Monthly Archives: December 2010

Media Day for the E5!

More information regarding the E5 Hayabusa Shinkansen. Up in Miyagi Prefecture, the first mass-production unit was rolled out to the press. Lucky for us, that provides us with additional pictures of the inside of the train.

By the way, click the picture to enlarge.

Ready when you are.

Since it’s the first mass-produced E5, what we see is what we can expect when service begins from March.

Another shot of GranClass

I’ve also found not only pictures of the GranClass carriage, but also the Green and Standard Classes. A nice step up from what I’m riding now get in and out of Tokyo via the Joetsu Shinkansen.

The Green Car

Standard Class...for the peasants. Like myself.

From my last post, we saw what the symbol for the Green Car looks like. Here is the symbol they’ll slap on the side of the GranClass carriages:

A step up from the Green Car clover, imo.

Can you see that the hexagon makes the letter ”G”? Also, the 5 trapezoids represent the 5 different luxuries the GranClass provides to the customer, which are: State-of-the-art technology, Increased Seating Space, Seat Comfort, Beautiful Interior Design, and High-Quality Service. The triangle represents these 5 luxuries being provided to you, the customer (yeah, you in the middle).

You can also rest assured that the driver will be riding in style too as the Driver’s Room is decked out just as nice.

Best view in the house.

Controls seem to be simplified overall as there’s a lot of reliance on the touch-panel displays throughout the cockpit. Also, on the far right you can see the spot for where the driver puts his official train conductors watch. Kind of an odd place for it though.

Come to Niigata!!

Unfortunately, the E5 doesn’t run along the Joetsu Shinkansen line, and I have no future plans to visit Aomori, nor ride along the Tohoku Shinkansen any time soon…so a first-hand account of the E5 is out of the question. If I can find a good reason to visit Aomori, then maybe I’ll give it a shot. We’ll see!

Thanks to this site for providing the pictures!

Super Green Class, Baby

Whenever you ride the bullet train throughout Japan, you have 3 choices as far as where you’d like to sit.

The first one is Non-Reserved seating.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell as it looks.

Non-Reserved Seats simply mean that there is no assigned seating within that car, so where you sit is first-come, first-serve. If you can’t get a seat however, it doesn’t mean that you can’t board. You can stand in the aisle, or in between the carriages, which is undesirable, but still gets you to your destination. Usually occurs during peak holiday times. Just for comparison, it’s worth knowing that the seats are a lot more comfortable than those in an airplane. They recline a good deal and have no armrest in between seats, meaning if there’s no one sitting next to you, you’re free to sprawl across the entire row if you’d like.

The other type of seating you can get is Reserved. It looks and smells the same as Non-Reserved, but at least you’re guaranteed a seat, since it’s printed on your ticket. Reserved seats cost just ¥510 more than Non-Reserved, a small price to pay to put your worries aside of not snagging a seat.

The third type of seating is within the Green Car. Carriages with green cars are marked with this symbol on the side:

It's the color green, so it must be good.

I’ve only ridden the Green Car once, but I do recall it being quite comfortable. A lot more leg room than the previously mentioned seating, and the quality of the seats are a lot better. The lighting is also slightly dimmer than Reserved seating, allowing passengers to rest a bit easier. In my option, I’ve always found the lighting in (Non)-Reserved to have the same kind of glow like those in an office building, so the ones in the Green Car is a welcomed change.

Here's your seat, Mr. Big Shot.

But is it worth the price? On average (based on trips to/from Shin-Aomori and Tokyo, as well as Niigata and Tokyo), Green Car costs an additional ¥3000-5000 more than Reserved Seating, depending on the distance you happen to be traveling. Amenities don’t chance too much, except for slippers, I believe. You’re paying for the extended leg room than anything else. However, it’s still a nice way to travel.

What’s that, you say? Money isn’t an issue? Well, new information today. From March 5th, 2011, JR East will be introducing a new passenger class called GranClass.


Sir, no drooling on the seats, please.

They’re rolling it out with the new E5 Series Hayabusa, the same time the train is planned to begin operation on the Tohoku Shinkansen line. The Nihon Keizai Newspaper has a good video on the GranClass (no Japanese skill needed to view) which you can find here. Just look for the play button and it’ll open a new window and start going on it’s own.

The main reason I’m impressed with this new class (despite me never shelling out the dough to ride it) is because for the last couple years, new Shinkansen models have rolled out, but have focused on speed and exterior design rather than comfort and quality from the inside. I believe that Japan has stiff competition from China, Europe, and other nations that have developed high-speed rail, as their trains have embraced what 21st Century transportation should look like. Within Japan, I think JR Kyushu took that first step with their 800 Series Shinkansen, and I’m glad to see that JR East has taken notice. With the Hokkaido Shinkansen and the expansion of the Nagano (Hokuriku) Shinkansen set to being, I’m excited to see what’s next.

Link It Up

A few updates to the site.

First, I’ve started the process of adding a couple links here and there. You can see them on the right. Over there. Look. They’re sites that have been helpful to me, so hopefully it can benefit others as well.

As nerdy as that site sounds, it’s actually a really good message board thread that’s well over 5 years old, yet is continuously updated on a near daily basis. Seems more of a place to share pictures of different trains throughout Japan, but also includes some good travelogues by both visitors and residents of Japan. A few posters also translate Japanese news articles pertaining to trains, into English. (Check out the recent post about the new Shinkansen station set to open soon. They allowed the public to take a peek around the yet-to-be-opened station as well as walk around the tracks.)

Both are really good Japanese timetables. They both also support easy access from Japanese cell phones, including the iPhone and other smart phones. Almost impossible to live with if traveling throughout Tokyo. The differences? Jorudan is good for quick searches. Few options, but gives you the information you need fast. Hyperdia does the same, but it’s also good for planning other routes if you like options. Also, it gives timetable information about each line, so it’s like carrying around one of those giant JTB or JR timetable books, without the weight and bulkiness of actually having to lug one around.

JR offers a lot of different rail passes to travel throughout Japan. But if time isn’t a worry, using the Seishun 18 Kippu is one of the best. It allows 5 days of travel throughout all local rail lines in the JR system, but only for specific dates 3 times a year. I’ll go into more detail about this in a future post, as I’ll most likely be using it soon. Anyways, this site has the most comprehensive information I can find about this pass (in English).

Finally, the About page has been updated. I’m not sure if anyone is reading this blog yet, but if you want to recommend other useful sites, let me know. I’ll throw it up.

As for future posts, I have a couple ideas down the pipe. Some include talking about the stamp system in Japan, other useful passes, and I’ll be starting my series of posts covering the train lines of Niigata Prefecture. Gotta start somewhere!


E5 and E6 Hook Up at Tokyo Station. Sexy.

Interesting video today out of Tokyo Station, thanks to the Sankei Newspaper:

For the first time, a coupled E5 and E6 arrived in Tokyo Station. It’s been a while since new stock has been introduced within the JR East system, so it’s an exciting time for the Tohoku Shinkansen.

If you’ve been to any JR Station within the last couple of months, you’ve undoubtably seen (the almost heart-warming and nostalgic) promotional pictures for the ”My First Aomori” campaign, which marks the extension and completion of the Tohoku Shinkansen. With the completion of this line, JR East will introduce 2 new models to the Shinkansen family, if you will. The first, beginning commercial service in March 2011 is the E5 Model Shinkansen, running under the service name Hayabusa.


You beautiful beast.

The second, beginning commercial service in March 2013 (still a ways off) is the E6 Model Shinkansen, which will eventually replace the older E3 trains running on the Tohoku and Akita Shinkansen Line.

It is without a doubt that the E6 is the most impressive looking Shinkansen in Japan. With each new model rolled out, they continue to look sleeker and sleeker. As much as I like the E5, I think the designers have really nailed it with the new color scheme for the E6. It’s begging to be looked at.


Hot damn.

So, from here begins the testing that has to be done before being formally brought into service, which was seen in the video above. But if you live anywhere along the Tohoku Shinkansen line, or commute anywhere around it, keep your eyes open. Traveling at 320 km/h, it’ll be easy to miss.

Welcome to Densha de Japan!

Ah, the first post. Breathe her in.

To be honest, this isn’t my first time to write a blog. I used to write one a few years ago about coming to Japan. Unfortunately, that never seemed to materialize…but yet, 4 years later, I thought I finally have enough interesting stuff to talk about.

And that folks, will be about the Japanese Railway System. -fanfare-



But why? How have I become a 鉄ちゃん (tecchan=railway fan)?? Well, I grew up and lived in Southern California for 24 years. Anyone who’s ever been there knows that you can’t get anywhere without a car. Sure, there’s a Metro through Downtown LA and also some trains that run north and south to and from San Diego. But it’s not efficient! If you’re looking to get somewhere quickly, using your car is the way to go…but even getting to your destination quickly isn’t guaranteed with all the traffic. And then there’s the mess of trying to get onto the right freeway and….ugh, sweet jesus.

Let’s get back on topic. So, I came to Japan, carless, and had to rely on public transportation for the first time in my life. It was at THAT MOMENT that I fell in love with trains. Of course, the bullet train is a technological marvel…having the ability to whisk people away at 300 km/h ON TIME. But I also came to rely on local trains a lot. Their rails network nationwide connecting you to huge metropolitans like Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, but at the same time burrowing deep through the Japanese Alps and it’s countless lush, green, beautiful forests. Looking out the window of a train, staring at the woods, I can’t help but wonder if Totoro is in there somewhere. Millions of people use the train everyday, and for good reason. It’s fast, efficient, safe, and relatively cheap…sometimes. Continuing on…

Why a train blog?

Well, I figured this: theres already TONS of blogs in English about different aspects of Japanese culture such as anime, Japanese ramen, Pokemon, maid cafes, AKB48, English teachers who hate their students, animated tentacle sex, Japanese bento boxes, weird stuff sold in convenient stores, and of course, crazy Japanese inventions.


Oh, that last site never gets old.

With that being said, I can not find a comprehensive train blog in English. Sure, some sites have nibbles of information here or there, but nothing where I can be like, WOW THAT WAS HELPFUL AND ALL IN ONE PLACE. I suppose that goal was left for someone like me. And I’m willing to take on the challenge…if you’re willing to read of course. And if not, that’s cool too.

So, let’s explore Japan together, by train. I know you wanna. Besides, where else could you find shit like this:


Is this even real?

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