Shinkansen, the bullet trainSergio Dioguardi
The Shinkansen (新 幹線 literally “new railway trunk”) is also known by the colloquial name that has been attributed to it: “bullet train”, and refers to the network of high-speed trains in Japan. Initially the network was born to connect the capital Tokyo with the most remote areas of the country and contribute to their economic development. It officially entered service in 1964, on the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics, inaugurating the first section operating between Tokyo and Osaka. In addition to long-distance travel, some routes around the larger metropolitan areas are also used for commuter travel. Although these trains have operated on the railways of Japan for over fifty years, neither the death nor the injury of any passenger has ever been recorded. The characteristics of these trains are many: in addition to being extremely efficient, clean and beautiful, they reach a record speed of 500 km / h and are always, invariably punctual, “definitely break the second”! The advantage of Shinkansen is that by traveling on dedicated tracks, they do not have to share them with local trains. This means that they also have a separate area dedicated to them inside the railway stations. Shinkansen platforms are accessed by showing the ticket for this specific type of train. . The Shinkansen are characterized by some features that make them very extraordinary: The platform is exactly flush with the train threshold to facilitate the entry of passengers with luggage. The train stops with millimeter precision at the number of the carriage on the platform. The seats inside the carriages are rotatable and are positioned from time to time according to the direction of travel of the train, this feature is particularly loved by those traveling in a small group: by turning your row of seats in the opposite direction you can create a kind of sitting room with fellow travellers in the row behind. The kindness of the ticket control staff is truly unique: you will see them bow to the passengers before passing the door that connects the carriage to the next one. If you are at the station when the Shinkansen arrives, you will have the opportunity to witness an incredible scene for us Italians: you will see on the platform an army of cleaners, with the traditional pink uniform, arranged at regular intervals at the doors of each carriage, ready to proceed with the cleaning of the carriages. At each stop they board the train. Every five women will be placed a man with a blue uniform and a bin for garbage. The attendants will first let the arriving passengers get off one by one, bowing regularly, then enter the train and in a maximum of 1 minute be able to change the headrest covers, brush the velvet seats and turn them in the direction of travel as well as remove dust and empty garbage cans. Once the cleaning procedures are finished, the operators will get off the train, bow and disappear at the same speed. A scene that will leave you speechless! Single tickets for the Shinkansen routes have quite high costs, but for foreigners who are not resident in Japan it is possible to buy the Japan Rail Pass (JRP), a sort of pass valid for one, two or four weeks, which allows you to travel for the whole country without limits. The JRP can only be purchased outside Japan. Once in Japan, you can book free seats for the routes you intend to travel by going to the appropriate ticket offices. If there is no longer availability on the chosen route, you can still get on the train in one of the carriages dedicated to passengers without a reservation. As everyone knows by now, the Japanese love everything kawaii (cute) and they also usually decorate means of transport with their favorite characters. In June 2018, the first Hello Kitty-themed Shinkansen, the iconic cat with a pink bow, was inaugurated. The convoy operates on the route between Shin-Osaka and Fukoka stations and was launched to help promote the western area of Japan. In fact, on this train, there are two carriages entirely dedicated to interacting with the delightful character. In the first carriage, “Hello! Plaza ”, the mascot presents the typical local products and attractions of the region. Here, passengers can buy souvenirs and specialties. The second carriage, “Kawaii! Room ”, entirely decorated with Hello Kitty and her friends, has a nice themed photo booth inside where you can immortalize the moment with a photo and keep the memory of a truly unique train journey.