Travel At The Speed Of A Bullet Train
It’s true that flying the length of Japan would take just over six hours, and probably save you a few pennies too. But after flying to Asia, do you really want to miss this opportunity to view the country you’ve come to see? And to do so in style?
Japan holds a world record that impresses train spotters and speed addicts alike. Over the length of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, stretches a track that serves the world’s fastest train. Japan’s sleek SCMaglev train can travel up to 375mph. The maximum speed bullet trains are allowed to reach is just 198mph, which may be slow in comparison, but still impressive while travelling inside a spacious, steady carriage.
Heading from coast to coast you’d think would be enough, but not for the ambitious Japanese engineers! Hokkaido and Kyushu, the islands directly to the north and south of Honshu, also benefit from the superfast transportation, connected by underwater tunnels. The whole journey, a distance of approximately 1,400 miles (over 60% longer than the journey from Land's End, Cornwall and John o' Groats, Caithness), can be done in under 12 hours, with two changes (in comparison, Penzance to Thurso by train can be done in about 26 hours, but that still leaves a few additional miles to navigate at each end!).
But there’s so much to see and do in Japan that it’d be a real shame if you sat on a train for your entire holiday. Ultra-modern sits shoulder to shoulder with ancient history in Japan, and just two weeks in this country can give you a great experience of both, exploring high-paced cities, hushed shrines and temples, and serene gardens.
Where will the Shinkansen take you?
View Mount Fuji
Standing out from its surroundings at 3,776m high, Japan’s tallest mountain has inspired countless artists and photographers. Clouds often linger around this active volcano, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for you to catch sight of the iconic snow-capped peak as you travel by Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hakone.
Drink tea in Kyoto
Tea has been sipped in Japan for over 1,000 years, but the refined ceremonial rituals didn’t become popular until the 16th century. Learning the intricacies of this graceful discipline, considering simple details like holding the bowl so your friends can appreciate the beauty of its decoration, will change the way you serve tea at home. We’ll sit down for a cuppa in Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district and birthplace of the traditional tea ceremony.
Explore samurai and geisha districts
Kanazawa isn’t as well-known as Tokyo and Kyoto, yet it rivals these cities in cultural achievements. The 15th century castle sits in the centre of the Nagamachi district, and the middle to high ranking samurai lived around it. Some of the artefact-filled residences are open to the public. It’s also worth visiting Omicho market, a bustling network of covered streets full of shops selling local seafood specialities and more; and Higashi Chayagai, the beautifully preserved ‘teahouse district’ where you can also purchase another of the city’s specialities - gold leaf products - in traditional wooden buildings.
Find peace in Hiroshima
One of the most prominent areas in Hiroshima isn’t the tower blocks, but the Peace Memorial Park, the original city centre and the target of the atomic bomb in 1945. The Children’s Peace Monument is particularly poignant. Over 1,000 paper cranes flutter in the breeze, representing peace and hope. It’s also worth catching a ferry over to Miyajima Island to admire the elaborate Itsukushima Shrine, rising majestically out of the sea.
All these opportunities are available on our tours of Japan - all you need to do is choose whether to travel in spring, when cherry blossoms and hydrangea bloom; or autumn, when maple trees are a blaze of fiery red and orange.
Article published on: 25th June, 2019