Previously, I have already reviewed a little bit about a brief history of shinkansen and about the ticket of shinkansen which turned out that it consists of many kinds of fee, starting from the basic tariff up to the reserved seat ticket. Then, how do you reserve a seat? Is it important to make a reservation prior going?
Reservation, is it important?
If you ask me “is it important to reserve a seat while travelling on a shinkansen?”, then the answer would be yes and no. It is important for you who wants to travel at peace without having to fight with other passengers to get a seat.
Because, seat reservation indeed needs extra budget. That applies only if the passenger buys the ticket on spot. If he has already bought the inclusive ticket such as JR Pass, reservation is free. There are 3 alternatives to make a reservation:
- Via ticket counter available on almost any big JR stations (there are JR station and non-JR station);
- via vending machine, and
- via websites of the JR companies that operate the track wanted
Seat reservation is available since 1 month prior the departure date until a while prior leaving. The informations required to buy the shinkansen ticket are usually as below:
- the number of people who are about to travel
- departure date
- departure station and destination station
- choice of wagon (regular or green car)
- choice of seat (reserved atau non-reserved).
If choosing the reserved seat, then there would be more informations required would add up for the name of train and the choice of smoking/non-smoking seat (if any). Payment is available in cash or with a credit card.
About the Names of Train
Wait, there are names of train? Special for shinkansen, yes there is. So if you hear of the names like Nozomi, Mizuho, Kodama, and Tanigawa, those are not Japanese celebrities. Those are not even names of Japanese people, who knows maybe there are tourists got introduced to someone whose name is train service.
Just like regular train in Japan, shinkansen also has several categories. There are super-fast train (only make some stops at big stations), there are also super-slow train (make stops on almost every station). More or less, it is similar to trains of express, rapid, and local train in regular trains. The difference is, shinkansen trains are not using the term of “express, rapid, local”, but with specific names.
Is it important to know the train name on every track? Yes it is, because how fast you reach your destination really depends on which shinkansen name you pick. Besides that, the super-fast trains are usually not covered by JR Pass (which is popularly used by foreign tourists).
So, there is nothing wrong for travelers to know various train names and its “caste” so they can consider which train to take when using shinkansen. For the detail, here are the names of tracks and trains operating:
Tokaido Shinkasen (Tokyo/Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka/Kyoto)
The fastest train at this track is Nozomi (Tokyo-Osaka in 2,5 hours). The second fastest train is Hikari (Tokyo-Osaka in 3 hours). The slowest train at this track is Kodama (Tokyo-Osaka in 4 hours).
Sanyo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka, Fukuoka)
The fastest train on this track is Nozomi (2,5 hours from Shin-Osaka to Hakata) and Mizuho (connecting Shin-Osaka with Kagoshima-chuo). The second fastest train is Hikari (connecting Shin-Osaka with Okayama) and Sakura (Shin-Osaka to Kagoshima-Chuo).
Kodama is the slowest shinkansen at this track, and requires 5 hours to go from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. Anyway, Nozomi dan Mizuho are not covered with JR Pass. But they are covered with other rail passes such as JR Sanyo-Shikoku-Kyushu Pass, JR West Sanyo Area Pass, and Kyushu Rail Pass.
Tohoku Shinkansen (Tokyo – Aomori)
There are 4 trains operating at this track, plus 2 trains at mini-shinkansen track operating as the branch of Tohoku Shinkansen track (those are Akita Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen). First I will talk about the 4 trains on Tohoku Shinkansen track.
At Tohoku Shinkansen track, the fastest train is called Hayabusa. This train also happens to be the fastest train in Japan as it can go up to 320 km/hour. Hayabusa doesn’t only take regular wagons, but also the green car and the gran car.
What is the difference between green car and gran car? I will talk about it later on a separated part. The second fastes train on this track is Hayate, followed by Yamabiko. The slowest train at Tohoku Shinkansen track is Nasuno which makes stop at every single stations between Tokyo and Koriyama.For the trains operating on mini shinkansen track, which are the Akita Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen tracks, each only has 1 category of train. For the Akita Shinkansen, there is Komachi train moving away between Tokyo-Morioka (along with Hayabusa) and then continue going on from Morioka to Akita.
Meanwhile on the Yamagata Shinkansen track, there is Tsubasa moving away from Tokyo-Fukushima (along with Yamabiko) and continue going on from Fukushima to Shinjo. Anyway, is anyone wondering why should there be shinkansen and mini-shinkansen tracks?
The shinkansen track, due to its super speed, moves on a special tracks which are wider than regular tracks. Meanwhile, mini shinkansen moves on the regular train tracks which are already converted into the size of standard shinkansen. So, mini-shinkansen can move up to 320 km/hour at regular shinkansen track, but the speed decreases to 130 km/hour when moving on the mini–shinkansen track.
More informations regarding the rest of tracks will continue shortly. I also plan to review about various types of seating and the rules of riding a shinkansen. Wait for it.