Japan is the “country of transportation”. Anyone who has traveled in Japan can testify that Japanese public transportation is extremely efficient and just as simple and intuitive to use. Trains are particularly efficient, so much so that more and more often the famous Shinkansen, the “high speed trains” also appear in Italian newspapers and TV news. In large Japanese cities in particular, trains and subways have been a valid alternative to the car for decades, an often uncomfortable and “unpunctual” solution due to the high volume of road traffic. As a direct consequence, Japan has the world’s most active rail network. Approximately 18 million people use the train every day, and this figure represents 40 people and the country’s total daily passengers. To understand the importance of this figure, one only has to think that in the United States, for example, the percentage of those who travel by train every day does not exceed 8%. Every day, about 26,000 trains run in Japan, of which about 70 are operated by Japan Railways, the country’s main railroad. This company is responsible for the birth of the super fast trains called Shinkansen, true engineering masterpieces and a source of pride for the entire nation.
Shinkansen High Speed Trains
The Shinkansen “high-speed train” was born in 1964 and immediately goes down in history as the very first high-speed train ever created. This new railway line was originally designed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and its construction was a colossal task. To connect Tokyo to the major cities in central Japan, many tunnels were dug in the mountains and in many cases the existing viaducts were remodeled to accommodate the tracks. There are now many more passable roads and these very fast trains run daily from the north to the south of Japan. The design of the trains is very futuristic, as is their speed: in service, these trains reach a top speed of 320 km/h, but during operational tests, they are pushed to over 500 km/h. So it’s not surprising that in a country prone to earthquakes, typhoons and heavy snowfall in winter, trains are always on time. Travellers can choose to travel in first called green or second class. Although the latter is almost at the level of first class in other countries of the world, Shinkansen offers an even higher standard. In Japan, first class seats are wider, more comfortable and equipped with footrests. The windows are very large and the car is generally pleasantly quiet due to the small number of passengers. The size of the windows is not a detail to be underestimated, because for the Japanese, Shinkansen is no longer just a means of transportation, but a true travel experience. In fact, many itineraries offer beautiful countryside scenery to observe, including rice paddies, tea plantations and, for the lucky ones, picturesque views of Mount Fuji. Some itineraries offer an even higher class than the first class called Gran Class, synonymous with true luxury.
Rules to be followed on Japanese trains
Whether you’re on a high-speed train, a city train or even on the subway, in Japan there is an etiquette to be respected. Many of these rules are unwritten and all are aimed at a calm and peaceful sharing of transportation service. The most common ones should be mentioned: a separate speech must finally be given for women-only carriages, a very special feature of Japanese trains. As the name suggests, many trains have one or more cars which, at the busiest times, can only be used by women. If you are a man and you access these cars technically, you are not breaking any laws, but be prepared for long glances and a good grunt from the ladies present.
The Japanese train in everyday life
As you have already mentioned, the train, in all its forms, is the most expensive means of transportation for the Japanese. Thanks to the vast network of rail and subway lines, most people living in large cities can make the various daily trips without ever having to take the car. Thus, the train becomes an integral part of the daily life of millions of Japanese people. It will therefore be the train with its very precise service schedules that will mark the moments in a worker’s life. However, the punctuality of Japanese vehicles can also be a double-edged sword. Indeed, the last train of the day will not wait for latecomers, and if an unfortunate employee fails to catch it, he will be forced to return to spend a night out of schedule in a capsule hotel.
A trip to Japan by train always includes destinations such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Koyasan. To get to Koyasan, take a train on the Nankai Koya line (not included in the JR Pass) from Namba Nankai, Shin-Imamiya or Tengachaya stations, which are closest to your accommodation in Osaka, to Gokurakubashi.