Reply to post: The many joys of Japanese trains.

Japan's bullet trains replace smoking rooms with Zooming rooms


The many joys of Japanese trains.

JP trains have taken a bit of a hit from the pandemic, but the shinkansen, which arrive on time to the minute, run every 10 minutes or so at peak times on the Tokaido line from Tokyo to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and on down the country. Most of mine had power. They are all well staffed. The staff wear immaculate uniforms and white gloves, and bow to the passengers when they enter and leave carriages. The platforms are well staffed too, and all rail staff use 'shisa kanko' - hand movements, that go with specific tasks, so that they do them properly each time. The shinkansen are just beautiful. You may find yourself stroking the 'nose cone' of one.

Another joy of the Japanese rail system is that almost everyone that isn't napping on the metro is staring at their smartphones. But making calls whilst on the rail network is frowned upon. You might get some loud, inebriated salarymen if you are unlucky, but in general, passengers behave well and carriages can be very quiet. The chikan (gropers) on the metro usually avoid Westerners. One the bigger lines, the electronic signs and announcements are usually in Japanese and English, sometimes in Korean and Chinese too. Just remember to wear layers on longer journeys, as shinkansen and other fast trains can be quite warm in cold weather.

The standard trains get very full during commuter periods, although some trains/lines can be a bit less crowded. On the fullest, you don't even need to hang on to anything. You can stand there, wedged in on all sides, everyone keeping everyone else up, swaying with the train. It's not as claustrophobic as you might expect as crowd behaviour in Japan is good and they are experts at it. People do seem to be able to get on and off, no matter how full the train.

There are so many different services, including monorails, tourist trains with viewing windows, sleeper trains, small rural and private services, driverless trains and ones that travel down the middle of the street. Visit Japan and you may return a trainspotter. If you are a trainspotter, Japan might be considered the centre of your universe.

I was there (masked) in February 2020 and coughed up an extra £400 to BA to get home early (masked, for the whole flight) on a packed 'last chopper out of Saigon' 777, fearing flights would be suspended. I would happily have been trapped there but for family commitments. I do miss it. Bumping along late out of King's Cross, someone with a whiny voice yelling down a phone nearby for most of the journey, worrying if my luggage is going to get nicked, the culture shock on getting back to the UK is fearsome.

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