My brother and I traveled to Japan last spring and it gave us the opportunity to check off various items in our respective bucketlists. This includes riding a shinkansen (bullet train). I’ve seen various travel shows, movies, animes, and other media about Japan and I’ve always been fascinated by their extensive rail network and various train types (the trains even have names!). This only led me to conclude that in Japan, train is life.
Our trip involved hopping from one to city to another and we did that by riding trains. Because of this, we were able to ride different types of trains from the fastest shinkansen to the more leisurely local train. Oh, and we were also able to ride a sightseeing train! The train rides in itself were a treat for us and I can’t help but wish that we also have the same in our country.
I feel fortunate that we didn’t get lost or had a hard time finding our train since some of the major train stations are so vast. This is all thanks to months of research as well as Hyperdia. Hyperdia is a website where you can search which train you can take to go to a certain place, it even includes the cost of the train ride and the train schedule. Pretty useful if you’ll be riding the train a lot.
Now, enough of the technical stuff, this post is actually for sharing all the precious experiences I had while riding and or trying to ride Japanese trains. Mostly funny memories and some troubling but exciting at the same time.
First Impressions Last
First up is our first shinkansen ride. I can still remember our awe when we first laid eyes on the actual thing. My brother and I were grinning like lunatics! Haha. When we got on board and the train started to move, you can’t really feel that you’re going at speeds of up to 300kph (we rode The N700 Series Nozomi, the fastest category along the Sanyo/Tokkaido Shinkansen line), it was comfortable and you can even eat on board. Imagine traveling more than 600kms in just 2 hours and 30 minutes, that’s how fast these trains are. It was kinda scary when two trains pass by each other since there is this force which causes the train’s body to move. This is to be expected though given the speed the trains are moving. The experience was very pleasant over all and I felt safe all throughout the journey.
On our fifth day in Japan, we woke up to a rainy Osaka morning. We were bound for Kanazawa that day but will stop by the Nissin Cup Ramen Musuem first. After our tour of the museum, we were back in Osaka Station is search for the midoro no maduguchi where we will redeem our Hokuriku Area Pass. There we were informed that the train going to Kanazawa from Osaka (Ltd. Express Thunderbird) has suspended operations until further notice due to strong winds coming from the west. The attendant asked us if we will still buy the pass and we did. It was a gamble since there was no assurance that the strong winds will stop that day but we had no choice since we had to reach Kanazawa for our hotel reservation and we had to travel to Tateyama the next day. We had to regroup after getting the pass since we planned to go sightseeing in Kanazawa that day and we can’t push through with it. In the end, we decided to visit Himeji earlier than planned since we did not want to waste half the day. With our cup noodle haul in tow, we took the shinkansen to Himeji and explored Himeji Castle’s keep and castle grounds. We traveled back to Osaka around 5pm and we rushed to take the earliest Ltd. Express Thunderbird to Kanazawa when we found out that train operations had already resumed.
Up Close and Personal
By the time we were in Himeji we already had a few encounters with the shinkansen but mostly by riding in it and seeing it stopped at big train stations like Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. While we were waiting for our ride going to Osaka, we were so surprised when a speeding Nozomi passed and left us in awe and somewhat terrified. I figured it was a Nozomi train since it only stops at major train stations. Then I thought, so that’s how it feels like when a train speeding around 200-300kph pass you by! There was this booming sound and you can feel the wind force (I don’t know how you call it. haha) and it was quite an experience that I chose to write it here.
So we made it to Kanazawa without any more trouble. Sad that we didn’t get to go around though since it was already around 9pm when we arrived. We were able to get to our hotel and of course, we got to travel to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route the next day! I felt so lucky since we didn’t have a problem reaching Tateyama Station and the snow wall was even open to pedestrians that day. Ahhh, luck was on my side I thought. There were a lot of people since we visited on the first week of opening (the full Alpine Route is only open from mid-April to November) and the waiting time at some stations would reached up to one hour. It was so cold but we didn’t mind especially when snow started falling while we were at Kurobedeira. I was so distracted that I didn’t check the train schedules going back to Kanazawa. We finally arrived at Tateyama Station around 5:30pm and saw that the next train going to Toyama is at 6:19pm. Little did I know that I should’ve been already panicking when I found out about this. While on board the train going to Toyama, I decided to check the shinkansen schedule going to Kanazawa and that’s when I found out that we only have around 30 minutes allowance to get our bags from our hotel in Kanazawa and buy food or else, we will miss the last train going to Osaka. While in Toyama Station waiting for the shinkansen going to Kanazawa, I realized that the schedule posted in Hyperdia is wrong and that we actually only have around 15-20 minutes window time to get the bags and buy food. We were so scared to miss the last train that I told my brother that we should already be at the door before the train stops at the station and run like crazy to the hotel to get our bags. After getting the bag from the hotel we stopped by a shop selling packed food then rushed to the train platform. We made it to the train with 10 minutes to spare! Luckily, our hotel is just next to the train station, imagine if it was farther, we would have been stuck in Kanazawa that night.
I’m looking forward to visiting Japan again in the near future and I’ll be sure to ride more types of trains and share my experience again.