I think we are both a little bit in love.
Generally, as I have mentioned on occasions over the last 6 months, one of the few draw backs of travelling is the travelling.
That changed once we arrived in Japan.
Japanese rail travel is simply the most wondrous way to get from A to B we have ever experienced and we actually look forward to getting on the Shinkansen (new trunk line), or as we know it Bullet Train. A name that the Japanese are surprised by as their trains are “peaceful”.
We like everything about it.
First of all they look amazing. They are the E-Types of the train world with ridiculously long and sleek front ends, that despite the speeds they travel you sense is a little flashier than pure aerodynamics require. They have a real “Wow” factor when you first see one pull into a station (or better still fly by on a pass-through on the centre of the three rails at each platform).
The drivers uniforms look like pilots and the people that ensure there is food and drink available look like cabin crew in very smart uniforms and treat you amazingly well, bowing every time they enter or exit the carriage.
Facilities are great, even in standard class, with leg room that would make a British 1st Class seats look away in shame and the bathrooms are something else. Not only are they immaculately clean, with baby changing facilities & seat wipe dispensers as standard, they have infared sensors for everything; flushing the toilet or lowering and raising the seat is done with a Jedi sweep of the hand. We wouldn’t be surprised if the next generation of trains has a button to operate your bowels for you.
Then there is the service itself. Swiss watch manufacturers probably set their timepieces by these beasts, the carriages line up with the exact spot on the platform that your ticket tells you to stand, the train stops at each station for less than 3 minutes, announcements are bilingual Japanese-English and the sense of speed as you blast your way through the Japanese countryside banking round turns at 320 km/h is exhilarating.
Even when you venture off the high speed network, the quality of service and facilities are still high and even the slower local engines look more interesting than a bus on rails type we get on UK local networks.
Today we make our last journey, from Kinosaki to Tokyo, and without doubt we can say we are going to miss you Japan Railways. Particularly we suspect, when we board our train from London to Manchester on Monday evening and our seats haven’t been switched 180 degrees to ensure everyone faces the direction of travel and nobody bows at us.