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Taking a Ride on Japan's Shinkansen Bullet Train with DJ Max Graham

Where: Osaka, Japan
September 21, 2012 at 12:37 PM | by | ()

Hopping between club nights in Japan, international DJ Max Graham faced a dilemma. Train or plane? Here, he shares his impression of a first trip on the fast train:

Faced with a trip between Osaka and Tokyo, I weighed my two main options. Would it be 2.5 hours on a comfortable train with no security or a 1-hour flight plus 1.5 hours of driving (city to airport on both ends) and another 90 minutes of security, check in and waiting at the gate? The train was winning already, but add to this that it’s the famous Shinkansen Express—one of Japan's shiny bullet trains—and it was a no-brainer.

As with most things Japanese everything was very smooth, from arrival at the station and buying my Bento box meal to heading onto the train itself. The Shinkansen runs quite often and they have it down to a science; if the train is even a minute late there are serious consequences. The staff at the station and on the train were very courteous (which is standard for Japan) and the train quite new and very well kept.

I went all-out and booked “Upper Class” to have the bigger seat, emptier car and the all-important power plug, although with only two and a half hours from Osaka to Tokyo I would hardly need to plug in my MacBook Pro.

Now the fun part: SPEED. Once we got going (right on time, of course), the train slid forward without any whistles or clank of pins between cars. It was literally silent and I would not have noticed we were even moving had I not looked outside. Almost immediately out of the station the Shinkansen began to speed up with seemingly no effort. Then, while still in the city limits (or so it seemed), I could hear a faint whine as the real speed kicked in.

This thing flies, but what’s most impressive is how smooth such a ride can be. It never felt jolty or bumpy; it was just just pure, smooth speed. I have to admit my schedule didn’t allow me to travel during the day so my view wasn’t as great as it could have been (no Mount Fuji for me) but even so I highly recommend taking the train if you’re going between cities it serves.

Despite the futuristic looks and brawn behind the Shinkansen, it still manages to convey the romance of train travel. For me, the real winning aspect was the raw simplicity of the journey.

[Photos: Max Graham/Jaunted]

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