means of transportation that will help you on your trip. There are various means of transportation in Japan. Airplanes, trains, buses, cars, etc. Among them, I will introduce the Shinkansen that Japanese people often use when traveling far away. After reading this article, you will be able to travel on the Shinkansen. Then please check out our blog!

What is the Shinkansen? 

The Shinkansen is a high-speed railway that connects major cities in Japan.  Along with Shanghai Transrapid in China and TGV in France, it is one of the world’s leading high-speed railways.  It travels at a maximum speed of 320km / h between Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture and Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture.
The Shinkansen consists on multiple lines, connecting major cities in Japan.  The number of routes is roughly divided into 7 routes

Map and routes

  • Hokkaido Shinkansen / 北海道新幹線(ほっかいどう-しんかんせん)
    Train category: Hayabusa, Hayate
  • Tohoku Shinkansen / 東北新幹線(とうほく-しんかんせん)(including Yamagata and Akita Shinkansen)
    Train category: Hayabusa, Hayate, Yamabiko, Komachi, Tsubasa
  • Joetsu Shinkansen / 上越新幹線(じょうえつ-しんかんせん)
    Train category: Toki, Max Toki, Tanigawa, Max Tanigawa
  • Hokuriku Shinkansen / 北陸新幹線(ほくりく-しんかんせん)
    Train category: Bright, Haruka, Asama, Sword
  • Tokaido Shinkansen / 東海道新幹線(とうかいどう-しんかんせん)
    Train category: Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama
  • Sanyo Shinkansen / 山陽新幹線(さんよう-しんかんせん)
    Train category: Mizuho, ​​Nozomi, Sakura, Hikari, Kodama
  • Kyushu Shinkansen / 九州新幹線(きゅうしゅう-しんかんせん)
     Train category: Mizuho, ​​Sakura, Tsubame

Each train category is named according to the number of stops.  The names of the train categories are all given words (Japanese-Wago) that make Japanese feel positive.  If you are interested in Japanese-Wago, please check Wikipedia. 

This video is very easy to understand, so take a watch.

https://youtu.be/t958Mk05814

japan guide.com

Seats and classes

Most Shinkansen trains have two classes of seats (regular and green cars).  Which are typically found in separate cars:

Ordinary car

It is a regular seat on all Shinkansen bullet trains.  Even though it is an ordinary car, it is comfortable and has plenty of space for your feet.  Recent cars are equipped with outlets for all seats.  They usually come in rows of 3 + 2 seats. Reserved seats and unreserved seats are available.

Second class car (called green car)

Larger and more comfortable seats and services than ordinary cars.  However, the price will be higher than that of a ordinary cars.  For example, a one-way ticket between Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station is about 5,000 yen higher than the fare for a ordinary car (the fare is determined by the distance of the boarding section).  All seats in the Second class cars are reserved seats, and you cannot available unless you have to pay extra called a Green Car ticket in addition to a ticket and a super express ticket.

Ticket types and how to buy

Ticket types

  • The Second class car(called Green car)
    Basic fare (called fare ticket) + limited express charge (called super express ticket) + the second class car usage charge (called green ticket)
  • Reserved car
    Basic fare + Limited express charge + Seat reservation charge
  • Non-reserved
    Basic fare + limited express charge

Basic fare ticket (left) and shinkansen super express ticket (right)
※The number of tickets issued is the same for reserved seats and second class car(Green car) seats.

Two tickets are combined
※The number of tickets issued is the same for reserved seats and second class car(Green car) seats.

How to buy a ticket

Buying a ticket at the ticket counter

Shinkansen tickets can be purchased at any ticket office found at all major and many minor JR stations nationwide. Credit cards are accepted at most ticket offices. In order to purchase a ticket, the following information is needed:

  • Number of travelers / 人数(にんずう)
  • Date of travel / 出発日(しゅっぱつび)
  • Departure station / 出発駅(しゅっぱつえき)
  • Destination station / 到着駅(とうちゃくえき)
  • Ordinary or green car / 普通車(ふつうしゃ)or グリーン車(しゃ)
  • Reserved or non-reserved seat / 指定席(していせき)or 自由席(じゆうせき)
  • One way or round trip / 片道(かたみち)or 往復(おうふく)
    ※ One-way tickets are valid only on the day of issuance
    ※ The validity period of a round-trip ticket is twice that of a one-way ticket.

For a seat reservation, the following additional information is required:

  • Train name (e.g. Hikari / ひかり) and train number or departure time

If you do not speak Japanese, it is recommended that you write the data on a piece of paper and present it to the salesperson in order to make the purchasing process smoother.

Buying a ticket at a ticket machine

Selected ticket machines can be used to buy shinkansen tickets. Most of them offer English menus. Some machines sell only non-reserved seats, while others can also be used to make seat reservations.
Although ticket machines can be very useful if you know how to  use them, the process of buying shinkansen tickets is not always straight-forward and some machines do not accept credit cards that are issued outside of Japan.

Buy tickets online

Reservation websites covering all areas only exist in Japanese.  Instead, there are systems that cover only each area (for example, the Tokaido Shinkansen or the Tohoku Shinkansen etc.).  Tickets purchased online must be picked up from the ticket machine before getting the train.  In addition, tickets can only be picked up at Shinkansen stations in the area covered by each service area.

How to use the Shinkansen

How to get the Shinkansen

Pass through the regular ticket gate

At many stations, shinkansen passengers have to pass through two sets of automatic ticket gates: regular ticket gates and shinkansen ticket gates. At the regular ticket gates, insert only your basic fare ticket into the ticket slot, pass the gate and retrieve your ticket at  the other end.

Make your way to the shinkansen platforms

Follow the bilingual signs to the shinkansen platforms. Depending on the station, the shinkansen platforms are sometimes placed parallel to and close to the regular train platforms, but often they are located in a separate part or on a different level of the station complex.

Pass the shinkansen ticket gates

A second set of gates divides shinkansen platforms from the regular train platforms, although at some stations there are also direct gates to the shinkansen platforms that allow passengers to skip the regular gates.  At the Shinkansen ticket gate, you insert both sets of tickets into the slot at the same time. insert and retrieve them on the other side of the gate.

Access your platform

Displays of upcoming departures will indicate from which platform your train will depart, while signs clearly indicate the way to each platform. Virtually all shinkansen platforms are equipped with escalators and elevators.

Find your car

Displays on the platform indicate upcoming departures. Other displays and / or signs mark the location of doors, indicating car numbers and whether the car is reserved, non-reserved or green.
Some busy stations have two lanes painted on the platform in front of each  door location: one for the upcoming departure and one for the departure afterwards. Passengers line up accordingly, especially in case of non-reserved cars to secure seats.

Find your seat

Seats are numbered and lettered in the same style as on airplanes. Try not to block the aisle when storing your luggage and taking your seat to allow for quick getting.

Notice

A new rule for oversized luggage came into effect on May 20, 2020 along the Tokaido / Sanyo / Kyushu Shinkansen (see map below).
Passengers with oversized luggage, ie luggage pieces whose height, width and depth add up to more than 160cm, are  It is not possible to bring oversized luggage into non-reserved cars. Now required to make a seat reservation in the last row of seats.
Passengers without a reservation for their oversized luggage will be asked to move their luggage to a space specified by the train conductor and pay a 1000 yen surcharge which is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. No plans have been announced to introduce a similar system on  other shinkansen lines.

Manners

  • Line up on the platform before boarding.
  • Don’t block the aisle with luggage.
  • When having a conversation, keep your voice down.
  • Recline your seat with consideration for the person behind you. Return the seat to its original position before exiting the train.
  • Set your mobile phone to silent mode. Don’t talk on your phone except in the deck areas between cars.
  • Take your garbage with you when getting off the train and discard it into a garbage bin on the train or in the station.

Recommended seats with a view of Mt. Fuji

There is a very beautiful and famous big mountain called Mt. Fuji in Japan, which you can see when you take the Tokaido Shinkansen. There are 5 position(seat A to E) on the Shinkansen seats. It is recommended that the seat A or E to see Mt. Fuji! 
The best season is from December to May when snow accumulates on the mountaintop.  Please take a picture.

I recommend seat E for trains heading from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station.  For trains heading from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo Station, seat A are recommended.



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This blog is run with your donations. If this article helps you, I would be grateful if you could support this blog in the form of a cup of coffee.



Conclusion

Currently, traveling under the coronavirus is restricted, but when the coronavirus is over, please enjoy traveling in Japan on the Shinkansen. If you have any questions about this article, please send us a comment or a Twitter message. 
We also have an online community that you can use for free to discuss your concerns and consultations about living in Japan.  Please read the article below and feel free to use it!

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Discord – Let’s Talk, Chat, Hang out!
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If you need anything, this online community may help your problems.

Introduction and usage of the online community “useJapan”

See you!

How to get your destination from a Japanese airport <Narita Airport>

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