There are many shinkansen facts that break records and make world firsts. We've included the ones that stand out the most to us or are essential to know to make your bullet train ride the amazingly smooth trip that it is. If you've got tips to add please let us know!
If you are going to travel long distance in Japan, we hope you'll get the chance to add this mode of Tokyo transport to your holiday to do list.
One of the most important shinkansen facts you'll need to know is where you can board the train to start your journey from Tokyo city.
There are 2 major stations that serve the bullet train - Tokyo Station and Shinagawa Station. The majority of journeys from Tokyo will start from one or the other of these two hubs.
There is a third station at Ueno, but only the Tohoku Line (North) and Joetsu Line (Niigata) can be boarded here.
All three stations, Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Ueno, are located on the Yamanote Line that circles central Tokyo. Follow the link to see where they are.
If you are coming in from Tokyo Narita International Airport and want to continue your journey to another part of Japan on the shinkansen, you must first make your way to Tokyo Station. See our airport section to see the different ways you can do this.
Useful Shinkansen Facts for Planning your Trip
Below are some shinkansen facts - things to do or be aware of - to help you plan your trip before you board your bullet train.
- Time - Your train will leave on time barring unexpected incidents. Don't be late and give yourself time to get your baggage on board.
- Seat Reservations - Reserving your seats can only be done once you have arrived in Japan for certain shinkansen routes. For the online service see JR East online reservation service. To reserve in person you can do this at Tokyo Narita Airport JR office or at major JR stations around Tokyo.
- Advance Booking - Tickets for the bullet train can be booked up to a month in advance.
- Japan Rail Pass - If you have a Japan Rail Pass there is no extra charge to reserve your seat. You will need to go to a JR ticket office to do this for some stations. See the link provided above for the JR East online reservation service for full information on which lines can be pre-booked before your arrival in Japan.
- Smoking - Most long-distance routes offer smoking and non-smoking seating seats. Confirm availability at the time of booking.
- Luggage - Luggage should be manageable and preferably not too large. See our Japan bullet train page for more information.
- Bicycles - If you are traveling with a bicycle you need to disassemble it and carry it in a bicycle carrying bag. There is no extra charge for this.
Interesting Shinkansen Facts
- History - The first line to be constructed was the Tokaido/Sanyo Line in 1964. This route runs parallel to the original Tokaido road that was constructed during the Edo period to connect Osaka and Kyoto with Tokyo. Over the years it has served as one of the major trade routes in Japan that established and enabled the success of the Tokyo we know today.
- Speed, Frequency and Stopping Distances - The top speed of the shinkansen is 300km/h. When it is traveling at this speed, the required stopping distance is 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Trains on some routes run approximately every 5 minutes.
- Safety Record - One of the shinkansen facts that jumps out at us the most is that there has never been a major accident in all the years it has been in operation. When you remember that Japan is renowned for regular earthquakes, this fact becomes all the more significant.
If you want to know more about this amazing train check out this dedicated site by Dave Fossett.