I cannot even begin to guess how many shinkansen trips I have been on over the past 31 years. The vast majority of these I have no memory of at all. Some, such as when I travelled in the cab with the driver for my research about the shinkansen, were very memorable. But amongst all the trips that I have made, an experience from 2000 that stands out as a particular favourite.
I, was travelling down to Okayama from Tokyo. Having done this route several times in the past, I was not expecting it to be an extraordinary journey, but I was in for a surprise. That morning, the first 500-series Nozomi of the day had suffered a technical hitch which was causing all trains to be delayed (coincidentally a friend, whose family I had been staying with, was on that train).
The sight of total chaos at Tokyo station itself was a delight – as much as I love the shinkansen network and the efficiency of much of JR’s operations, I cannot help but get a kick out of seeing it go wrong now and again. However, I was to get an even greater thrill.
My train, a 300 series shinkansen, eventually left Tokyo 18 minutes late. I settled down to some work, and only glanced up at the time as we pulled into our scheduled stops. By the time we reached Nagoya we had made up around 5 minutes – not bad considering there was another train only a few minutes down the track in front of us. However, my knowledge of the network meant that I knew the real fun and games would occur between Gifu-Hashima and Kyoto, and then after Shin-Kobe. I was not disappointed.
As we passed Sekigahara and Maibara, my favourite stretch of the shinkansen network as I have posted about before, you could really feel the train going as fast as it could and there were sounds of the body flexing at times.
Unfortunately, due to our great spurt we had closed up on the previous train, so on the section of the Tōkaidō line which is used for speed-testing trains, we crawled along (relatively speaking) until it was out of our way. As we passed through the Hanshin region, we were now only 5 minutes behind schedule.
When we arrived in Okayama station, the train crew apologised at great length (as he had done at each station) for the delay… and promptly announced that the train was around 30 seconds late!
I have no memory now of why I was going to Okayama, but I certainly won’t forget how I got there.