I took the Nozomi Shinkansen bullet train from Hiroshima to Kyoto, cost Y11,610 or 1oo euro, distance 380.6 km, travelling time 99 minutes. The Nozomi is the fastest of the bullet trains travelling at 300 kph. While on the train the ride is very smooth and there is no sensation of speed. I only realised how fast we were going when the train slowed for an approaching station and I checked the speed, we were still doing 160 kph, it felt like we were crawling along. Also when we went over a steel bridge the support structure became invisible because it was flashing past so quickly and I only knew we were on a bridge because I could see the parallel bridge a short distance away, quite amazing.
While the trains in Japan are brilliant, their ticketing system is a confusing mess. There are numerous private lines and private companies along with Japan Rail operating in Japan both in the Metro and the country areas. You have to buy separate tickets for each company and they are not interchangeable. For example the Japan Rail pass which is a good thing to get if you aren’t staying in any one place for very long, can’t be used on the Nozomi trains or on any of the non Japan Rail lines, though it can be used on the slower bullet trains. Also this pass cannot be bought in Japan even if you are a legitimate tourist, it has to be bought in your home country before you enter Japan etc, etc.
Buying a standard ticket is fairly simple, you use a ticket machine at the station, push the English button first then follow the instructions, first (called Green) or second class, reserved or unreserved, reserved costs about 7 euro more and I paid with my credit card. The trains are frequent and there are plenty of empty seats so you are never going to be stuck. I reserved my ticket a couple of days in advance. A conductor walks up and down the aisles but no one ever asked to see my ticket. A food and drinks cart came past once or twice. There is plenty of legroom and the seats recline but the width is the same as an airline seat, barely adequate. If you want more room get a Green class ticket where there are 4 seats in a row 2 on either side of the aisle rather than a 3 plus 2 arrangement.
NOTE: the train only stops for 1-2 minutes so make sure you are queued up at the right carriage before it arrives and the same goes for getting off the train, make sure you are waiting at the door when it stops or you will be going on to the next station hahaha. I arrived an hour early and did some train and people watching to become familiar with the system. There are smoking rooms on the platform and on the train, smoking is widely tolerated in Japan, even in restaurants.
Kyoto – used to be the capital of Japan until 1868, population 1.5 million, a city of Temples and Shrines. Lots of tourists, many hire traditional Japanese clothes to walk around. Also famous for Matcha or green tea and green tea based products. Public transport consists of 2 metro lines and a comprehensive bus network which is what everyone uses, buy a day pass for Y500 from the bus driver on your first ride and then you don’t have to worry otherwise a single ride costs Y230. Metro tickets are separate and cost Y210 a ride, I never used the Metro.
Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto Station and Tower
Gion and Downtown