5 Unforgettable Ways To See Japan By Train

1 April 2015

As synonymous with Japan as golden pagoda-topped temples and artfully arranged squares of raw fish, the super-sleek Shinkansen (bullet train) was built for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

The original 515 kilometres of high-speed rail track from Tokyo to Osaka now extend to 2,414 kilometres nationwide. It's faster, too. Originally travelling at speeds of 210 kilometres per hour, the Shinkansen now zips around the country at 320 kilometres per hour.

Travelling on these much-loved trains is not only the quickest, but most comfortable and characterful way to explore Japan.

 Start and end at Tokyo Station (Image: Getty)

But don't pay as you go. Shinkansen fares are pricey. If you're making more than a couple of journeys, a Japan Rail Pass is essential. Buy before you travel.

Trains comprise the speediest way to access even the remotest corners of the country. So step on board the Shinkansen to enjoy some unforgettable Japanese experiences.
.........................................................................................................................................................

1. Bite The Bullet

.........................................................................................................................................................
Take a two-week bullet train bonanza with Inside Japan Tours incorporating every Shinkansen line in Japan, using a number of trains including 2013's red-nosed "Super Komachi" to Akita in the north and 2011's "Sakura" (meaning cherry blossom) to Kagoshima in the south.
.........................................................................................................................................................

2. Soak Up The View

.........................................................................................................................................................
Just an hour-and-a-half from Tokyo, the thickly forested Hakone region will soon be transformed with autumn's fiery "koyo" (colourful leaves) display.

The region is home to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, crowned with Japan's iconic snow-capped peak, and has a network of traditional ryokan inns and steamy onsen (hot spring baths). This a meditative spot to soak up the seasonal show.

 The Bullet Train whistles past Mt Fuji (Image: Getty)

All you need to know about Japan's capital. Tokyo Expert’s Guide: Everything You Need To Know

All you'll need for a rail trip. Essential Items For A Rail Trip – What You’ll Need In The Carriage


.........................................................................................................................................................

3. Get Cultural

.........................................................................................................................................................
Kyoto is just two hours and 20 minutes from Tokyo. Explore this glorious city with a learned local guide from WAK Japan.

Tours and classes range from a couple of hours to a full day, covering everything from tea ceremonies to calligraphy and sake production to sushi rolling.

 Kyoto in full bloom (Image: Getty)

.........................................................................................................................................................

4. Temple Trek

.........................................................................................................................................................
Take the Kumano Kodo trail through the mountainous Kii Peninusla, south-east of Kyoto, to follow in the footsteps of Japan's ancient emperors, who once made pilgrimage here to worship deities in the trees and rocks.

Stroll along waterfall- and shrine-lined paths through cypress and cedar forest, overnighting in mountain villages and small temples.

Plan your route online with the excellent local Tanabe City tourism website (in English) with audio guides to download, plus maps and listings for lodges and transport.
.........................................................................................................................................................

5. Unesco Dining

.........................................................................................................................................................
Japanese cuisine, or "washoku", recently made Unesco's Cultural Heritage List (only the second national cuisine to receive the designation, after French cooking), recognised for its centuries-old techniques and seasonal ingredients.

 The trains are fast, clean and comfortable (Image: Getty)

Intrepid Travel has a 12-day "Real Food Adventure" group tour, with market visits, cooking lessons and the chance to try everything from sizzling yakitori in Osaka to space-age sushi in Tokyo, plus a multi-course kaiseki banquet in Kyoto.

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2wifIxX604&list=PLwDMDSWDd4n9r3iQ452umMr...
.........................................................................................................................................................

Visit your local Flight Centre or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Japan.

.........................................................................................................................................................

This article was written by Sarah Barrell from The Independent and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Sarah Barrell

Sarah Barrel is a travel writer and editor with 15 years experience both on the road and in the offices of national publications.When she is not “out of office” you’ll find Sarah busy as Associate Editor for National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine. She currently lives in North London with her husband and daughter.