I hate checking in. It's a pain in the butt. And then, when you've got through the whole check-in process and been appropriately scowled at by immigration, there's all the waiting around before boarding.
Worst of all is the flight itself. I mean I'll fly because it's the only way I'm going to get to some of the places I want to see within a workable timeframe. But I'll never enjoy it, although it's not for a lack of trying. It's just that the idea of being 35,000 feet above the ground with no control over what happens freaks me out. Now that probably says far more about me than anything else. Still, my hatred of flying is just one of the reasons I love taking bullet train tours in Japan.
First of all you can get to almost all the major cities in Japan on this world famous train (the shinkansen as it's known in Japanese). If you fancy seeing as much of the country as you can while you're here, bullet train tours are a great way to zoom from A to B. And you don't need to do the whole airport check-in routine so you're not wasting precious holiday time waiting to board your train.
So what do you need to know if you want to give this one a whirl while you're here?
There are a number of package bullet train tours you can choose from if you'd rather let someone else do all the organising. And there are some good reasons for doing this if it fits within your budget. Not only will your bullet train tickets be booked for you, so will your accommodation and any other supporting activities that are part of the tour.
So what should you look out for when you're choosing a pre-organised tour?
Do a little bit of research into the time of year you're going to be in Japan. Some bullet train tours run all year round and you can take them any time. Regular routes include Mount Fuji, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima. But others are seasonal and designed to include an event or activity that only happens at one particular time of year. If one of these is being offered during the dates you want to visit, they're an excellent way of guaranteeing you get to see part of what makes Japan unique.
If you'd rather plan your own bullet train tours than take the pre-organised option, here are some bullet train facts you'll need to know:
When you're planning ahead for your bullet train trip be careful not to make assumptions. To the question, "Can we book our bullet train tour tickets in advance?" The answer is, "It depends."
This is where pre-organised bullet train tours definitely have the advantage. You can book these tours as far in advance as they are available. And you can do it from anywhere where you have an internet connection or access to a travel agent. Your tickets will be sent to you and that's it. You're done.
For the D.I.Y. option, although you can reserve your seat on some bullet trains in advance, the most popular lines, the Kyushu, Tokaido & Sanyo Shinkansen cannot be reserved until after you arrive in Japan. That can be a headache if you want to travel during one of the popular holidays.
Even if you are able to reserve in advance, you must go in person to collect your tickets at the latest by 21:00 JST (Japan Standard Time) on the day before you travel. It's not that this is a difficult thing to do. It's just another thing you have to put on your to do list once the holiday has started. The real question is whether you want a to do list while you're on your vacation.
For more information on this and for the link to reserve your tickets in advance, visit the official shinkansen reservations page.
To see the full range of tours currently available, including non bullet train tours, see our Tokyo Tours section. Or check out the bullet train tours available below. And remember, if you don't like flying, this beats the heck out of traveling at 35,000 feet!
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