Don’t get me wrong, I don’t usually write about something so technical and *cough*boring*cough* unless, of course, it involves a Channing-Tatum lookalike toiling away in workshop à la Magic Mike. For that I could spew out a 5000-word article about table saws and pipe cutters. Easy.
But this time, the Shinkansen is different.
Zipping across Japan at 320km per hour, this badass Bullet Train is the fastest rail-runner in the world and carries with it carriages full of stories waiting for virgin passengers to discover.
Spacious, spotless, spotless and a secret button that changes the direction of the seats, and did I say spotless?
I read that it takes 7 minutes for the staff to clean the Shinkansen every time it comes to the terminal. Seven minutes to pick up the trash, wipe the trays, tidy the seats, clean the windows and mop the floor – before they queue up in front of the train and bow to welcome a new batch of passengers.
This brand of Japanese hospitality has an English name called Insane.
If you don’t believe me, you can watch the video here.
It’s already been viewed more than 6 million times, so please spend a few minutes to educate yourself.
It also helps that it is one of the safest ways to travel in the world. “Over the Shinkansen’s 50-plus year history, carrying over 10 billion passengers, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions, despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons.”
I am not sure if it’s right to say that any mode of transport has to experience some kinds of accidents to be considered “normal” but at 320km/h, this is definitely comforting to know.
^ Rather than a regular pair of shirt and trousers with name badge, the Japanese train conductors wear double breasted suit and a matching peak cap.
Also FYI, the driver would poke his head out of the window to wave as the Shinkansen leaves the station. What is this a Disney World parade??
I freaking love Japan.
The addition of beautiful bento adds icing on the cake. Commonly prepared by ultra-domestic housewives for their husband and children, bento is a single-portion packed lunch that is wholesome, nutritious, colourful, and requires a stupendous amount of effort and patience to prepare.
How do I know?
I once took two and a half hour to make a kyaraben that turned out to look like a bear with crooked face.
I wish I could put this skill in my CV.
You’d be happy to know that in all the train stations across Japan, there are bento-ya that offers a wide variety of these lunch boxes at very affordable prices. Better? Each station offers somewhat different kinds of bento depending on what’s available in the season and what they can get from their local produce.
Word of advice, get to the train station early and give yourself plenty of time to choose. Trust me, it’s harder than choosing universities for UCAS. Here you can only pick ONE.
^A cute one for the lazy egg, Gudetama, lover.
In Osaka, we had this bento which was only available on the Tokaido Shinkansen line.
A sizeable portion of rice, grilled unagi fish, tamago, assorted vegetables and a katsu for less than a tenner.
And of course, the famous pork loin katsu sandwich.
Have you experienced such generosity in an M&S sandwich before? No, you haven’t and you probably never will.
^ Hamburg and rice from Tokyo Station.
And this too-beautiful-to-eat bento that screamed for an Instagram. There were sushi, egg fried rice, braised vegetables like mushroom, lotus root (picked up in chopsticks) and the pink flower was chewy mochi with red bean filling.
These Japanese bento didn’t just look good, they taste even better. Somebody in the UK, DO SOMETHING!
Now before I go, I want to let you know that the Shinkansen is going to Kuala Lumpur! Construction is set to begin next year and the train will run between KL and Singapore. Can you actually believe that?! It was a pinch-me moment.
Cheesie in Malaysia blogged about it some time ago so you can read about it and tear gratefully.