Personal Space

Kyoto with Teenagers – Part 1 (Shinkansen Bullet Train to Kyoto)

Summer in Kyoto is hot. (Kyoto is located in a basin surrounded by mountains, thus the hot air pools and can’t escape even during the coolest hours of the morning.) Visiting Kyoto with two (potentially) whiny teenagers makes it seem even hotter.

My parents, kids and I took a late morning Hikari from Tokyo to Kyoto. Hikari is a “Shinkansen Super Express Bullet Train.” Another SSEBT, Nozomi, runs on the same track and is slightly faster. However, my parents wouldn’t be able to exercise their senior discount privilege on Nozomi, so we took Hikari.

I could write a whole thesis about these SSEBT’s. They may well be the world’s most pleasant mode of transportation. They are very frequent – there are at least one westbound Nozomi or Hikari every 10-15 minutes from Tokyo Station. So there is no need to worry about missing your train. They are not crowded at all – there is no need to pay extra yen for assigned seats. The seats are very spacious, with far more than enough legroom and the absolutely spotlessly clean interior and bathrooms.

There are vending machines for drinks on board. In addition, a salesperson comes around frequently with a cart full of food, candies and drinks. The prices are comparable to those found at the station kiosks.

Once on board, we settled into seats, stowed the luggage, and bought some drinks, sandwiches, bento, and ice cream from the cart. My teenagers, who watched Harry Potter 7.2 a few days prior, thought it was “just like Hogwarts Express” especially regarding the sales cart.

It’s a three-hour ride to Kyoto.

Fuji-San appears on the right side windows rather unceremoniously during this ride. As someone who was born and raised in Tokyo, I am obliged to take a picture of Fuji-San when it appears. You know, we are just supposed to. My kids could care less, however. They wouldn’t have had time for my Fuji-San shpeel that would have involved the low viscosity of basaltic lava and three tectonic plates that meet at Fuji-San. Oh, well.

(Read Part 2)


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