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shinkansen faq shinkansen frequently asked questions back to byun byun shinkansen main page enthusiast questions q: what does "shinkansen" actually mean in english? a: it translates as "new trunk line". while technically it only applies to the new lines built, it is commonly used in japanese also to describe the trains themselves. q: what is the fastest speed the shinkansen trains run at in service? a: the 500 series nozomi services operate at a maximum speed of 300 km/h between shin-osaka and hakata. q: why are the 100 series trains numbered before the 200 series trains despite the fact that they were built more recently? a: at the time of the former jnr (japanese national railways), units running in the east of japan were given even classification numbers, and those running in the west were given odd numbers. hence 0, 100, 300, 500, 700 series run on what is now jr west/central, and 200, 400 series run on what is now jr east. all new vehicles (shinkansen and conventional stock) ordered by jr east have been given numerical classifications beginning with e, hence the shinkansen classifications e1, e2, e3, e4. q: why is there no 600 series? a: the e1 series max trains were initially announced as the 600 series, but were subsequently numbered using jr east's own numbering system before delivery. q: how come shinkansen seats always face the direction of travel? a: the seats in shinkansen cars can be rotated either to face the direction of travel or to form facing bays of seats. q: is it ok to take photographs at stations etc.? a: there are no particular problems with photography at stations or any railway installations. however, use of flashlights at night in the vicinity of trains will require permission from station staff. trespassing on tracks or other railway property is of course strictly prohibited. q: when travelling on the tohoku shinkansen from tokyo, the train never seems to travel very fast until after omiya. is the speed restricted near tokyo? a: the line speed between tokyo and omiya is 110km/h due to residential area noise pollution restrictions. q: what is the green logo seen next to doors on shinkansen and other jr trains? a: this is the symbol for green class (first class) cars. (see photo of 100 series bi-level green cars.) q: do through trains run between the tohoku and tokaido shinkansen lines? a: no. the tracks at tokyo station for these lines are not physically connected. q: what is the typical service life of shinkansen trains? a: about 15 to 20 years. q: have any withdrawn shinkansen cars been preserved? a: yes. there are preserved 0 and 200 series shinkansen cars on display at several locations around the country, including transport museums in tokyo and osaka. also, end vehicles from the win350 and star21 test trains are also on static display at the rtri wind tunnel facility in maihara. see the preserved shinkansen vehicle directory for details. q: are there level (grade) crossings on shinkansen lines? a: for safety reasons, there are no level crossings on standard shinkansen lines. the yamagata and akita mini-shinkansen lines, however, were converted from existing conventional lines, and these retain level crossings. the maximum speed on these lines is 130 km/h. q: do shinkansen trains run on the left, or right-hand side track? a: as with all japanese railway lines, shinkansen trains run on the left. q: are shinkansen lines used for express freight or mail services at night? a: no. track and overhead line maintenance is carried out during the night. q: is it really true that there have been no fatalities on shinkansen trains since services started? a: there have been no passenger fatalities on shinkansen trains except for those caused by passengers' own reckless behaviour (such as jumping from moving trains). see news archive for details of past incidents. q: are there any model shinkansen trains available? a: a wide range of ready-to-run n gauge models is produced by the major japanese manufacturers. see the models page for details of types available. japanese models are less widely available outside japan however, so local modelling magazines should be checked for details of dealers importing models from japan. q: are there any shinkansen driver simulations available for pcs? a: there are none available using real video images, but the japanese "densya de go!" series of games for windows pcs and sony playstation, nintendo 64 and sega dreamcast game consoles features sections of the tohoku and akita shinkansen lines. a sanyo shinkansen version of "densya de go!" is available for the playstation 2 console. these games are not yet generally available outside japan and are only compatible with japanese machines. q: what is the minimum interval between shinkansen trains? a: on the sanyo shinkansen, trains running at 300km/h require a minimum interval of 3 minutes 45 seconds between the train in front. on the tokaido shinkansen, where the maximum speed is 270km/h, this is 3 minutes 30 seconds. q: what is the minimum unit of time used in official working timetables? a: 15 seconds. q: what is the official definition of "lateness" used on shinkansen trains? a: a train is officially recorded as "late" if it does not arrive at the specified time. the average lateness per train on the tokaido shinkansen in 2003 was 12 seconds. q: are there any tilting shinkansen trains? a: not in passenger service yet. tilting tests were conducted using the former class 955 "300x" test train, and the jr central/west n700 series trains will incorporate active tilt. travel questions q: i am planning to visit japan for a couple of weeks and travel around the country mostly by train. will this be expensive? a: rail travel in japan, particularly by shinkansen, is not cheap. however, for foreigners visiting japan (not residing) there is the japan rail pass. this gives unlimited travel on all jr services including the shinkansen (except nozomi services) for 7, 14, or 21 days. the 7-day pass costs around 28,000 yen, and as this is little more than the cost of the return fare by shinkansen from tokyo to kyoto and back, it is excellent value if you are planning on travelling around a lot. the japan rail pass is not available in japan however, and must be purchased from a travel agent abroad before arriving in japan. q: i've heard about the cheap "seishun 18" ticket. is this valid on shinkansen trains? a: no. see the japan rail pass above instead, or else visit the relevant jr websites (see links page) for details of other ticket offers. q: do shinkansen trains run to and from narita airport? a: no. jr east runs non-stop limited-express narita express trains approximately hourly between narita and central tokyo, and the private railway company keisei also runs similar skyliner limited-express trains over its own tracks between narita and ueno in central tokyo. for more details, refer to the description by oliver mayer. q: can i travel by shinkansen without reserving seats in advance? a: yes. however, hayate, komachi, and certain holiday period trains require reservations for all seats. other trains include non-reserved seating ("jiyu-seki") cars. during busy periods, these cars may be standing room only. reservations are required when travelling green (first) class. q: i don't understand japanese. will i be ok travelling by shinkansen in japan? a: station and ticket office staff at larger shinkansen stations are more likely to have a moderate command of english, and all station and on-train information and announcements are now in both japanese and english. q: i have heard that japanese trains can be very crowded sometimes. are there times best avoided when planning on travelling by shinkansen in japan? a: the busiest times of the year for travelling by shinkansen are during the holiday periods when many people travel from the big cities to their relatives in the country. at the peak, some trains may be running at up to 200% capacity (i.e. up to 100 people standing in each car), despite the provision of extra services. the busiest periods are the new year (first week of january), golden week (end of april/beginning of may), and the o-bon (summer) holiday period (beginning of august). q: are there restaurant cars on shinkansen trains? a: restaurant car services were discontinued in march 2000, but many services offer at-seat trolley services selling box lunches, snacks, and drinks. q: are shinkansen trains usually on time arriving at destinations? a: yes, usually. like most rail services in japan, shinkansen services operate to a precise schedule, and trains are expected to arrive and depart exactly at the scheduled times. likewise, station stops en route may also be very brief - only a minute or two in many cases. nevertheless, delays or cancellations may occur following earthquakes or because of high winds due to typhoons. see the news archive page for details of some past incidents. q: do shinkansen trains have seating in compartments? a: 100 and 200 series trains originally had double-deck centre cars with private compartments for green class passengers, but none of these trains now run with double-deck cars. the latest 700 series trains running on jr west hikari rail star services have four 4-seat compartments for standard class passengers in car 8. q: do shinkansen services operate to different timetables at weekends? a: no. shinkansen services run to the same timetable 7 days a week. engineering work is carried out at night, so normal services run all day even at weekends. q: what time do shinkansen services start in the morning and finish at night? a: in general, shinkansen services nationwide start at around 6am. the system closes down around midnight, so last departures to major destinations will be considerably earlier. q: are there no-smoking cars on shinkansen trains? a: yes. all trains have no-smoking accommodation in both reserved and non-reserved cars, and all jr east shinkansen services will be made entirely no-smoking from march 2007. q: is it possible to get onto the station platform without having to buy a ticket? a: a platform ticket is required for seeing people off from the platform or for watching/photographing trains. these cost 140 yen (130 yen in the tokyo metropolitan area), and are available from ticket machines. q: do shinkansen trains have power outlet sockets for running laptop computers? a: generally, no, although the latest 700 series trains running on jr west hikari rail star services do have power outlet sockets. q: are fare refunds given if trains are delayed? a: if a shinkansen service is delayed more than two hours, the shinkansen supplement fare is refunded. if all services are cancelled, the full fare and supplement is refunded. copyright © 2007 d a j fossett. all rights reserved. back to byun byun shinkansen main page
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