9 Things You didn’t Know about Shinkansen

1 Jun
Shinkansen at Tokyo Station

Shinkansen at Tokyo Station

The Shinkansen (新幹線 new trunk line), also known as the “bullet trains” is a network of high speed railway lines in Japan. The shinkansen network consists of multiple lines, connecting most major cities on the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, with construction of a link to the northern island of Hokkaido underway.

Traveling by the shinkansen can be pricey, but it’s an incredibly pleasant and comfortable experience.  It’s by far my favorite way of traveling the country.

Here are 9 interesting facts about the shinkansen:

1. How reliable is it?

According to the report in 2012, the Shinkansen’s average delay from schedule per train was 36 seconds, including delays due to uncontrollable causes, such as natural disasters.

2.  Is it safe?

The Shinkansen has an impressive safety record.  Over the Shinkansen’s 49 year history, carrying nearly 10 billion passengers, there have been no passenger fatalities despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons.

3. How fast is it?

The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h (200 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) in 2003.

4. How many Shinkansen do they run per day?

About 800 trains per day, although the number of tarins depends on the day.

5. What is “Shinkansen Theater”?

It refers to the cleanup crew who clean the entire train in 7 minutes.  I don’t know how they do it, but the shinkansen is always clean.  You’ll have to see it to believe it.  Check out this video.

6. Who invented Shinkansen?

The shinkansen was invented by Japan’s chief railway engineer, Hideo Shima (島 秀雄).  He wanted to design the trains to “feel like an airplane” which he succeeded in creating.  After retiring from the railway career, he became the head of the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), where he pushed the development of hydrogen engines to power rockets.

7. Can you bring food and eat at Shinkansen?

Yes, you can.   It is typically not okay to eat in most other trains in Japan, but it is fine to do so at Shinkansen.  Most people bring foods and beverages and enjoy them on the train.  For this reason you’ll always find stores selling bento box (lunch box) at Shinkansen stations.

8.  Are there discount tickets for Shinkansen?

Yes, check out Japan Rail Pass .  Note that this is available only for foreign tourists, and it has to be purchased before arriving to Japan.

9.  Can you see Mt. Fuji from Shinkansen?

Yes. When you are traveling on the Shinkansen around Shizuoka prefecture, you can enjoy viewing Mt. Fuji if the weather is good enough.

Learn More:

– Shinkansen! Inside the Japanese Bullet Train Network

View of Mt. Fuji from Tokaido Shinkansen Photo by Alexander Mirochnik, Under the Creative Common License

View of Mt. Fuji from Tokaido Shinkansen
Photo by Alexander Mirochnik, Under the Creative Common License


7 Responses to “9 Things You didn’t Know about Shinkansen”

  1. Faisal J. June 3, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Reblogged this on That Dark Alley.

  2. TonyJ2 June 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    Whether I need to or not, I always have to take a trip on the Shinkansen. Thank goodness for JR Pass for us foreigners.

    • Yumi June 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Tony! Thank you for your comment. I’m glad to hear you’ve found JR pass useful. I didn’t know about it until recently, but it sounds like a great way for people from overseas to travel in Japan. 🙂

  3. Jacqueline Nordstrom June 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    The is already a Shinkansen that goes to Hokkaido via Aomori – Hakodate.

    • Yumi June 6, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Hello. The shinkansen rail line is currently under construction between Aomori and Hokkaido through the undersea Seikan Tunnel. It is projected to open in 2016.

  4. Brian waters April 14, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    Have used this train extensively on our three weeks in Japan loved it always on time and super clean and staff were amasing

  5. Lars January 21, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    What you also may not known about Shinkansen is that it is an absolutely amazing experience. It starts with the choreography of the conductors, it goes on with the seats that are turned around so that you always sit in the driving direction. And there is so much more. This video shows the magic quite well: http://bit.ly/2jvnXhV

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