Experiencing the Shinkansen

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Techniquest, 1 Nov 2019.

  1. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Hi all,

    As some of you may be aware, in 9 days I jet off to Tokyo. I'm more than a bit behind in organising my limited time in the city, and I really need to organise an experience of the Shinkansen. It would be rude not to sample one of the world's most famous trains!

    I'm not too bothered where I go on one, just experiencing what they're on board will do. Admittedly that had been my plan with the XPT in Australia, but those were a bit different, having been my sole reason while I was a full-time train-head for wanting to visit Australia. That and the XPTs sound awesome, I'm not expecting such feelings from a Shinkansen. So I will settle for simply watching one and taking a few photos

    So some questions:

    1) Any recommendations for where to go on a Bullet Train on a cheap ride? I'd be buying on the day from a ticket machine, and while I'm not terribly bothered if it's a fast run or not (the XPT wasn't overly fast after all!) if I'm going for a ride it can't be an overly expensive one. Or too far (within say an hour each way of Tokyo roughly) either, due to the short time I'm there.

    2) If I don't go for a ride, what's the best way to go about seeing one? From what I can tell they can be seen from the road in various places as they cruise over bridges, but is there for example a suburban station not too far away to get photos as they pass?

    Thanks in advance for the help!
     
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  3. WideRanger

    WideRanger Member

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    One of the classic views of the Tokaido Shinkasen is from the road near Shimbashi station. It won't be travelling fast at that point, but it is close.

    Don't make the mistake that some make of doing Tokyo to Shinagawa or Tokyo to Ueno (because it looks cheap). It really wouldn't be a Shinkasen experience at all.

    If you want to get a cheap Shinkasen ticket, you can often get discount Kodama tickets to various place on the Tokaido Shinkansen. These go cheap because, unless you go during holiday times (which you aren't), they are pretty empty a lot of the time. The downside is they stop at every station, so you won't be getting anywhere quickly. They should get up to top speed between stations, however. How about Tokyo to Fuji?
     
  4. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Thanks for the fast response! I got a little busy after my post, hence the delayed reply.

    Some good advice in there, I'll look that lot up after work and see what I find :)
     
  5. upnorth71

    upnorth71 Member

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    Trackside locations have pretty poor sight lines as there are typically high walls/fences separating you from the tracks. Better to go to an intermediate station and watch from the platforms, which have excellent sight lines. My recommendation is to go to either Odawara on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, or Oyama on the Tohoku Shinkansen line. These stations (30~40 min outside of Tokyo) are stops for the local Kodama and Nasuno services (typically 1 tph), respectively, and one-way walkup fares are 3600~3800 yen (approx 27gbp). You will be able to see the faster services speed through on the center express tracks. Odawara I recommend in particular as you can as an option ride the Odakyu ltd express ("romance car") on the return leg to Tokyo.
     
  6. Gerald Fiennes

    Gerald Fiennes Member

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    How? Are these the 30 day ahead fares that JR Central/West sometimes offer?
     
  7. STEVIEBOY1

    STEVIEBOY1 Established Member

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    I was on a trip to Japan year ago, we had a day excursion from Tokyo which involved visit the lake and mount Fuji area and the trip back to Tokyo was on a bullet train from a station, I think called Odwarra? to about 30-40 minutes, so I get get a taste of what it was like. See post 4 above. Probably the most common longer is from Tokyo to the Old Capital of Kyoto and that takes around 2 hours. What ever you do, have a great time.

    One day, if I win the lottery big time, I'd like to do the XPT in Australia along with the Indian Pacific and Ghan, also the Trans Canadian service too from Vancouver to Toronto.
     
  8. Beebman

    Beebman Member

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    When I went to Japan in 2015 with a JR pass I did an interesting round trip Tokyo-Yamagata-Sendai-Tokyo with the first and last legs by Shinkansen. The outward leg was on an E3 unit coupled to an E6 which split at Fukushima. The E3 continued along the Yamagata 'mini'-Shinkansen line which is a 1067mm line converted to standard gauge. The line includes a relatively short but very scenic section through mountains. At Yamagata I changed to a 1067mm-gauge local EMU for the 75-minute run to Sendai. After a couple of hours' sightseeing in the city I then took an E5 back to Tokyo.

    Of course it's not a particularly short trip but it could be completed within 6 hours with immediate changes between trains and it gives a varied selection of experiences in a relatively short time.
     
  9. WideRanger

    WideRanger Member

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  10. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Thanks! It really will be a short trip, due to being a dunce and not checking travel dates properly, as my trip has me land at Narita 1515 on 12th November and take-off from Haneda at 0945 on the 15th.

    That's still two full days of exploring, and as I wake up in the very early hours of the morning for work (0245 to 0400 depending on the shift) getting up early for a full day of exploring will not be difficult. The plan is to be up and about by 0600 (even on a day off at home I'm usually out of bed by 0700), into the city by 0700 and return to base camp around 1800-1900 on both days. 11-12 hours of exploring on two consecutive days will easily have me seeing enough of Tokyo.

    [Quote!]One day, if I win the lottery big time, I'd like to do the XPT in Australia along with the Indian Pacific and Ghan, also the Trans Canadian service too from Vancouver to Toronto.[/QUOTE]

    I only did a short journey on a XPT but I can tell you they are nice trains. Comfortable too, and the on-boarding catering was very reasonably priced. Without digging out my trip report, I fail to remember how much it was or what I had, but it was good.

    The Trans-Canadian I would like to do, or the very least the bit over the Rockies. I'm more likely to be found flying across Canada though!
     
  11. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Also, thanks to everyone who replied. I've read all the posts and, due to somehow falling behind with stuff at home I haven't yet looked into full detail at everything. However I hope to do so tomorrow or, more likely, on Wednesday and Thursday.
     
  12. johnnychips

    johnnychips Established Member

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    Odawara gets my vote too. You get the bullet train experience then there is a great sideline up the valley where the train zigzags its way up.
     
    Last edited: 4 Nov 2019
  13. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Cheers, I'll have to check the forecast, and look everything in this thread with some further detail, on Wednesday. I intend to actually cram-learn some Japanese on my days off this week, all being well.
     
  14. johnnychips

    johnnychips Established Member

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  15. gazthomas

    gazthomas Established Member

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    Despite the short time you're there I would still suggest you look at the "Japan Rail Pass". Really cheap compared to buying in Japan - when I used it I only had to make one trip to make it worth it's while as fares in Japan can make ours look cheap!

    https://www.japan-rail-pass.co.uk/?...MIwbedlqnR5QIVWPlRCh3JHgG1EAAYASAAEgINpfD_BwE

    I didn't have a bad trip, either west to Kyoto or beyond to Nagasaki or north to Nagano and beyond that. You can reserve a seat up to a minute or two of the train arriving
     
  16. STEVIEBOY1

    STEVIEBOY1 Established Member

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    I did another local line when I was there to Nikko from Tokyo Asakusa Station. It was a scenic ride and an interesting destination. Not too long a trip.
     
  17. Gerald Fiennes

    Gerald Fiennes Member

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    NB, the Hakone-Tozan line was completely washed out by the recent Typhoon. Replacement buses in operation for some months, so you can see the views but miss the zigzags. Shame, but perhaps try visiting Nikko instead?
     
  18. STEVIEBOY1

    STEVIEBOY1 Established Member

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    Yes that is a good alternative.
     
  19. rg177

    rg177 Established Member

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    On a slightly unrelated note, if you fancy some Japanese rail related garb then get yourself to Tokyu Hands in Shibuya- there's a railwayana shop just as you walk in full of all sorts.
     
  20. hkstudent

    hkstudent Member

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    If you haven't got your ticket yet, I would suggest you to buy a JR Tokyo Wide Area Pass, which should cover shinkansen journey to Omiya, Utsunomiya, Takasaki, and more...
    The pass costs 73 GBP, and is valid for 3 consecutive days on all JR East trains in the area.
     
  21. WideRanger

    WideRanger Member

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    But it won't cover most of the interesting (private railway) trains in the area, including ones suggested by other posters, including Hakone and the express trains to Nikko...
     
  22. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    A shame that, as I looked at the ching earlier for the ride to Nikko. When I saw the cost, over £80 there and back, I decided to say no way, I'll find something else to do.

    I've done pretty much everything I wanted to do now, so it could be a boring day tomorrow. I even had time to do present shopping! And people have been telling me I'd not have enough time in 2 days to do Tokyo, if I'd used the Metro/Subway/Monorail I'd have been all done with even less to do!

    I've seen a few N700 Skinkansen sets from pretty close by, working their way in from the south, and to be honest I'm pretty darn sure a Eurostar ride is just as much fun, if not more so. So I'm happy to tick a Bullet Train off my list. Indeed, Japan is now off my list and to be quite honest, if I could move my flight up to tomorrow I would.
     
  23. WideRanger

    WideRanger Member

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    If you have done everything on your list, try the JR East Museum in Saitama. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Museum_(Saitama)
     
  24. Beebman

    Beebman Member

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    If you're really stuck for something to do, I can recommend browsing the transport books and DVDs on the fifth floor at the Shosen Book Tower in Akihabara, there's a massive array of stuff. Yes it's all in Japanese but the majority of books are well-illustrated. (Google Map link)

    I assume you've been to Akihabara already? If not then go there anyway - it's a crazy but amazing and fun part of Tokyo!
     
    Last edited: 13 Nov 2019
  25. Bayum

    Bayum Established Member

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    Gotta day, I’m insanely jealous. Japan has been a bucket list dream for me since I was 7 or 8.

    Did you go with a tour or independently? Where did you fly from/to? Airline costs?
     
  26. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    In the end this morning, I basically ended up for some hours at Tokyo Waterfront City. After the walk back to the room, it was gone 3pm and I'd set off just before 8am!

    I suspect seeing the scenery of Japan would make it more interesting, but I did the majority of stuff of interest in just one day. I'd have done all of it in one day if I'd used the train more often!

    I booked my own travel, booked a BA Holidays deal for the flights and accommodation. £765 for that. Flights were BA Heathrow to Frankfurt and Japan Airlines Frankfurt to Tokyo Narita. In the morning I jet off direct back to Heathrow, this time out of Tokyo Haneda (much closer to the city centre).

    I've got Days 1 and 2 of the trip report up on Wordpress, I've got a beer going on currently and I'm aiming to have Days 3 and 4 of the report up later. Day 5 is basically travelling west to the UK.
     
  27. Bayum

    Bayum Established Member

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    5 days!? Crikey! You’ve fit a lot in there! I’m looking at potentially 10-14 days with a private holiday company like you, but extend my departure date. Thanks for the info!
     
  28. hkstudent

    hkstudent Member

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    Indeed, 5 days is too short for Japan. Better do 7 days+ next time
     
  29. WideRanger

    WideRanger Member

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    It's quite easy to do Japan affordably - there are often flights available for around the £400 mark, and it's increasingly easy to get hotels / AirBNBs for around £30 a night (and cheaper if you are willing to take something a bit rougher!). I never go for less than 2 weeks - not least because of the jetlag.
     
  30. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Depends what you want to do in Japan. If all you want to do is Tokyo, then 2 days was plenty. I've no need to come back, indeed my money can be better spent flying elsewhere.

    Aye it can be done cheap, so can Australia. I mean I did my short trip for around £650 with bargain flights and hostels.

    I'm lucky with jetlag, I don't suffer too badly with it. It's more when I return that I like to have a day to recover, but that's more because of getting a cold or something!
     

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