One of the most efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable ways to travel across the Japanese archipelago is by shinkansen, which covers a network of lines from Hokkaido to Kyushu. The Tokaido Shinkansen which travels between Tokyo and Osaka is one of the oldest shinkansen lines, recognizable by the iconic blue stripes running horizontally across its clean, white exterior.
This year is a rare chance to experience the blue-striped shinkansen in its most updated form. On July 1, the new N700S Tokaido Shinkansen made its debut after the first full model change in 13 years.
Curious about what a brand-new shinkansen is like? Here is a sneak peek before your next trip.
While the new N700S Shinkansen’s exterior has kept its iconic stripes, it is stamped with a newly designed golden logo that emphasizes the “S,” standing for “Supreme.” The theme of the new model exudes a sense of luxury and quality, in terms of safety, stability, and comfort.
As I boarded the shinkansen, what immediately stood out was the distinct smell of a brand-new train. Quite similar to the smell, or shall I say exhilarating scent, of a brand-new car, it is most definitely a novel experience that proves the freshness of the shinkansen.
Upon getting used to the initial waft, the pristine interior of the N700S welcomes passengers with its elegant and relaxed lighting. Unlike previous models’ brightly lit interior with fixtures running down the middle of the ceiling, the N700S has lighting fixtures towards the sides, casting softer lighting that fades out across the ceiling. It was quite a surprise how big of an impact that even the simple design changes of lighting can make.
The bright blue seating of the N700S also has improved in comfort functions. When reclining, the rear section of the seat itself dips in, making it comfortable to sit in the same position for long hours. All seats come with power outlets built into the arm rest, so you never have to worry about where to charge your phone and other electronics.
The message panel at the front of the car that displays news and information about the next stop has also been upgraded. The message panel itself has been enlarged and the digital screen has improved in quality, making it much easier to read, even from the very last row of the car.
What about the shinkansen ride itself? The N700S can travel up to speeds of 360 kilometers per hour, while the operating speed is capped at 285 kilometers per hour. Even at top speeds, the new active vibration control device makes the ride much smoother and quieter.
The difference can definitely be felt when the shinkansen enters and exits tunnels, as well as when it passes another shinkansen on the adjacent railway. The impact of the pressure usually creates a loud sound and jolt, but on the N700S, it was extremely quiet and almost unnoticeable.
What the new N700S has focused on the most is safety. This is apparent in terms of safety during emergency situations such as power outages, in which the train will be able to safely proceed to the closest station. Furthermore, the N700S has an increased number of surveillance cameras in each car in case of emergency.
One thing to be aware of is that as part of the new JR luggage system, an advance reservation will be needed for passengers who have large suitcases that would not fit in the overhead shelves. When booking a ticket, make sure to let the JR staff know about your luggage situation, and they will reserve a seat for you at the back of the car where you can place large luggage behind your seat. There are also lockable luggage spaces when seats at the back of the car are unavailable.
The best part about travelling by shinkansen is being able to enjoy the views outside of shifting landscapes, from the lush countryside mountains and rice-paddies to the bustling urban centers, all within a matter of a few hours. Now, you can sit back and relax as you experience a freshly renewed, relaxed, and smooth approach to travel on the N700S.
Currently, the number of N700S Shinkansen trains are still limited, so make sure to check the Twitter page for updated timetables. The timetable for inbound and outbound N700S trains are tweeted every day, one day in advance. Additionally, be sure to carefully comply with coronavirus measures when using the Shinkansen, including the use of masks and hand-washing.
Author: Mariko Azuma