Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Did you know a cheetah’s average speed is 120km/h?
Melbourne’s pride and joy, the V-Line speed train can run up to 160km/h at best.
But the Shinkansen? Japan’s high-tech bullet train has a top speed of 320km/h.
How insane is Shinkansen? It’s fucking fast is what it is. And to blow your mind even further, it’s a commodity for these people. I witnessed a parade of school kids, nine-to-five commuters on the Monday to Friday grind and mates on the way to a pub in the next city over jumping on this speedy beast like it was just another Tuesday. This thing that exists on the other side of the world is apart of these people’s way of everyday life. Meanwhile I’m gasping at every turn, at the incredible view, the instant change of scenery like a photo slideshow on the fritz. The amount of foot space they offer, enough for my legs to stretch free. The amount of recline I can kick my seat back to near levels of a human obtuse angle.
To put things into perspective, I’m 24 years old, lived in Melbourne my whole life and I’ve only been on the V-Line once, and that was by accident! My dumb ass jumped on one unintentionally and ended up in some part of the outer CBD. For an innocent high school kid from the western suburbs, this had me shook. Unless you live regional, the V-Line is pretty much first class for us in my opinion. In terms of public transport, Japan’s living in 3018 while we’re all stuck in 2018 delays.
You miss a train in Japan, chances are there will be another one (DJ Khaled!) arriving in the next minute or two. It’s incredibly efficient. These guys don’t fuck around when it comes to efficiency. Their only downfall? The railway pedestrian crossing. You could end up waiting awhile, just saying. They’ve mastered the public transport system leaving the rest of the world to watch in envy, but pedestrians received the short end of the stick. Waiting and waiting as train after train pass them by with only the incessant ding-ding-dinging of the rail crossing lights. People waiting to cross will be waiting so long they would see the sun set a couple times, some would camp out and others started a family and welcomed their grandchild to the world by the time that cheeky green pedestrian boy started ticking away. I exaggerate but, you get the point.
Unlike the locals, the Shinkansen experience for me, a Melbourne-raised Filipino boy who knew nothing of ridiculously fast trains where the concept of delays didn’t exist in the Japanese vocabulary, was a welcomed and unbelievable surprise. I was lost for words the first time I stepped foot in one of these land jets. How does a man-made vehicle run at 320km/h through its picturesque cities and waters with minimal turbulence? It feels like a roller coaster without the shakes and tremors, leaving only the thrills.
Mesmerised, it was my first time on the Shinkansen where I had just left Tokyo and was en route to Hiroshima, a commute that would take 4 hours. That’s 817km in a measly 4 fucking hours! Are you kidding me? It would take just under 10 hours to drive, or if you’re a weirdo who really loves to walk for fitness and for fun, a 7 day hike. No, a bullet train is definitely the way to go. On this 4 hour journey, other passengers took this time to nap but me? I spent half the time looking out the window, enjoying the wonderful landscape that was passing me by, my eyes blessed with new and bright stimuli with every passing second. I had some chill tunes caressing my ears throughout, tunes like a low-fi version of Redbone by Childish Gambino, or Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s timeless Hunnybee playing as a backdrop.
Every so often, I’d get up and walk around the train to have a cheeky wander around the carriages. I tried out the impeccably ventilated smoking rooms. For the readers who smoke, try having a cigarette at a breakneck speed but still feel at peace, it’s a bloody treat. On this trip, I was accompanied with snacks like o-nigiri, bento boxes, Calbi-branded chips and some peach infused water or tea. Life can be pretty fucking good sometimes, am I right? The Shinkansen humbly welcomes the snackers of all walks of life, so long as you’re not bringing some stinky durian fruit on board.
But best of all, I even had time to write a short story, to my heart’s content, with no interruption or calamities in my way, I had the perfect space to conjure up some creative thoughts. I was able to write and write in the truest form of comfort.
It wasn’t just perfect, it was the fucking Shinkansen!