Reservations Required for Large Suitcases on Bullet Trains in 2020

Taking a large suitcase onto a bullet train in Japan has always been easy and hassle-free. Nothing needs to be done in advance and there are no fees. However, due to the implementation of increased safety measures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this will all change starting in May 2020.

Japan Railways

Japan Railways

Next year, when riding the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Sanyo Shinkansen, and the Kyushu Shinkansen, you will need to purchase a reserved-seat ticket and make a reservation for your large suitcase ahead of time. If you fail to make the reservation before boarding the train, you will incur a fee of 1,000 yen  (a little over $9).

Large suitcases are classified as luggage with total dimensions (length + width + depth) between 63 and 98 inches (160 and 250 centimeters).

There are currently no plans for any other bullet train lines to implement these regulations before the Olympics next year.

JR Pass Prices Set to Rise

Due to the increase in Japan’s consumption tax rate from 8% to 10% starting on October 1, 2019, the base prices for Japan Rail Passes will also see an uptick. As always, the yen to dollar exchange rate will still determine the exact price of the passes every month even after this base increase.

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If you will be traveling to Japan within the next three months and are in need of a JR Pass, it is highly recommended that you purchase it before this change. The September rate for a 7-day ordinary pass is currently $274. For the rest of our current rates, please check here.

How to Use a Toto Washlet

You probably thought you would never need to be potty-trained again after moving past your toddler years. While that is true for most people around the world, you have many new things to learn when encountering a Toto Washlet in Japan. This fancy toilet flushes your bodily waste down the drain just like any other toilet, but it differs with its vast array of buttons on its control panel. For most people, their functions can be unclear if you have never used them before.

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

A standard Washlet will have around seven or eight features. Before being able to use these features, you must first sit down to activate them. The buttons “rear” and “front” perform similar functions but have different purposes. “Rear” is to clean your backside, while “front” is a bidet for ladies. You can adjust the pressure of these features with the plus and minus sign buttons above the word “pressure.”

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

The Japanese always take convenience into account in everyday life and the “privacy” button is no different. This is used to mask any unpleasant noises that may occur when using the toilet. It will play a flushing sound, a song, or some kind of ambient noise for a short while before shutting off automatically. You can adjust the volume with the plus and minus sign buttons above the word “volume.”

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

A couple of other features that usually come standard are the “stop” button, the “deodorizer” button, and a heated seat. The “stop” button is pretty self-explanatory as it simply ceases any feature that is already in use. The “deodorizer” will act as a vacuum of sorts by cleaning the foul air around the toilet. Finally, many Washlets will have heated seats to make your experience as pleasant as possible.

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

Photo courtesy of TOTO Ltd. © Copyright

In order to get the full Japanese cultural experience, you must use a Toto Washlet at least once during your trip. Please try out some of the buttons to see how such an ordinary action can be transformed into an enjoyable experience. 

Train Types in Japan

Before going to Japan, you should know that renting a car or taking a taxi is very rarely needed. The reason for this is because of how extensive and efficient the trains are throughout the country. You can go almost anywhere without needing to do too much walking.

(Credit: SDOD 1914 - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

(Credit: SDOD 1914 - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

However, there is one caveat to be wary of when taking the trains. There are so many different types of trains to the extent that it has even left Japanese citizens scratching their heads at times trying to comprehend which train to board. Would you be able to guess the difference between semi-express and limited express?

Luckily, you do not need to guess since everything will be explained in this article. Railway companies in Japan sometimes use different names for the same types of trains, so those will be consolidated as best as possible for clarity purposes.

Trains are divided up based on the number of stations they stop at. For example, a local train will stop at each individual station along its route, as opposed to the rapid train that will skip some of the less prominent stations.

Please find a list of the most common train types from slowest to fastest below:

1. Local: stops at every station

2. Semi-Express: skips a station every so often

3. Rapid: skips more stations than semi-express but less than the express

4. Express: stops only at notable stations

5. Rapid Express/Semi-Special Express/Special Rapid: stops only at the most noteworthy stations

6. Limited/Special Express: sometimes requires a special fare because of how few stops are made

7. Bullet Train/Super Express/Shinkansen: the fastest type of train in Japan that has prices comparable to domestic flights

There are many other types not covered here such as commuter and luxury, but the names above are the ones you will come across the most.

You will need to check each line’s route map to see which stations you will stop at when boarding one of these trains. Although the maps will be color-coded and translated in English for your benefit, they can still be confusing, so make sure to double-check before deciding to get on a train.

Train Etiquette

Just like any form of transportation, trains have their own etiquette to follow. As Japan is a nation that takes manners quite seriously, be sure to act accordingly at all times.

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When getting ready to board, make sure to get in line and do not rush onto the train. It is very easy for accidents to happen if people rush on or off the train.

In order to allow people to flow freely throughout the cabin, be sure to keep your luggage out of the aisles. Depending on the type of train you are riding, there may be places for your belongings. These areas can be above seats, under seats, and in between passenger cars.

Certain trains have implemented women-only passenger cars to prevent sexual harassment when trains get crowded during rush hour. Needless to say, be sure not to enter these if you are a male passenger. The cars will be marked with a pink sign that says: “Women Only.”

Regular commuter trains without assigned seats have “priority seats” that will usually be on the far left or right side of cars. These are meant for the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, and women with small children. You are allowed to sit in these seats when no one is using them, but it is imperative to give them up when necessary.

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If you are riding on a train that has reclining seats, be mindful of the person behind you when moving back. When getting off the train, return your seat to its original position.

Smoking is prohibited on all trains in Japan, and if you are riding a train that does not have a tray table for each seat, eating and drinking is looked down upon.

Perhaps the most important manner of all is how to properly use your phone. Set it to silent at all times and do not talk on the phone around others. If the phone call is an emergency, go to the area between passenger cars or make it quick while talking quietly.

By following this proper etiquette, you will blend in and not cause any disturbances while you ride trains in Japan.

WiFi in Japan

Free public WiFi has long been a scarce commodity in Japan. Although the country is striving to improve in this area with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics drawing nearer, it is still lacking as compared to other nations around the world.  

Currently, the few places where you are able to access free public WiFi are at convenience stores, cafes, fast food restaurants, airports, major train stations, and hotels, provided you are a guest. For a fee, you can also access WiFi on bullet trains, in internet cafes, and in only a handful public areas in big cities.

Almost nothing is more important in a foreign country than WiFi, so Amnet, partnered with Vision Mobile USA, is pleased to provide a portable WiFi device to give you peace of mind at all times during your trip. With plans starting as low as $2, this device is a cheap and convenient way to connect to the internet whenever you need it.

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The Vision Global WiFi device can be ordered online and delivered to your house before you depart, and you can return it using the enclosed return envelope. In-store pickup is available at our Costa Mesa, California location as well. The router is easily activated, and the WiFi can be shared across multiple devices.

For reservations and more information on this service, please visit the following website:

https://visionglobalwifi.com/?pr_vmaf=wpa5pP1FWp

Gotokuji Temple – Home of the Maneki Neko

Less than 10 stops away from Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo lies a station called Gotokuji. This quiet area in Setagaya Ward is the birthplace of the world famous maneki neko, which translates to “beckoning cat.”

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The legend of the maneki neko involves a feudal lord from the Edo period making his way through town when he came across a cat beckoning him under the shelter of Gotokuji Temple. The lord obliged and rested. A thunderstorm suddenly started, and thanks to the cat’s invitation, the lord stayed dry. Grateful for this deed, he donated enough money to help rebuild the temple and make it his family temple. Since that time, it is believed that the cat brings good fortune.  

After a 10-15 minute walk from Gotokuji station, you will arrive at the temple. Located in a corner of the temple is a space dedicated to the figurines. You will find rows and rows filled with cats of all sizes.

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Besides the main attraction of the maneki neko, the temple is the burial grounds of Ii Naosuke, a feudal lord most famous for signing the Harris Treaty with the United States in 1858, an agreement that opened Japan’s ports for trade with the West. Other points of interest at the temple include a three-story pagoda, which is decorated with a maneki neko figurine on the first level, and depending on the season, beautiful foliage can also be enjoyed.

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How to read Shinkansen tickets

If you are traveling by Shinkansen (bullet train), you may not know how to read the tickets, and you may wonder why there are two tickets. This article will help solve problems like that.

Basic Fare Ticket and Super Express Reserved Ticket

When you are taking the Shinkansen, you will have two tickets, the Basic Fare Ticket (乗車券) and Super (Limited) Express Reserved Ticket(新幹線特急券). The Basic Fare Ticket is necessary for all train rides. The Super Express Reserved Ticket is necessary only when you are taking the Shinkansen. For example, when you take a train from Osaka Station to reach Tokyo, first you need to take a local train to reach Shin-Osaka station. Here, you will use the Basic Fare Ticket to get to Shin-Osaka, and when you go through the gates at Shin-Osaka to take the Shinkansen, you will be inserting two tickets at once.
However, if the base fare and supplement cover the same section, then sometimes you get a single ticket that combines the two fares into a single ticket. 

How to read the ticket

JR_Shinkansen_Ticket.jpg

①  Departure station
②  Arrival station
③  Departure date, Departure time, Arrival time
④  Train name and number
⑤  Car number, Row number, Seat number
⑥  Non-smoking car
⑦  Total Amount

 

I hope your trip will turn out to be wonderful!!!

The Difference Between Narita and Haneda Airports

For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Japan, you may be searching to find out what the difference is between the 2 airports in the Tokyo area: Narita and Haneda.

Simply, here are the main differences.

Narita: Bigger airport with more international flight choices, but further away from central Tokyo.

Haneda: Smaller airport with less international flight choices, but closer to central Tokyo.

Narita Airport is actually located in Chiba prefecture, not in Tokyo. Transportation will take about 1.5hrs to reach central Tokyo which may sound like a bit of a hassle, however there are more airlines that fly in and out of Narita, compared to Haneda. Therefore you will have more choice in airlines, flight schedules and price.
Airport transfer is pretty easy. The most popular methods would be either the limousine bus or the Narita Express train. If you have a JR Pass, you can use the pass to ride this train. Seats must be reserved for the Narita Express, so please make a reservation prior to your ride.

Narita Limousine Bus: https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/bus_services/narita/index
Narita Express: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/

Haneda Airport is located within Tokyo prefecture, so transportation can only take more or less than 30min, depending on your destination. You will have choices of the limousine bus, Keikyu train line or the monorail (the monorail doesn't really run towards the more popular areas). This airport was initially meant for domestic flights, so you will actually have more options than Narita when it comes to arranging them.

Haneda Limousine Bus: https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/bus_services/haneda/index
Keikyu Line: http://www.haneda-tokyo-access.com/en/
Tokyo Monorail: http://www.tokyo-monorail.co.jp/english/

Using the limousine bus to transfer from Haneda to Narita Airport

When you are traveling in Japan using domestic flights, sometimes it is necessary to transfer from one airport to the other, in the Tokyo area. This article explains the method of using the limousine bus to transfer from Haneda Airport to Narita Airport.

You will first need to purchase tickets at the ticketing machines on the 1st floor (there will be choices in language). You can also purchase them at the information counter right next to the machines.

Choose your destination...

Choose your destination...

Choose your bus time...

Choose your bus time...

Choose the number of passengers...

Choose the number of passengers...

You can pay by either cash or credit card.
Once you receive your tickets, head to bus station #7.

Luggage can be stored in the trunk (a worker will do it for you).

Luggage can be stored in the trunk (a worker will do it for you).

Each bus has a restroom, so it's worry-free!

Each bus has a restroom, so it's worry-free!

The bus ride is roughly about an hour without traffic.
If you are traveling the other way around (Narita to Haneda), you can purchase limousine bus tickets at the designated counters.

Riding the Tohoku Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

The Shinkansen (also known as the bullet train), is a network of high-speed railway lines which is operated by JR (Japan Railway). The Tohoku shinkansen connects Tokyo and Aomori prefecture in a route length of 674 km (419 miles) which is the longest shinkansen line in Japan.

The Shinkansen offers seats in two classes; ordinary and green. All shinkansens offer ordinary seats which are the regular seats. It provides general comfort and a generous amount of leg room. The green car offers larger seats and more leg room than the ordinary seats. Green cars are a little more expensive but are usually less crowded, therefore quieter.

Most Shinkansens offer both non-reserved and reserved seats. All seats in the Green Cars are reserved. Some Shinkansens only carry reserved seats like Hayabusa, Hayate, and Komachi trains. Advance reservations are necessary for these reserved seats but will only costs a few hundred yen as a fee.

Tickets for the Shinkansen can be purchased through the JR ticketing offices (Midori no Madoguchi), Travel service center (View Plaza) or the ticket vending machines located at stations. A Shinkansen ticket contains several fees; the base fare and the Shinkansen supplement. The base fare is the basic fare to be paid to get to your destination. The Shinkansen supplement is the fee for using the Shinkansen. Those tickets are provided as two separate tickets. Seat reservation fees and green car fees may also be applied based on your request.

After purchasing your ticket,

1.      Pass through the regular ticket gate. You insert only your base fare ticket into the ticket slot to pass the gate. Don’t forget to pick up your ticket after you pass the gate.

2.      Follow the sign and make your way towards the Shinkansen platforms.

3.      Pass the Shinkansen ticket gate. This time, you insert your base ticket and supplement ticket together into the ticket slot. You also need to pick up both tickets after you pass.

1.      The overhead electronic display will show the upcoming train departures and their platform numbers. Find your platform number and access your platform.

2.      Find displays on your platform (on the ground or over your head) that indicate which cars are reserved and non-reserved. Find your car according to your ticket.

3.      Find your seats if you have a reserved seat. Seats are numbered and lettered in the same style as on airplanes.

4.      You will arrive at your destination.

It's always nice to have a meal during your Shinkansen ride. Boxed lunches are sold at any major stations, and there are tons to choose from. Try purchasing one for yourself, and enjoy the local taste while enjoying the views pass by.

How to read train time tables

If you are not familiar with riding trains, subways and/or buses where you live, it may be a little difficult or confusing to figure out time tables when you travel Japan, where trains and buses are the main forms of transportation. Here, you will find some easy steps on how to figure out which train you can catch.

Below is an example of a time table for the bullet train in Japan. This is for the West-bound trains, so you will be looking at this if you are in Tokyo for example, trying to reach destinations such as Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, or Hakata. The top half and bottom half are 2 separate tables.

You can download the most updated JR Sanyo bullet train timetables here:  http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/

You can download the most updated JR Sanyo bullet train timetables here: http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/

Yes, the numbers are tiny.
On the very left is the list of stations:

Timetable_Crop.jpg

The train will depart at the very top, in this case, Tokyo. Let's say you are departing Tokyo Station, and want to arrive in Shin-Osaka. If you look towards the right of TOKYO, you will see numbers such as 600, 616, 626... These are the departing times from Tokyo. Keep in mind they are listed in military time (1500 would be 3:00pm).

Let's say you are interested in getting on the 6:26 train. Above the 626, you will see "H" and the number 501. "H" stands for HIKARI, which is the name of this bullet train. 501 is the train number. You can see what the other alphabets stand for, at the very bottom of the time table. If you look downwards from 6:26, you will see the times of which the train will depart at the other stations. Right after Tokyo would be Shinagawa (6:34 departure), then Shin-Yokohama (6:46 departure), and so on. If you see a check mark, that means that this train will not stop at that station. Other logo marks are explained at the bottom of the timetable.

Keep going down, and you will see that the list of times will end at 9:30 at Shin-Osaka. This will be the last stop for this specific train. If your destination is beyond Shin-Osaka, this train will not work for you, or you would need to transfer onto another bullet train.

Now let's say you wanted to arrive at Okayama at around 2:00pm (14:00). Find OKAYAMA on the list of stations on the left, and move towards the right. Try to find a time close to 1400. The closest I can find is 1415. If you look upwards from the 1415, you can find the departing time from Tokyo which is 1050 (Nozomi #107).

Once you figure it out, it's pretty simple.
If you are planning to use a Japan Rail Pass, keep in mind that the pass is not valid for NOZOMI and MIZUHO bullet trains, so avoid any trains with an "N" or "M" at the top.

If you want to figure out how to get from one station to another which may require transfers, you can also depend on this website: http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ 
Enter your departing and arriving stations, and your ideal departure or arrival time, and it will give you detailed instructions on how to get there.

Shipping Your Luggage to/from Hotels and Airports

When traveling from one place to another within Japan, sometimes your luggage can become a huge hassle (especially for those who want to take a large suitcase to fill with shopped goods!). You will come across many obstacles such as stairs going up and down, long walking distances and narrow aisles to walk through.

The best option we usually recommend would be to ship out your luggage, which will allow you to only carry an overnight bag and conveniently, your big luggage will be waiting for you at your destination. Here are a couple of examples:

1. HOTEL TO HOTEL
You are planning to travel from Tokyo to Osaka by bullet train, but your luggage can get in the way due to limited space on the train. Bullet trains do not provide any extra space for big suitcases either. At times like this, just ship out your luggage in the morning, and retrieve it the next day at your destination.

2. HOTEL TO AIRPORT
You are spending your last few nights in Osaka, but need to get back to the airport in Tokyo by bullet train etc before boarding your international flight back home. In such cases, you can ship out your luggage and have it reach the airport directly. There is an office located inside the airport designated only for shipping and picking up luggage. Just stop by before checking in for your flight and pick up your suitcase! 
*For airport shipping, you must ship out your luggage 2 days prior to your pickup date*

Prices are determined by weight, size and destination, and delivering companies will vary. Hotels will usually have a form (shipping label) for you to fill out, which you can write in English. Be sure to have the address and phone number of your destination!

Naritasan / Shinshoji Temple

There is a place we recommend for a visit when you have a long layover at Narita Airport.
SHINSHOJI TEMPLE at NARITASAN.

The location is easy to access: only 2 stations away on the JR or Keisei line from Narita Airport (Terminal 1). From there, it's in walking distance.

This is the 2nd popular temple in the country where people go to pray for New Year's day (hatsumode), and it attracts roughly 2900000 people. It is also a popular spot among visitors from overseas, especially because the streets and small buildings that lead to the temple from the station has an old, historical mood as if you had slipped back in time, and is very enjoyable even for just a stroll. Keep in mind that there are long hills, so it may be a little hard if you have any physical disabilities.
Along these streets are small souvenir shops and restaurants for you to stop by. One of the famous delicacies of the area is the eel. Some restaurants perform the cutting of live eel at the front of the shop, which may be slightly shocking for foreign visitors, however people seem to always take pictures and videos!

At the entrance of the temple, there is a very steep flight of stairs. You can take a longer path that goes around it if you are unable to climb these stairs.

At the top of the stairs, you will be greeted by the main building, along with the pagoda. In the rear is a beautiful garden as well.

Check their official website (in English) to find detailed information!
http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/

"Baseball" Shrine in Saitama Prefecture

As a Japanese travel agency, we receive inquiries for all types of travel plans to Japan.
One of the interesting inquires we received in the past was from a baseball referee, who wanted to take his junior team to visit Japan.

We would think that there are many young Japanese baseball players who dream of visiting the US, the home of major league baseball, but in this case it's the opposite. We did some research on any unique places in Japan to take a baseball team for sightseeing, and found this "baseball shrine". One of our agents went for an inspection.

This shrine is called the "Yakyu- Inari Jinja", and is located in Yakyu-cho, Higashi-matsuyama City, Saitama Prefecture. "Yakyu-" (野球)in Japanese means baseball, and although the kanji characters are different, they referred the term "baseball" to the name of the area "Yakyu-"(箭弓).

Naturally, this shrine has many visitors who are involved with baseball. Most of the ema have hand-written wishes that are related to baseball as well. Typically, emas are small wooden plates shaped like a house, but at this shrine, their emas are flipped upside-down to look like a home base. They also sell baseball bat-shaped emas. Even the amulets are shaped like bats and gloves!

Our client was very excited when he saw a photo of these bat-shaped amulets.

Feel free to contact Amnet for any unique travel inquiries you have!
http://www.travelwithamnet.com/contact-us/

Difference in Shinkasens: Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama, Mizuho, Sakura

The bullet trains Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama, Mizuho and Sakura runs in either or both sections of the railway networks called the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and/or Sanyo Shinaknsen Line, which are divided into different sections with different companies that regulate them. 

The Tokaido Shinkansen is the swift Japanese bullet train line that run between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. Regulated by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), the 3 Shinkansens that run throughout the Tokaido line includes the Nozomi (the fastest among the 3 bullet trains), Hikari, and the Kodama. 

The Sanyo Shinkansen is another network of swift bullet trains between Shin-Osaka to Hakata (Fukuoka City), which are 2 of the biggest Cities toward the west areas of Japan. The locomotive services throughout the Sanyo area is controlled by the West Japan Railway Company (JR West) excluding the area of Shin-Osaka which is regulated by the JR Central. 5 of the Shinkansens that run throughout the Sanyo line includes the Kodama, Nozomi, Hikari (3 of which also run in the Tokaido areas), Mizuho and Sakura. 

Nozomi Bullet Train
*Not valid for JR pass holders

The Nozomi is the swiftest train among the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansens. Its stopping points are limited to the amplest of train stations between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. Nozomi's fastest train edition, the N700 series travels from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka (a distance of 515 km) in roughly 2 hours & 22 minutes, sustaining its rate of movement at 168 mph (270 km/h). 

Two Nozomi Shinkansens passing one another at Himeji Station, Hyogyo Prefecture. Photo by: Flickr@LASZLO ILYES

Two Nozomi Shinkansens passing one another at Himeji Station, Hyogyo Prefecture. Photo by: Flickr@LASZLO ILYES

Sanyo Shinkansen's N700 series operated under JR Central. The photo was taken at Nishi-Akashi Station, Hyogo Prefecture in 2016. Photo by Flickr@hans-johnson

Sanyo Shinkansen's N700 series operated under JR Central. The photo was taken at Nishi-Akashi Station, Hyogo Prefecture in 2016. Photo by Flickr@hans-johnson

Mizuho Bullet Train
*Not valid for JR pass holders

The Mizuho bullet trains include the JR West & JR Kyushu's N700-7000 & N700-8000 series running between Shin-Osaka & Kagoshima-Chuo. These series include train sets of 8 cars by its quickest travel time at 3 hours & 45 mins, a few of them being 25 minutes faster than the Sakura bullet trains.

Hikari Bullet Train
*Valid for JR pass holders

Hikari are swiftly traveling locomotive service running within the Tokaido & Sanyo Shinkansen lines. This train makes more stops compared to the Nozomi, but it reaches destinations faster than the Kodama shinkansen, which makes even more stops. 

*Hikari is the quickest bullet train that the JR pass covers.

Kodama Bullet Train
*Valid for JR pass holders

The train name "Kodama" is interpreted as the word meaning "echo". This train comes to a halt at all stations that the Nozomi passes on its route inside the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen. This makes this locomotive service the slowest of all shinkansens, and are used mainly to transfer between minor stations such as Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. Train goers within exclusive towns, such as Tokyo & Osaka popularly travel on the Nozomi or Hikari transportation suppliers, making smaller amounts of stopping points. 

Kodama Shinkansen's N700 series reaching speeds up to 186 mph (300km/h).. PHOTO BY FLICKR@Yuya Tamai

Kodama Shinkansen's N700 series reaching speeds up to 186 mph (300km/h).. PHOTO BY FLICKR@Yuya Tamai

Sakura Bullet Train
*Valid for JR pass holders

Regulated by the JR Kyushu, the Sakura Bullet Train travel within Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo. The Sakura route and destination are similar to that of the route the Hikari takes where both of the trains stop in Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kokura, Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima etc. 

Models

*N700 series
These series reach the maximum speed of 186 mph (300 km/h). Its "tilting capability", with the max tilt of one degree of the train due to its tracks, allows for the train to keep a stable speed of 168 mph (270 km/h) when passing curves. It also has the fastest acceleration ability.

*700 series
These series reach the maximum speed of 177mph (285km/h). These series are the only trains without a smoking room, only when running in links of 8 cars.

Number of Cars

The bullet trains will run in links of either 8 cars or 16 cars. Depending on how many cars there are, your boarding location at the platform will differ. Please make sure to refer to the printed signs on the ground or the panels above your head, as they will indicate your boarding locations.

Overall Contrast

The difference between bullet trains that are valid with the JR pass (Kodama, Hikari, Sakura) and the invalid trains (Nozomi, Mizuho) is that the valid JR pass locomotives tend to have more stopping points, which stops at minor stations when compared with the Nozomi or Mizuho services. Although the extent of its maximum speeds are roughly identical, the time towards the destination differs as one group of trains stop less than the other. 

Here is an example of how many stops these trains make between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka:

NOZOMI: Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka
HIKARI: Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Gifu-Hashima, Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka
KODAMA: Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Odawara, Atami, Mishima, Shinfuji, Shizuoka, Kakegawa, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi, Mikawa-Anjo, Nagoya, Gifu-Hashima, Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka

The Shinkansen progress from the 1968s traveling roughly at 200 km/h to todays bullet trains traveling at the maximum speeds of 300 km/h. The "a" in the N700A series stands for advanced which is an improvement version of the N700 series. PHOTO BY FLICKR@PROMoto Club4AG Miwa

The Shinkansen progress from the 1968s traveling roughly at 200 km/h to todays bullet trains traveling at the maximum speeds of 300 km/h. The "a" in the N700A series stands for advanced which is an improvement version of the N700 series. PHOTO BY FLICKR@PROMoto Club4AG Miwa

Hokutosei Train Hotel in Regards to its Predecessor

One may be able to relish in an euphoric traveling experience in a building at the heart of Tokyo metropolis, the Hokutosei Train Hotel. 

The Hokutosei Train that the Train Hostel Hokutosei is based off of. Photo by: Flickr@elminium

The Hokutosei Train that the Train Hostel Hokutosei is based off of. Photo by: Flickr@elminium

Just last year in August, the Night train, or bed equipped limited express train called the Hokutosei (北斗星 - translated in English as the Great Dipper), closed its services, yet its train ambiances may be relived once again having its predecessor's furnishing intact on the night train style stationary hotel called the "Train Hotel Hokutosei". The sleeper-train modeled hotel opened in the town of Bakuro, Nihonbashi region of Tokyo Prefecture on December 15, 2016. 

The Train Hotel Hokutosei consists of identical interior as its ancestrally-based Hokutosei Night Train where travelers are able to sleep towards a tranquil & reminiscing journey both in the physical realm and the dream world, similar to the like-wise levitated sensations that may be possible from the recreating efforts by the locomotive hotel at Bakuro. The Train Hotel Hokutosei consists of the same type of beds and couches used within the Great Dipper Night Train, as well as its bunk beds and half-sized private rooms utilizing the "Shindai Royal" or royal bed. 

Most possibly similar to the dinning areas of the Hokutosei Hotel, this section of the train carrier is attributed with the interrior designs of the Hokutosei Train Hotel. Photo by:Flickr@hirotomo t

Most possibly similar to the dinning areas of the Hokutosei Hotel, this section of the train carrier is attributed with the interrior designs of the Hokutosei Train Hotel. Photo by:Flickr@hirotomo t

In the lounges are where the train-oriented dining hall's chairs and tables are in use. The hotel also re-utilizes sensitive components of information guidance displayed on bathroom doors based on a helpful idea from its previous locomotive generation. 

The hotel has a total of 78 beds with the price of 2500 yen for a one-night stay per customer. Although the hotel has gathered English speaking staff in preparation for valued foreign customers, so far the advanced booking of patrons are filled mostly with guests that are most possibly native Japanese railroad fans. 

Location for the Hokutosei Train Hotel

An example towards the Hokutosei Train Hotel using the Sobu Train Line from Tokyo Station:

It takes around 5 mins by the Sobu Line, from Tokyo Station to Bakurocho Station. The hotel is directly connected to this station, from exit #4.

Booking Information:

http://stayathokutosei.rwiths.net/r-withs/tfs0010a.do?f_lang=en

Official Website in English:

http://trainhostelhokutosei.com/en/

Reference:

http://www.asahi.com/articles/photo/AS20161202000751.html

Shinkansen, differences in Reserved and Non-reserved Seats

In relation to a Japan Guide article about shinkansen seats, while all purchased green-sha seats are reserved accordingly for individual guests, in ordinary seats individual travelers can choose to sit in the non-reserved sections of the bullet train, on shinkansens that offer them. The Tohoku Shinkansen and Hokkaido's Hayabusa, Hayate and Komachi passenger transports as well as the Hokuriku Shinkansen named Kagayaki do not provide non-reserved seats. In contrast, all shinkansens provide a reserved seating. 

A subduing colored manner from shinkansen's reserved seats. Photo by: Flickr@Andrew Smith

A subduing colored manner from shinkansen's reserved seats. Photo by: Flickr@Andrew Smith

For Futsusha seats or ordinary cars, customers can often choose to purchase a reserved or non-reserved seat. 

Non-reserved Seats (Jiyuseki)

Conforming to a Japan Talk column about Shinkansen seats, Jiyuseki are under a first come, first choice policy meaning that whoever occupies a seat first through the time which one would reside on the seat is considered to sit through that particular spot until arriving at one's destination point. 

People traveling in groups may not be able to sit together when using the jiyuseki during peaking shinkansen seasons when the demand for the bullet trains are high. Also, during these times of high seasons, such as holidays (Obon, Golden Week, Silver Week, Oumisoka [Japanese new years], Sanrenkyu [Three day weekend], etc.) Jiyuseki voyagers may want to prepare for the crowded line while passengers wait to board the bullet trains. 

Photo of the jiyuseki front by a passenger, where the guest mentions that the nonreserved seat was sold out for purchase due to its high demand on this particular train ride. Photo by: Flickr@Masaaki Komori

Photo of the jiyuseki front by a passenger, where the guest mentions that the nonreserved seat was sold out for purchase due to its high demand on this particular train ride. Photo by: Flickr@Masaaki Komori

Non-reserved seats cost less than the reserved seat. For instance, on the Nozomi Shinkansen for the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen lines, train journeyers going from Shinagawa to Kyoto, at the total expedition time of around 2 hours, would pay a basic fare of 8,210 yen which is considered to be the price of a futsusha carrier. An additional charge of 5,700 yen would be added if one gets a ticket for the reserved section of the Nozomi Shinkansen, on the same trip prior, totaling up to the price of 13,910 yen. 

A unique seat design from the seat's reverse view by Tsubame Shinkansen, directed by the Kyushu Railway Company. Photo by:Flickr@POHAN CHEN 

A unique seat design from the seat's reverse view by Tsubame Shinkansen, directed by the Kyushu Railway Company. Photo by:Flickr@POHAN CHEN 

Reserved Seats (Shiteiseki)

Shiteiseki are often more calming than the non-reserved areas. While both reserved and non-reserved seatings offer soft seats and a luggage storage area, where one may place their luggage(s), there are much less contenders wanting to place their respective baggage(s) in shiteiseki locations. 

Reserved seats are predetermined as each attending guests for the trip must occupy their designated areas. 

These seats also cost more then non-reserved seats. For example, for the Hikari and Kodama shinkansen traveling on the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen lines, a trip from Tokyo to Shin-yokohama cost are the added amount from the basic fee of 500 yen & the surcharge of the reserved seat's super-express of 860 yen finalizing the price to be 1,360 yen for a reserved seat ticket (at distance of 28.8 km). From Tokyo to Nagoya at the stretch of 366 km cost a total of 6,260 yen for a non-reserved ticket, but if one were to purchase a reserved seat, the customer would be paying 10,880 yen for the same trip. 

Some reserved seats can even turn around at the opposite direction from the original direction for family travelers etc. Photo by: Flickr@kyler kwock

Some reserved seats can even turn around at the opposite direction from the original direction for family travelers etc. Photo by: Flickr@kyler kwock

*Seat reservations for designated seats charge more than non-reserved seats, and yet Japan Rail Pass users can make reservations for free. JR Pass holders can get their tickets at the "Midori no Mado Guchi" ticket offices, these ticket offices are characterized by a green sign, located at respective train stations. 

*The basic seat fee is determined by seasons, or by the volume of people using the bullet train, which makes the fees vary from 320, 520, 720 yen.

*The shinkansen fees are determined by the distance traveled and other surcharges that may be included depending on the type of seating purchased etc. 

JR Shinkansen, differences in Futsusha & Green-sha

In accord with the informative web column on Japan Guide, 3 out of the 4 main islands of Japan are linked by a system of highly swift railway trains called the Shinkansen (新幹線), or referred as bullet trains in English. The maximum performance in which some of these trains travel, while customers are boarded, is referenced at averaging speeds of 320km/h or 200mph. The Shinkansen, like relatively all train services in Japan, are known for its timely manner (scheduled arrivals), comforting travels (in terms of travelers inside experience a generally quiet atmosphere) safety record (in its 50 years history there has not been any fatality of passengers caused by colliding accidents or by the train leaving its tracks) and for its concise productivity and/or efficiency. 

The JR Tokai's 500 series model,  according  to the author of the picture, was the first bullet train which reached the speed of 300km/h and its narrow body became less-imperative towards traveling users as a more wider & newer version of the Shinkansen, the 700 series, which came out with the same swiftness as its ancestral model, the 500 series. Photo by: Flickr@ykanazawa1999 

The JR Tokai's 500 series model, according to the author of the picture, was the first bullet train which reached the speed of 300km/h and its narrow body became less-imperative towards traveling users as a more wider & newer version of the Shinkansen, the 700 series, which came out with the same swiftness as its ancestral model, the 500 series. Photo by: Flickr@ykanazawa1999 

Cost-reduced Japan Rail Passes make traveling on the Shinkansen an optimum choice in terms of expenditure and for safe traveling. 

A JR pass allows one to travel on the Hikari Shinkansen, the second fastest of commercial bullet trains, as many times as one pleases throughout the designated time in which they have selected until the pass's expiration date. 

Futsusha (Ordinary Seats)

Ordinary Seats, or Futsusha in Japanese, are the common seats that exists in all operating bullet trains. These sitting areas are comparable to the seats of the economy class on commercial airplanes. Futsusha seats are ordinarily cozy offering a sufficient amount of foot space. These seats are most often provided in either reserved or non-reserved seats. All ordinary seats are arranged in sequences of 3x2 (google maps view of what a typical ordinary seats for the Tohoku Shinkansen looks like). 

The unoccupied version of an ordinary cabin (futsusha) on the JR East Shinkansen from last month. Photo by Flickr@Luke Lai 

The unoccupied version of an ordinary cabin (futsusha) on the JR East Shinkansen from last month. Photo by Flickr@Luke Lai 

Green-sha (Green Car) 

Green-sha are similar to that of the business class on commercial airplanes, and likewise provide roomier and cozier seat settings in comparison with the standard seating (futsusha).

The Green car are organized in arrays of 2x2 (glimpse of what the green-sha generally looks like on the Tohoku Shinaknsen). 

This photo, of the Hikari Shinkansen Green Car area, is from 2013 where a few total of 9 to 10 people were on board for this section and a warm steamy towel was given as the seated customers began their spacious trip. Photo by: Flickr@camknows 

This photo, of the Hikari Shinkansen Green Car area, is from 2013 where a few total of 9 to 10 people were on board for this section and a warm steamy towel was given as the seated customers began their spacious trip. Photo by: Flickr@camknows 

All of the green-sha seats are reserved. 

A newer seat setting has also been introduced by certain bullet trains called Gran Class. These carriers are established in configurations of seats with a 2x1 pattern, and are relatable to those of the first class sections of commercial airplanes. 

Shinkansen Prices

Futsusha bullet train prices, on the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen (railway line operating between Tokyo & Shin-Osaka), ranges (based on surcharges & distance of travel) at around 170 yen (from Tokyo to Shinagawa, at the distance of 6.8 km) to 11,660 yen (from Tokyo to Hiroshima, at the distance of 894.2 km) as basic fare prices (not including surcharge). 

*For Green cars an additional charge of above the price of 2,250 yen is applied on top of the cost mentioned above. 

*Note that the prices are intended for a one time travel to and from the respective locations. 

*Travelers using wheel chairs can be accommodated on most of the Shinkansens and limited express trains by contacting the station, two days before one's journey, in which one plans to board.

Decorative Japanese Manholes, Promoting its Cities

Japanese manhole covers are among one of the uniquest of the countries in regards to the states efforts to promote its art work and its success. The decorations on the orb-shaped picturesque caps connect with its area presenting itself as an image or symbol of its residing region. 

The manhole covers, starting from the top left hand corner going across, are from different locations in Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, Miyajima, Himeji, Okayama, Himeji, Disneyland and Sapporo.「Photo by: Flickr@Ruth Hartnup」

The manhole covers, starting from the top left hand corner going across, are from different locations in Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, Miyajima, Himeji, Okayama, Himeji, Disneyland and Sapporo.「Photo by: Flickr@Ruth Hartnup」

According to a Japan Times article by Mizuho Aoki, heavily designed Japanese manhole covers have become popular in Japan along with its free collectible cards released during April of this year (to further promote the sewage coverings) by Japan's Sewage Promotion Platform, the GKP or referred in Japanese as the Gesuido Kho Purattoformu. 

The GKP organization produced many more of its collectibles adding on 30,000 additional edition due to the cards towering fame. 

The story behind the cover's decorative turn started in the 1980s when Japan's cities started to encourage a positive image for Japan's sewage systems. 

The manhole artists, who are the manhole cover manufactures, sends their blue print manhole drawings to its affiliated city where town representatives pick out there most preferring design and authorizes its production. 

The unintimidating fugu portraited capping in the city of Shimonoseki is an appropriate identification for the city, known as the  fugu capital  of Japan and is notable for its natively collected fugu produce, being the heftiest in Japan.「Photo by: Flickr@x768」

The unintimidating fugu portraited capping in the city of Shimonoseki is an appropriate identification for the city, known as the fugu capital of Japan and is notable for its natively collected fugu produce, being the heftiest in Japan.「Photo by: Flickr@x768」

Manhole enthusiasts or fans, who collect photos and information about the coverings, test their knowledge by hypothesizing on why particular images were chosen to represent itself as manhole designs, where the portraits are most usually correlated to its area. Decorations on manholes differ by city to city in Japan. The manhole's art corresponding to its city is very unique compared to other countries with beautiful manhole craftsmanship. 

Manhole partisans have a variety of ways in capturing the recordings of the circular art covers from taking pictures to some going to lengths by making inked paper-imprints of the circular subterranean covers. 

An example of Hakodate, Japan's subsurface rounded closing depicts one of the cities notable seafood edibles, the squid, which can be eaten relatively fresh as it mimics a dancing motion as its served with soy sauce there.「Photo by: Flickr@Photocapy」

An example of Hakodate, Japan's subsurface rounded closing depicts one of the cities notable seafood edibles, the squid, which can be eaten relatively fresh as it mimics a dancing motion as its served with soy sauce there.「Photo by: Flickr@Photocapy」

In an article from Colossal on Japanese manholes by Johnny Strategy, describes a further reason behind the start to a more frequently produced artful underground covers. The website writing indicates that the explanation for the evolution of Japanese manhole configurations were attributed with the municipalities' efforts to satisfy the public while there were concerns on the city's raising taxes toward pricey sewage operations. 

The Colossal composition further illustrates that, in behalf of artist contenders and pictured issues that followed one after another, the flush aesthetic coverings took its startling leap toward a favorable trend. 

The archaic-appearing manhole in Kumihama, a town in Kyoto Perfecture, perhaps  accredited  by the  Damyojin Cape , resembling that of a dragon soaring on the sea-surface at a certain angle. Legend has it that the avatar of a dragon lives in this area. 「Photo by: Flickr@OKFoundryCompany」

The archaic-appearing manhole in Kumihama, a town in Kyoto Perfecture, perhaps accredited by the Damyojin Cape, resembling that of a dragon soaring on the sea-surface at a certain angle. Legend has it that the avatar of a dragon lives in this area. 「Photo by: Flickr@OKFoundryCompany」

A few years ago roughly 6000 visually technical manhole lids were reported all over Japan by the "Japan Society of Manhole Covers". One of their discovery includes a classification for pictured sewage cover's design, the most common being tree illustrations, following optic representations of landscapes, flowers and birds - the pictorial iconographies all encourage the wellness and the individuality of their respective towns thus advertising their municipal area in its own exclusive manner. 

The cute manhole in Hiroshima portrays the logo of its professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.「Photo by: Flickr@midorisyu」

The cute manhole in Hiroshima portrays the logo of its professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.「Photo by: Flickr@midorisyu」

An editorial on the Kuriositas website "about the art of Japanese Manhole", introduces a quote from English Philosopher, Jermey Bentham, where he casts in writing that "stretching [one's] hand up to reach the stars, too often [one] forgets the flowers at [its] feet." The cited words is meant to interconnect with the description of how Japan's structural elaborations plays a part to the little aspects of the city's overall structures and perhaps leave one marveled by seeing the humbling circular decorations on the ground. The ornate, but self-effacing manhole perhaps is, in this case, one of the prime examples of Japan's thorough designs that exist throughout its establishment. 

Evidently, it's perhaps the creative expenditure put into the manholes and its competition between respective artists and cities that have incited devotees and have cultivated into its own faming culture.