• Region : Asia
  • Type : High Speed Trains
  • Traveller Interest : Family TimeA Need for speed
  • Introduction / History
  • Accommodation
  • Dining / Lounge

The Shinkansen, also known as THE BULLET TRAIN, is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by Japan Railways. They connect Tokyo with most of the country’s major cities on Japan’s 2 main islands – Honshu & Kyushu. Shinkansen literally means "new trunk line", referring to the tracks, but the name is widely used inside and outside Japan to refer to the trains as well as the system as a whole. All shinkansen lines (except the Akita and Yamagata Shinkansen) run on tracks that are exclusively built for and used by shinkansen trains. Most lines are served by multiple train categories, ranging from the fastest category that stops only at major stations to the slowest category that stops at every station along the way. Running at speeds of up to 300 km/h, the shinkansen is known for punctuality (most trains depart on time to the second), comfort (relatively silent cars with spacious, always forward facing seats), safety and efficiency.

Most shinkansen trains in Japan offer seats in two classes, which are typically found in separate compartments. A newest class has recently been added.


Like the name suggests, ordinary seats are the regular seats found on all shinkansen trains. Although the size and leg room of ordinary seats varies between train sets, ordinary seats are generally comfortable and offer generous leg room. They usually come in rows of 3x2 seats. Seats recline and have tables, magazine pockets and open overhead shelves. Some newer train sets have electrical outlets installed along the walls.

Green Car

Comparable to business class on airplanes, green cars offer seats that are larger and more comfortable than ordinary seats and offer more leg room. The seats are arranged in rows of 2x2 seats. Green Cars tend to be less crowded than ordinary cars. The seats are often equipped with a foot rest, reading light, electrical outlets (for aisle and window seats) and a seat warmer, although this varies from train set to set.

Green Class

The Gran Class is available on the new train sets of the Tohoku Shinkansen. These seats are comparable to first class airline seats. Gran Class offer seats that are even more spacious and comfortable than Green Car seats (in rows of 2x1 seats) and additional amenities and services.

All seats on shinkansen trains can be turned by 180 degrees, allowing travellers to always face forward. The seats are turned by the staff at the terminal stations, but can also be turned by passengers, for example, to create a group of four or six seats facing each other. All shinkansen are equipped with multiple toilets, western and Asian. Outside the toilets are wash corners with sinks and large mirrors. 

Most shinkansen trains are served by small food carts with a selection of snacks, drinks and boxed meals (bento) which periodically pass along the aisle. Some trains also have vending machines with drinks and pay phones. Wireless internet is available on the newest train sets between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. However, a subscription or 1-day pass has to be purchased before boarding the train.