I love traveling on trains. This is by far my favourite form of transport. I enjoy the freedom of being able to walk around, relax, admire the view, enjoy a meal and sometimes socialise with other passengers. When traveling through Russia, Tibet or Sri Lanka or spending time on Indian and Burmese trains: I loved it. In Japan that feeling is no different, but the experience… Well, it is totally different!
Shinkansen trains are fast (very fast: 320km/hr!), quiet, clean, punctual to the second and futuristic looking. The Japanese rail system is the most punctual in the world. They are so punctual that, if there is a one minute delay, an official apology is given by the train driver and conductor as it is believed that delays would betray customer confidence.
The Japanese seem to love their trains. There are some hardcore train lovers called “train spotters” or “tetsudou otaku” who learn and study trains, collect models, conductor uniforms, ride, photograph and know all train systems.
There are no dinning cars on Japanese trains, instead there is a huge choice of Ekiben at every station and platform. Ekiben are railway boxed/bento meals. At big stations like Tokyo or Kyoto you’ll find hundreds of types of ekiben to choose from in many shops, booths and stalls. These meals usually consist of rice (sometimes noodles), omelette, sushi, tonkatsu, cooked fish or meat and vegetables depending on the regional cuisine.
Every long train ride is an excuse to grab one of the boxes and as soon as the train leaves the station, people start eating them with their hot or cold tea, sake or beer.
Food and drink, a smooth, fast ride and views of Mt Fuji. Whats not to love?