In the early part of the year, for a few fleeting weeks, Japan is cloaked in a dusky pink as its cherry trees flourish with blossom or sakura. Marking the beginning of spring, the blossom is of huge cultural significance in Japan and nationwide celebrations sweep across the country in its honour. Thought to be reminiscent of the beauty and brevity of life, this precious and revered flower is a reminder of Japan’s dramatically contrasting seasons and exquisite natural beauty. So, whether you choose to map the path of the blossom by bullet train or simply witness the incredible colours from the comfort of your ryokan, the cherry blossom is a must-see on any springtime Japan itinerary.
Gliding into the forefront of train travel in 1964, the bullet train, or Shinkansen, has continued to wow the world with its blistering speed and soundless stealth ever since. Now linking the very north to the south, the Bullet Train has become the reliable backbone of Japan, joining the rural to the cosmopolitan in the blink of an eye. Snaking its way across Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago, the bullet train rattles up and down the country at a staggering speed of up to 320km an hour. As synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun as Mount Fuji, sumo or sushi, the bullet train is arguably the only way to travel in Japan.
As one of the most dependable rail services in the world, the bullet train is perhaps the most efficient and reliable way to get around Japan, and really rather comfortable too. So planning an itinerary around the routes of the bullet train is not only a brilliant bucket list experience but a fantastic way to reach the far flung reaches of the archipelago.
Catching the bullet train through the Land of the Rising Sun will at some point take you through the unrelenting hubbub of Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, the busiest in the world. Sitting back at one of the station’s ramen stands and soaking up the buzz of the station guarantees an incredible snapshot into daily life in Japan. Japan is known as a country of binaries, and the bullet train is a fantastic way to see its contrasts. From Tokyo, head west across the Japanese Alps to Kanazawa, only a two-hour train ride away yet a journey back thousands of years. Make a pit stop at Hiroshima or make a bee line straight to Kyoto, the cultural heartland of Japan to see all sides of this beguiling destination.
Cars are roomy, clean and comfortable yet opting for an upgrade to a Green Car affords you some extra space. Worrying about missed trains, lost luggage or finding your platform needn’t be an issue as orienting yourself at the station and on board couldn’t be easier. Signs tend to be in English and platforms are clearly noted on your train ticket. Leave the logistics to us and sit back, relax and watch the blur of the outside world whoosh past your window.
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