Out of all the unique ways to travel throughout Japan, perhaps one of the most remarkable forms of efficient travel options is the Shinkansen or “bullet train.” Recorded as the world’s first high-speed railway system, it continues to arguably be the best in the world.

Bullet Train station

The Shinkansen’s impressive system is comprised of seven different lines that transport over 400 million passengers a year. Operating speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, passengers can get to their destinations in half the time it would take to drive so it’s no surprise the Shinkansen is one of the most popular ways to travel. Travelers can choose from several options of destination hotspots like Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Niigata, Misawa and Sendai. In fact, within Shinkansen line transfers, one could travel from the southern tip of Kyushu all the way north to the southern tip of Hokkaido in 12 hours versus driving 27 hours.

Reserved car (coach)

So here’s how it works: each Shinkansen train has a total of 15 passenger cars and each are divided into three tiers including Non-Reserved (first come, first serve basis), Reserved (coach), and Green Car (business class). As each tier differs in its seating, so do its prices. For example, if you purchase a Non-Reserved seat, prices are significantly more affordable but all available seats may be full upon boarding – leaving you to stand for hours until the next seat becomes available.

Green car (business class)

Now that we understand seating tiers, here are several options for how to purchase Shinkansen tickets: Japan Railways ticket offices, ticket vending machines, and major Japanese travel agencies offer tickets for each tier. If language is a barrier, visit the ITT office located in Building 555 on the main side of Yokota AB next to Security Forces across from the main Fussa Gate.

(Travel Tip: ITT has exclusive travel specials and deals with Shinkansen companies so prices may be cheaper than booking on your own or through other agencies.)

Opting to fly may be faster and similarly priced, but consider the time saved from not having to show up early to check in, go through security, and having to board 30-minutes earlier only to sit in those cramped airplane seats. Also, there’s a certain sense of freedom when traveling by Shinkansen like having zero weight limits for luggage, no restrictions on approved electronics, all liquid sizes are allowed, and any type of food or drink (alcohol included) is permitted.

Maximize your time in Japan and experience the Shinkansen as a great way to see the sights in comfort. Call ITT at 227-7083 for more information.

Photography credit: Adrian Uribe