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.