Shinkansen. The name must have been familiar for travellers, especially those who love travelling (or at least virtual travelling) to Japan. But as far as I have read, shinkansen is just known to be “super-fast train from Japan”. Actually, there are many other trivias about shinkansen that are interesting to know.

So at this time, I would like to share some trivias regarding shinkansen. Hopefully it could be useful for Travelers who are about to visit Japan, to understand the concept that shinkansen has to offer, or at least it could add up your knowledge about shinkansen.

 

Early History of Shinkansen

Can you believe it that the project of building shinkansen has been initiated since the early of 1930’s? At the beginning, this project literally took the translation of the bullet train, which is dangan ressha. The name of shinkansen was initiated on around the 1940’s, and shinkansen has its own meaning; “shin” = new, and “kansen” = rail network.

So, it is actually wrong to think that the name of shinkansen means “super-fast train”, because shinkansen actually refers to its track. But outside Japan, there are many people mentioning shinkansen with the term superexpress or just bullet train.

Although initiated on 1930’s, shinkansen operated for the first time on 1960’s. Precisely it was on October 1st, 1964, it was when Tokyo Olympic were held. First, the train speed was “only” around 210 km/hour and could reach the distance between Tokyo – Osaka in only 4 hours (normal trip would require 6 hours and 40 minutes. But as for now, shinkansen has evolved and now its median speed is around 320 km/hour, although during the test drive it could reach up to 581 km/hour.

Various models of shinkansen [photo by: Rdb/wikimedia]
Various models of shinkansen [photo by: Rdb/wikimedia]
Type N700 & N 500 [photo by: Takeshi Kuboki/wikimedia]
Type N700 & N 500 [photo by: Takeshi Kuboki/wikimedia]
Series E1 [photo by: Sui-setz/wikimedia]
Series E1 [photo by: Sui-setz/wikimedia]
Series E2 [photo by: zh:user:pyzhou/wikimedia]
Series E2 [photo by: zh:user:pyzhou/wikimedia]

Getting to Know the Tracks of Shinkansen

This is the one info that most travelers might not have known much. In Indonesia, the whole train tracks are managed by the government. But it is different with the train tracks in Japan which could be managed by private companies. So don’t get surprised if when you see the name of a train track in Japan, there would be several company names shows up as well between the track name.

Same applies with the shinkansen tracks. Generally, shinkansen tracks are managed by the group of Japan Railways a.k.a JR. But actually, the tracks are operated by 4 companies united in Japan Railway, they are JR CentralJR WestJR East, and JR Kyushu. Those four operators share responsibilities to handle 6 tracks of shinkansen throughout Japan. Those six tracks of shinkansen and their operators are:

JR Central, managing the track of Tokaido Shinkansen (connecting Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station). The total of track length is 515,4 km and was first opened on 1964.

JR West, managing the track of  Sanyo Shinkansen (connecting Shin-Osaka Station and Hakata Station). The total of track length is 553,7 km, and was first opened on 1972-1975.

JR East, managing the track of Tohoku Shinkansen (Tokyo Station to Shin Aomori Station), Joetsu Shinkansen (Omiya Station to Niigata Station), and Nagano Shinkansen/Hokuriku Shinkansen (Takasaki Station to Nagano Station). Tohoku Shinkansen has the track length of 674,9 km, Joetsu Shinkansen is 269,5 km, and Nagano Shinkansen/Hokuriku Shinkansen is 117,4 km.

JR Kyushu, v Kyushu Shinkansen (connecting Hakata Station and Kagoshima Chuo Station). The total of track length is 256,8 km and was first opened on 2004-2011.

Map of shinkansen track [photo by: Hisagi/wikimedia]
Map of shinkansen track [photo by: Hisagi/wikimedia]
Map of shinkansen track [photo by: aney/wikimedia]
Map of shinkansen track [photo by: aney/wikimedia]
 

And, as additional information, there are also some other tracks dubbed as mini-shinkansen. Those are Yamagata Shinkansen (connecting Fukushima-Shinjo) and Akita Shinkansen (connecting Morioka-Akita).

There are also regular train tracks that were not specially designed for shinkansen but still be able to get through by shinkansen. Those are: Hakata Minami Line (connecting Hakata – Hakata-minami) and Gala-Yuzawa Line (technically is just a branch of Joetsu Line).

Besides those tracks, actually there are still several other tracks that are currently developed. But I am pending it at this point, because if the article gets too long, it might get you dizzy.

By the way, is there anyone of you curious of why you should know about the names of shinkansen tracks? By knowing the tracks of shinkansen, travellers could have got more varied choices of rail passes.

All this time, most foreign tourists know only JR Pass as its only unlimited ticket to get on the whole JR train (including shinkansen). Though actually, by knowing the probability of other tracks to take, there are many choices of other rail passes that also cover shinkansen and the price is even cheaper.

 

Ticket, ticket, and ticket

When taking a regular train, a passenger only needs to buy 1 kind of ticket. Next, all he needs to do is just to sit back until he reaches his destination, if he gets a seat. But in shinkansen, the system is a bit different. The ticket consists of several sub-items. The detail is as below:

  • Basic tariff. This is the standard tariff to travel from place A to B. Just like any regular train, the tariff rates may vary according to the distance.
  • Shinkansen supplement. It is an extra tariff charged to access the shinkansen train.
  • Reserved Seat Ticket. Basic tariff mentioned above is purely the tariff for the trip only. If you want to reserve a seat (to make sure you have a place to sit on during the whole trip), there is an extra tariff charged. The amount of it may be different between regular days and holiday period. It is usually around ¥320*, ¥520*, or ¥720*. But if you want to be more frugal, you can simply just not reserve a seat and directly go on the train.
  • Green car feeGreen car is the term to the God’s wagon, or the first class wagon. What differs it from the regular wagon? I’ll explain about it on a separate part.

So, when riding a shinkansen, normally the passenger needs to pay the basic tariff + shinkansen supplement + reserved seat ticket + green car fee (if he wants to be in the first class wagon). That is why everytime I am writing about shinkansen ticket at many articles on this blog, I always add up a note of “seat tariff is not included”

Additional info, normally the basic tariff ticket and shinkansen supplement is written separately (passenger will receive 2 different kinds of ticket). But there are times when both basic tariff ticket and shinkansen supplement is written in one same ticket. If using the rail pass (ex: JR Pass), passenger will no longer need to think of how much is the basic tariff or the shinkansen supplement he needs to pay and he could also reserve a seat for free.

A sample of a shinkansen ticket [photo by: Newsliner/wikimedia]
A sample of a shinkansen ticket [photo by: Newsliner/wikimedia]
A sample of Reserved Seat Ticket from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka [photo by: JRHorse/wikimedia]
A sample of Reserved Seat Ticket from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka [photo by: JRHorse/wikimedia]
Ticket and its English translation [photo by: Fg2/wikimedia]
Ticket and its English translation [photo by: Fg2/wikimedia]
A sample of shinkansen hikari ticket [photo by: Cassiopeia sweet/wikimedia]
A sample of shinkansen hikari ticket [photo by: Cassiopeia sweet/wikimedia]
 

Then where could we buy the ticket for shinkansen? We’ll continue on the next trivia. Let’s have a rest first!

***

All About Shinkansen, The Japan’s Super-Fast Train (Part 2)

All About Shinkansen, The Japan’s Super-Fast Train (Part 3 END)

Railway Museum, A Must-Visit Train Museum in Tokyo

***

* Prices may change unexpectedly
* All pictures were taken through creative commons. There are no editting from the original pictures. Name credits are based on the username on flickr/wikimedia.