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The Green car seats get a great forward view past the driver. The photo shows how comfortable the ordinary class seats are, and the large picture windows a welcome change for the smaller windows on the shinkansen. Completing the picture, there are many, many local and rapid trains, again of many shapes and sizes Rapid train at Shin-Osaka Local train in Tokyo Sleeper trains You can use the Sunrise Express at no extra charge with a Japan Rail Pass if you make a reservation for one of the basic nobinobi berths see the photo below left or you can pay the room fee to have a private compartment.
Without a pass, you pay the regular fare and limited express extra fare plus these berth costs.
The sleeper train runs on the classic narrow-gauge network, but it can save time compared with daytime shinkansen travel but more importantly it's a unique experience, watch the Sunrise Express video. It could save a hotel bill too! See the official Sunrise Express information page , in Japanese, translatable with Google Chrome, to see photo of each accommodation type and check current berth fees.
Remember that with a Japan Rail Pass you can easily double back, leaving or boarding the train an hour away in Okayama at a more attractive time instead. It has nobinobi floor berths above left, free with a Japan Rail Pass, reservation required , single and twin B-type berths a twin berth compartment is shown above centre and deluxe single and twin compartments, not shown here. When accessing or leaving the platform area at any principal Japanese station, you'll need to pass through a set of automatic ticket gates like the ones shown here. To catch a shinkansen train you may need to pass through two sets of gates, the first to access the JR Lines platform area serving the classic network, then another to access the Shinkansen platforms.
The gates are usually open by default, they'll spring shut if you try to pass through without a ticket. All gate lines have a staffed side-gate, and if you have a Japan Rail Pass you'll need to use this. Just flash your pass at the side gate and you'll be waved through. Ticket gates at the entrance to the Shinkansen platforms at Hiroshima.
As you can see, the staffed side gate is on the left. Many visitors worry about language in Japan, but signs are in both Japanese and English and the system is so efficient and easy to use. The photos below show how easy it is to find the right platform, stand in the right place for your car when the train comes in, and be sure you're getting on the right train. This is the main departures board at Hiroshima.
To the left of the clock, departures towards Hakata. To the right of the clock, departures towards Tokyo. I have a ticket for Sakura leaving at , I can see it will go from track If you want to hop on Sakura without a reservation, you can see that cars are the non-reserved ones. Platform indicator at Tokyo. The train now at platform 16 is Hikari departing The next train at this platform will be Kodama , followed by Nozomi Car Platform markings tell you exactly where to stand for the doors to each car. The 'clover' indicates a green car.
Hikari Signs on the side of a shinkansen train confirm which train it is. This is bound for Shin-Osaka, this is a green car, and it's reserved Luggage on trains Luggage is no real problem on Japanese trains. Within reason, you can take what you like, nobody weighs it, measures it or argues about it. You simply take it with you onto the train and stick it on any suitable luggage rack. The overhead racks on shinkansen trains take anything up to backpack size.
If you have a huge suitcase or don't want to lift heavy bags to the overhead rack, go to the back of your car and put your bags in the gap between the wall and the rearmost seats, as in the photo below right. This is free of charge. It will no longer be possible to travel in an unreserved seats car with very large suitcases.
The suitcases will go in behind the rear row of seats, or when modifications are completed in a new lockable luggage area which will replace some of the washbasins in designated cars. Obviously, the cm cut-off means this won't affect backpacks or normal-sized luggage, just over-sized cases. For more details see www. Most items fit on the overhead racks Room for large items at the rear of the car.
Luggage lockers at stations All principal stations have luggage lockers in various sizes in various locations. It's not usually difficult to find vacant lockers at any time of day. There's also a small staffed left luggage office at Tokyo station, inside the Marunouchi central entrance inside the JR Lines gated area. Luggage lockers in Himeji, useful when stopping there to visit the famous castle. First the bad news. Japanese trains don't have restaurant car or even a bar car, just vending machines and in some cases a refreshment trolley. The trolley on premier shinkansen trains such as Nozomi, Hikari, Mizuho or Sakura services sells tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, sake, snacks, small tubs of ice cream.
The trolley accepts both cash and credit cards. Now the good news. You can of course take your own food and drink onto Japanese trains, and one of the joys of Japanese train travel is the ekiben - eki meaning station, ben short for bento , meaning traditional Japanese packed lunch. Ekiben is sold at ekiben shops found at all main stations, and also from the refreshment trolley on principal shinkansen services. The ekiben boxes include chopsticks and finger wipes. If you want to buy ekiben from the shinkansen refreshment trolley, just ask the trolley lady - she'll show you pictures of the what she has available in a little laminated menu booklet, just point to the one you want.
You'll soon be a Black Belt in the ancient and honourable Japanese martial art of Eki-ben One of many ekiben shops at Tokyo station An ekiben with octopus, bought on the train A selection of mouthwatering ekiben at a station You can reckon on finding power sockets for standard Japanese plugs at seats on almost all shinkansen and most limited expresses. Check your mobile provider for a data package for Japan, there is good mobile data reception along most shinkansen routes. Unlike most main stations worldwide, Tokyo station lacks a main entrance and main concourse.
It's something of a rabbit warren, but as most visitors end up there sooner or later, here are some tips. It's the busiest station in Japan in terms of trains, though not in terms of passenger numbers. The tracks run north-south through the city on a raised viaduct. So at Tokyo station, most platforms are one level up from street level, above the ticket offices, passageways and shops.
The west side of the station is called the Marunouchi side , and it features the historic station building built in and now beautifully restored, it's upper floors occupied by the Tokyo Station Hotel. It's the quieter side of the station, close to the Imperial Palace. It's all well-signed in English.
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The Yaesu side also has a North, Central and South entrance. The north passage A useful passageway connects the Marunouchi North entrance with the Yaesu North entrance, without passing through any ticket barriers - you'll also find lockers and cheap eateries along this passageway. If you want to get from one side of the station to the other without a Japan Rail Pass or other ticket, you'll need to use this North Passage. Which platform?
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The platforms are numbered 1 to 23, with platform 1 on the Marunouchi side of the station, platform 23 on the Yaesu side. Keiyo Line platforms , also underground, served by local trains. Tokyo Station, Marunouchi side Tokyo's historic station building on the Marunouchi west side. The Marunouchi North entrance is beneath the dome on the far left, the Marunouchi South entrance is beneath the other dome on the far right. What appears to be the grand central entrance is sealed off, the Marunouchi Central entrance is a smaller door to the left.
Marunouchi North entrance , viewed as you walk in from outside, with the North Passage to the Yaesu side ahead, and the row of ticket gates just out of short to the right. This is the most relaxed place at Tokyo station to exchange a Japan Rail Pass voucher for the actual pass. Open every day Tokyo Station, Yaesu side Tokyo stations' Yaesu Central entrance on the busy east side of the station There are several Shinkansen ticket offices on the Yaesu side, all looking very similar, it's the one nearest the Yaesu Central entrance that has the Japan Rail Pass counter.
Buying local tickets in Tokyo There's a row of ticket machines like this near every entrance to the platform area. The pink or green machines on the right can sell local tickets in the Tokyo area. The map above the machines shows the price to each station on the local network from the station you're at, you simply select that price on the machines, see the How to buy tickets section above for more details. You need to clock up perhaps 5 or 6 journeys in a day to make one of these worthwhile.
See www. Any visit to Japan is a cultural experience. Don't just stay in western hotels and visit the sights. Make the places you stay part of the experience, by staying in a traditional Japanese ryokan, or even a capsule hotel Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns. The rooms don't have beds, the floor is covered with tatami matting on which you place a bedroll.
You may be offered a hot cup of green Japanese tea when you first arrive.
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You can sometimes find ryokans online on hotel booking sites such as www. The very best and most famous ryokans can be fabulously expensive, but cheaper ones can be a budget option. Search for Ryokans in Tokyo.