no alt text

Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 23 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Rob Goss

Whizzing around Japan at up to 320 km/h, Japan’s world-famous ‘bullet train’ (shinkansen in Japanese) isn’t just quick, convenient and incredibly punctual – a journey on one is a bucket list experience in and of itself.

From the regimented cleaning crews who whip through the train before boarding to make the carriages spotless, through to bowing conductors, it’s a very Japanese affair. It’s very safe too; in 50 years, carrying over 10 billion passengers, there has not been a single injury.

With comfy reclining seats and, in most cases, regular trolley services selling snacks and drinks, it’s also very relaxing – especially if you watch Japan go by from the window while tucking into a bento and sake. Just as importantly, the Shinkansen can get you across large parts of Japan’s main island, Honshu, but also connects to Kyushu out west and Hokkaido up north.

It connects Toyko, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagano and many other major cities. So if you are planning to visit multiple destinations on your trip, make the Shinkansen part of your itinerary.

Price from: £90
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 2+ hours

Getting there & doing it

It’s 2.5 hours one way to Tokyo, and 4 hours one way to Kyoto from Nagano train station. Trains run regularly to cities across Japan, and usually, you can get tickets from station ticket offices on the day, so there’s no need to book in advance unless travelling at peak times.

A single ticket for the Shinkansen can be pricey – around 14,000 yen (£90) one way between Tokyo and Kyoto. But if you are going to use the trains a lot, a Japan Rail Pass, which is available only to non-residents, offers such big savings on the Shinkansen and other trains that it pays for itself even just using it for a return trip between Nagano and Tokyo or Kyoto.

When to do it

Bullet trains run all year round, seven days a week.

Round-ups that include this experience

Bullet train speeding in front of Mount Fuji

Be it jaw-dropping scenery, a rich historical significance, the tradition and atmosphere of the train itself – or a combination of all three – here’s our round-up of the world’s best.