Flying by the Seat of Your Pants- The Only Way to Go in Japan

Shinkansen Travel. The Japanese Name for “Bullet Train” and the Clampitts preferred form of long distance travel. Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world, becomes grid locked on the weekends with city folk desperate to escape. A 2 hour drive in or out on the weekends becomes 4-6. On the flip side, rocketing along the tracks at speeds of 210 mph is not only hypersonic, it guarantees even the most finicky frequent flyer a momentary thrill. Middle Schoolers make them appear as first time flyers when it comes to exacting demands for scrumptious snacks, expectations for superior treatment, and deluxe accommodations, therefore, given the choice of being locked in a car for 5 hours or reclining comfortably in a Shinkansen for 2, Spouse and I readily opt for the Shinkansen whenever possible.

Get too close to the tracks and the station master waves the red flag your way...

Why these aren’t all over the US and exactly how they can travel at such speeds without being derailed by a well placed penny is beyond my comprehension. Japan is about the size of California, slightly larger than Great Britain, and slightly smaller than France. Most areas in Japan are accessible in a day via Shinkansen and a bus, subway or taxi ride on the other side.

I might as well say it here, now, for all of you to know. There is English on the Shinkansen, and all the other trains as well. No need to worry about one’s exact location, disembarking at the wrong stop, or accidentally touring the entirety of Japan and ending up where one began- the announcements are in Japanese and English. Further, yes- there’s more to this confession- signage in English is posted through out all train terminals. The illusion of my superior Japanese speaking and navigational abilities now remains solely in my head. I’m a thief and a liar- well- more like an exaggerater extraordinaire. Dang it.

Here’s the grandmother of the Shinkansens…She’s slower than the new version- but roomy.

Three sections are available- non reserved, reserved and green. Green stands for “First Class,” perhaps after the “Green Room” used by actors awaiting their time on stage? I can hear all the New Yorkers now- “Fu git aboud it! We got dose up heya.” Except my grandmother in her long nightgown, with her Dobby knees and her walker could outrun the Acela express. Unlike train travel in certain parts particular to the US, most specifically in the Northeastern portion, along a precise route, geographically limited to the Nation’s capital, the city famous for birthing “Rocky,” and the third of the trilogy, the Big Apple, one does not have to endure the conversations of every passenger on board, simultaneously, all talking with their outside voices. Me yelling standing and yelling “SHUT UP” never seemed to do any good. Or it didn’t in my mind when I did it.

The Rocket of the NE United States- the Acela

I have excellent footage demonstrating the superior speed of the Shinkansen however, upon reviewing I started to get a tad queasy- which I did not experience on the train- and I fear it can only be attributable to my video skills. I’ll try again on our upcoming trip to Kyoto.

The big buzz in these parts is the new Shinkansen:

Pretty soon the Clampitts will go from this:


I see myself lounging like this:


Show of hands- Shinkansen or the family van?

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20 Responses to Flying by the Seat of Your Pants- The Only Way to Go in Japan

  1. Lisa says:

    Shinkansen! Shinkansen! I loved to travel by that. Except when I was there they didn’t have any English on the trains, which made travelling exciting at times. Enjoy your trip to Kyoto, it is so beautiful there.



    • amblerangel says:

      Aah Lisa- you see now why I’m so slow at learning Japanese!!! I can’t wait to go to Kyoto!!!!Any places you absolutely think I can’t miss?


      • Lisa says:

        I always loved Kinkakuji (The Gold Temple) and there’s another one that I can’t think of at the moment, but I will look it up and get back to you.


      • amblerangel says:

        The Gold Temple is on the list, also 1000 Buddhas, and the Phoenix Temple- the Rock Garden Ryoanji is a good addition for the trip with the Nose- this trip has 4 teenagers so I’ve limited to 3 temples in Kyoto. Also going to Nara- big Buddha. Doing the boat/train/rapids trip. That combined with some shopping should be a pretty full agenda.What do you think?


      • Lisa says:

        The other one I love is Ryoanji which is very peaceful and beautiful, with amazing rock gardens.


    • Lisa says:

      Sounds fabulous and full. I don’t know anything about the boat/train/rapids trip, but I am sure it will be great. I like Nara too.


  2. Tori Nelson says:

    Haha. This statement is about to point out what a podunk hillbilly I am:
    I am well-versed in The Bullet Train from Disney Jr.’s “Choo Choo Soul”. Yes, I’m about the most cultured lady in these parts.


    • amblerangel says:

      Tori- You are a creative genius- unfortunately- Disney blocked this video in “My Country” due to copyright issues so I’ll have to go look it up so I can see- anything with soul in it get’s me going. I started to go off on soul train in my post but decided it was too far off of center….


  3. Shinkansen, for sure! Looks like something from Star Wars! And ABOSLUTELY other-wordly compared to the trains in Vietnam!

    Hugs from Haiti,


  4. I would definitely love to travel by Shinkansen — anywhwere! I am more and more humbled by all the things in the world that I know nothing about. Thanks for moving this one over to the plus side.


  5. Wish we had a proper public transport system here . . . I wouldn’t even require it to be as fancy or go as fast as the Shinkansen.


  6. Olga SE says:

    I’d love to see Japan with my own eyes. I think it’s fabulous! 😀


  7. Michi says:


    I always hated the fact that Western U.S. doesn’t have proper (affordable) public transportation, and that it’s built for cars.

    It’s so nice living in a place where you don’t need to rely on having a car in order to get to places!!


  8. Dana says:

    Hmm… because I am still (STILL!) trying to get back home via super slow Greyhound bus, my vote would obviously have to be for the FASTEST TRAIN POSSIBLE!! Japan never ceases to amaze me– thanks for sharing! 🙂


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