The Japanese are proud of their trains. And rightly so. Not only was the Japan bullet train—known as the shinkansen—the world's first truly high speed locomotive, but Japan train travel offers the fastest point to point service of any rail line in the world. The French TGV train has been known to reach high speeds to get into the record books, but a bullet train in Japan is constantly fast, not to mention handsome, comfortable, and uniquely Japanese. This reputation as a pioneer of modern transportation has made Japan train travel a way of life. In Japan the journey has truly become as important as the destination.
Today, Japan train travel is the fastest most efficient way to travel between the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. The Japan bullet train connecting these four major cities is known as the Tokaido Shinkansen and was inaugurated in 1964. Back then the trains ran at about 200 km/h, now they reach speeds of over 300 km/h. After the success of this initial line, the bullet train in Japan spread to cover the majority of Honshu—Japan's middle, largest and most populated island. But the greatest feature of trains in Japan isn't their sheer speed, but their frequency. For instance, six trains per hour travel between Tokyo and Osaka. This means that you are never really late for a bullet train in Japan, just early for the one of the next trains in Japan.
So, as you embark on your rail journey of Japan, make sure to check the rates and information on Japan train travel at www.japanrail.com. From the sleek shinkansen, to the crowded intercity commuter trains, to the winding, mountain single-gauge trains in Japan, the Japan Railways Group (JR) is responsible for getting you where you want or need to go. Information on schedules, fares and reservations about all the trains in Japan can be found at the Japan Railways Group site.
Also available for those tourists who plan on taking an extended tour of the country is the Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass, or JRP, is foreigners only discount pass in the same style as Europe's Eurorail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass is split into two categories: Green and Ordinary. (Green being the more expensive and more luxurious first class coach). Each Pass is available in a 7, 14, and 21 day time period, and each allows for virtually unlimited shinkansen access. The catch with the Japan Rail Pass, as with the Eurorail, is that you must purchase the Japan Rail Pass from a travel agent before you arrive in Japan. Once in Japan you exchange your receipt for the actual pass. Even if you hold a foreign passport you cannot purchase a Japan Rail Pass in Japan.
Trains in Japan are a great option if you want to see the countryside and travel from city to city without paying for airline tickets. So get in, hold on, take a shot of warm sake, and watch as Mt Fuji goes flying by your window.