Faster than a speeding bullet – Japan’s shinkansen

Would it sound bad if I said that my first trip on Japan’s bullet train was a bit…. meh? I wasn’t disappointed, I just wasn’t that amazingly impressed. I’m not sure what I was expecting — perhaps it is all the hype about the shinkansen (that’s Japanese for bullet train), the pride that the Japanese take in it, the reputation of being super fast, super efficient, and super sleek. Well, I hope I don’t offend anyone when I say yeah, the bullet train is cool, but to be honest, I didn’t quite see what all the fuss is about.

YES, it is insanely fast, so fast that your ears often pop, even though you are not in the air. YES, it the busiest high speed train in the world, and YES it has transported almost five BILLION passengers since it was launched. These are all impressive. But, I have to say, it is…. well… it’s just a train. Is that terrible? Maybe I was expecting… I dunno…. super comfy vibrating seats and robots that push carts through the aisle selling ice cold Asahi beer. But instead what I found was just a train, albeit an incredibly fast one. Oh well. Sorry Japan.

In Tokyo Station, ready to go

Anyway, so I took the bullet train and headed south out of Tokyo the other day, with baby in tow. We bought our eki-ben (station lunch box), which is a must for the trip, and travelled like a speeding bullet to Okayama to visit a friend of mine who used to be my neighbour in Tokyo and now lives there. I’ve hardly travelled at all outside of the Tokyo area, despite many trips to Japan. I guess it is easy to get stuck in the action of the biggest city in the world, so I was looking forward to seeing a different part of Japan.

We zipped past Yokohama, and then in the blink of an eye we were zooming through Nagoya, then Kyoto, then Osaka, and a little under three hours later, I had travelled a whopping 676km to reach Okayama. (Okay, yeah, that’s pretty impressive, I have to admit. Fine!)  From Okayama, I switched to the local line, and went a few stops to Kurashiki, where I’d be staying for two nights.



I didn’t have that much time in Kurashiki itself, but I did get to visit its most famous tourist area, called Bikan. It’s a very well preserved part of town with an interesting mix of traditional Japanese architecture, white-walled shophouses, narrow cobble-stoned streets, and a pretty little canal. There weren’t that many tourists, so it was easy to amble around and sample some of the local snackies that were on sale. I also was lucky enough to have a couple on their wedding day turn around and flash me a peace sign!

17th century merchant home
Beautiful fall foliage by the canal
Tourists taking a ride
Sweet of them! Congratulations to the bride and groom!
Lots… and lots… of old assed domestic tourists. I swear going to Japan is like being on the set of ‘Children of Men’
写真 4
Eating dango (roasted rice balls) with my friend’s two little dudes

But boy, I have to say, travelling alone with a baby can be hard. She is an amazingly good traveller, but she is getting HEAVY! I love the Baby Bjorn, but it is almost time to retire it and find a bigger carrier. After a few days of going around town with her strapped to my body, my shoulders were killing me.

Ah, that’s what they should have on the bullet train. Robots that give massages. Now THAT would be super impressive.

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